Punk and hardcore's latest heroes: Massachusetts women

Pushing back
By LIZ PELLY  |  September 15, 2011

RESURGENCE Curmudgeon, a hardcore powerviolence trio, playing an Allston basement show.

In the boys' club world of contemporary music, gender relationships are complex even in DIY punk — the strain of rock that historically prides itself most on egalitarianism. Tensions run even higher in the charged realm of hyper-macho hardcore. But in local and national scenes, women are pushing to claim space.

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"It would be great if somehow underground music and punk were totally removed from mainstream society," says Curmudgeon singer Krystina Krysiak, sipping a Zevia soda at a vegan pizzeria in Allston on the eve of Hurricane Irene. "But it's not. If there's male dominance in everyday life, it is going to find its way into the hardcore music scene."

The past two years have seen change: "There's a surge happening now. . . . There are more and more female-fronted bands in powerviolence starting up," Krysiak says, referring to a microgenre known for quick songs and sharp tempo changes.

Megan Minior, bassist of female-fronted Foreign Objects and Western Mass hardcore band Ampere, has represented women in Massachusetts hardcore for nearly a decade. "Sometimes," she says, "I wonder when I am at a hardcore show where everyone is male-identified and they're all fighting each other — why am I still interested in this? I think for me, why I still always feel interested in punk and hardcore is because it is an everyday interruption of everyday life. It's a great outlet, and an amazing way to meet a lot of really interesting people. . . . I am continually inspired."

And she also sees things changing: "I feel like in the last year or year and a half there seems to be a ton more women playing." She attributes this partially to new Girls Rock Camps in Massachusetts. "There's a ton of girls in high school that are starting to play, especially here in Western Mass. I think there has also been a little more representation of women in music in the media."

Chris Strunk and Christa Hartsock, two organizers of Boston's February 2012 Ladyfest, have seen the shift as well, partially attributing the resurgence of women in punk to the historicizing of riot grrrl in recent years. "Riot grrrl has entered the academic canon," says Strunk. "If you take a women or gender studies class now, you will learn about the third wave and riot grrrl," adds Hartsock, who spent her years at Harvard working for WHRB. "Whereas before, that only interested a specific community, now it's become common knowledge." The two say that women have always been somewhat involved, but the resurgence of interest in riot grrrl has opened up a greater discussion about gender and the genre.

As a new wave of Massachusetts female-fronted hardcore bands demonstrates, though, there's more to women in punk than just riot grrrl.

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