B-Sides: JD Samson (and a rundown of how she made my teen years more bearable)

Portrait of JD Samson in front of a grey background. JD Samson is wearing a black blazer and gazing into the distance with her hand placed on her neck.

JD Samson is certainly no stranger to Bitch; a significant voice in the Riot Grrrl movement, and a more than prominent queer and feminist icon, it only makes sense to let you know what she’s up to this summer. Last week, while attempting to figure out exactly what to write for this post (because leaving you with just a list of tour dates would be boring), a dear friend deemed me a “JD Samson connoisseur.” While I gladly accepted this title, there’s definitely a bit of a difference between knowing a lot about someone and having a mild obsession* with (read: giant crush on) that person, and you can probably guess where I stand within this spectrum of connoisseurship. Though, with this giant crush, comes a great deal of respect and admiration for JD as both an artist and an activist.

I was born a bit too late to fully embrace a true ’90s Riot Grrrl identity of my own, but it was no doubt an ideal I would pick up and carry into my adolescence and young adulthood. I developed a love for all things diy and punk, started playing electric bass when I was twelve, received my first hand-me-down Bikini Kill CD when I was thirteen, stomped around in my pink, zebra print pants, meticulously cut pages out of magazines with photos of Le Tigre to put on my wall, and spat in the face of normalcy, patriarchy, and the oppressive nature of my Catholic schooling experience. I was on my way to living my Riot Grrrl dreams. However, as is true with many “phases,” in one’s teenhood, there comes a lull. My Doc Martens went missing, I was bored of writing my zine, my zebra print pants were too tight in the butt, and my walls had been stripped of the icons I had looked up to for years. Something was wrong. Had the stresses of high school caught up to me? Was I giving in to something I had resisted for so long? In this time period (I’ll call it my lost year), I associated with people I despised, I was reeled into a world of disposable friendships and meaningless gossip, and essentially, I became everything I never wanted to be, all for the sake of feeling appreciated. But one morning, nearing the end of my senior year, something snapped. I woke up and thought to myself, “Why am I putting up with this?” I needed to get out of there, not listen to people who would say, “Devyn, you’re getting too feminist-y on us,” (what does that even mean???) and embrace the fact that I was not, and did not want to be a carbon copy of every 17-year-old girl in Hudson County. I applied to as many “experimental” colleges as I could, skipped my senior prom, graduated, and never looked back.

That summer, I experienced a resurge in my love affair with JD’s work at a MEN show in Brooklyn, NY, the day before my 18th birthday. Having only listened to MEN a few times before that evening, I wasn’t entirely sure what was in store. Surely enough, it was a rush of intrigue, heart flutters, and a simple urge to dance, and just feel so free. There I was, front and center, smiling hard, and dancing harder. It felt like the first night in years where I experienced raw, unfiltered, joy.

JD Samson performing with MEN live in Vancouver, Canada. The light is purple and her arm is at a 90 degree angle with her hand in the air

It is easy to say that JD Samson played and continues to play a pivotal role in my queer and feminist processes, as well as contributing to my early understandings of radical politics. Basically, she aided in saving my soul, my sanity, and my general wellbeing before I could be fully sucked into the vortex of social pressure. Oh, and of course, JD is a staple in my music library, and she should be in yours too, if she isn’t already.

Catch JD on tour this summer, as a DJ and with MEN:

6/22 - Seattle Pride @ Neumos (Seattle, WA)
6/24 - Scissor Sundays Tea Dance @ The Rusty Knot (NYC)
6/29 - Hot Rabbit Dance Party @ Nowhere Bar (NYC)
6/30 - MEN @ Allied Media Conference (Detroit, MI)
7/6 - MEN @ CBGB Festival at Gramercy Theatre (NYC)
7/8 - Scissor Sundays Tea Dance @ The Rusty Knot (NYC)
7/29 - Scissor Sundays Tea Dance @ The Rusty Knot (NYC)
8/12 - Scissor Sundays Tea Dance @ The Rusty Knot (NYC)
8/26 - Scissor Sundays Tea Dance @ The Rusty Knot (NYC)

To stay updated with JD and MEN’s whereabouts, check out their Facebook page or on her Twitter.

*Yes, I unabashedly, though sporadically, run a JD Samson fan Tumblr.

Live photo via anjawphoto.

by Devyn Manibo
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Devyn Manibo is a Jersey City raised (and based) award-winning interdisciplinary/multigalactic artist. She can usually be found race raging, shade bending, and averting your settler colonialist gaze with a resting glare of displeasure.

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