Elevate Difference

Musicfest Northwest (9/19/2009)

Portland, Oregon

If you ever hear anyone doubt that women can rock you should tell them to shut up and listen to Team Dresch. One of the most influential bands from the mid-90s riot grrrl and queercore movements, Team Dresch released their first album Personal Best in 1995, stopped playing in 1998, reunited in 2004, and have only played a handful of shows since. So I knew this show in their hometown of Portland, OR was going to be a good one!

Every year The Willamette Week, a local free weekly in Portland, hosts a music festival called Music Fest Northwest (MFNW), and the Team Dresch show was one of the many that happened over five days in various venues across the city. While the spreading out of shows across the town means that one has to really pick and choose what bands they want to see. Some venues are 21+ and some, once they reach capacity, will not let you in even if you have bought the $60 wristband, so it’s not worth leaving one venue you have already made it inside. Big festivals attract bigger names, and since it doesn’t just happen at one big expensive club, getting there early is the only way to ensure you get in.

While big acts are the draw for any music festival (this year featured Modest Mouse, Black Francis, Bad Brains, Girl Talk, and the Get Up Kids), MFNW draws from the rich Portland music scene, of course, with Team Dresch one of the many Portland-based acts. Although I missed the opening band, I arrived during the set of another local band called Lovers. I had not seen them live before and had only heard about them recently, as they just released their fourth album, I Am the West, in April. I was captivated by the melancholy electro-pop and emotive vocals, and it's unfortunate that I only got to hear a few songs. They are definitely a band I am going to check out again.

Next up was Erase Errata, a notorious experimental No Wave band from San Francsico. If Team Dresch weren’t playing and Erase Errata headlined, this show would have been large enough, so the addition of the elusive queercore superstars made the packed, relatively small venue teem with energy. (I also love attending rock shows where women outnumber boys five to one. It is such a great feeling!) Erase Errata riled up the crowd with their political, half-improvised, dance-tastic songs, and by the time Team Dresch hit the stage everyone was significantly buzzed. I was not in the mosh pit, which I kind of regret, but standing back and watching the amazing musicianship and show(wo)manship of Team Dresch was as electrifying and inspiring as when I first heard Personal Best all those years ago. (Had I seen them live then I would have been more likely to stage dive and slam my-sweaty-self against the stage!)

They rocked like the best rock stars; they played their instruments better than most boys I know; and they reminded me how important music, especially female-driven punk rock music, is to feminism. (Okay, I am biased, but there is really something about women expressing anger, playing loud music, and just generally kicking ass in areas they are brought up thinking they can’t that makes me really happy.) But the most inspiring thing of all is that this band that seemed to have reached its peak over ten years ago is still going strong today.

Written by: Jyoti Roy, September 28th 2009

wish i could've been there! you paint a vivid portrait