Late summer in Portland is characterized by the days-long indy jam extravaganza Music Fest NW. This year’s lineup had something for everyone- from Tara Jane O’Neil to Japanther- but Bitch librarian and contributor Danny Hayes and I went to just one show: Erase Errata and Team Dresch. Life goals #473 and #291 achieved!
I was only about ten years old when Team Dresch first started, so my foray into their music, their politicalness and their message was a late one. They got their start here, in Portland, around the time Olympia and Washington DC were exploding with female-fronted bands who were sick of the bullshit. Lady music staples like Chainsaw Records, Candy Ass Records, The Butchies, Heavens To Betsy, The Third Sex, Excuse 17, Sleater-Kinney, Tracy + The Plastics, Mr. Lady Records and Le Tigre are all somehow directly intertwined with one member of Team Dresch or another. The thing about the Riot Grrrl Movement is that it isn’t really, actually over, mainly because all those things those ladies were screaming about fifteen or twenty years ago are still relevant (women’s safety, equality, queer politics, rape, gender). After a few years apart, Team Dresch reunited in 2004 to headline Homo-A-Go-Go in Olympia (a festival that exemplifies Riot Grrrl politics, if you ask me). Over the past five years they’ve been playing together more and even played a new song at MFNW. Kaia Wilson, TD’s guitarist/vocalist, told a story from “back in the day” about being at a bar, on Burnside Street, after a show where a dude punched her, and having some shady characters ask her if she wanted them to “take care of it” for her. Jody Bleyle, guitarist/bassist/vocalist, exclaimed at one point, “I wrote this song 15 years ago!” Danny looked at me and said, “We’re witnessing history”, which was such an amazing thing to realize. While I’m glad I got to actually see Team Dresch, it’s a bit bittersweet that their message of equality, safety, happiness for all is still falling on deaf ears to some extent. That their message, while inspiring and powerful, is still needing to be screamed.
Which is where Erase Errata comes in. Danny said he went to the EE/TD show to see Team Dresch. I went, primarily, to see Erase Errata. Erase Errata started in San Francisco in 1999, with a definite Riot Grrrl message and aesthetic. Anti-capitalism, corruption, conservatism. Pro-queer, woman, equality. Their last release, Nightlife, came out in 2006. Jenny Hoyston, EE’s guitarist/vocalist, said of the album, “…it’s overwhelming to think of all the things going on under our noses and our silent concession. People are distracted from doing anything or even thinking about our country’s foreign dealings, disturbing trends of corporate privilege and other major issues. My lyrics are about the government, political disillusionment, and the things that keep us from thinking about what is really going on–being distracted by night life, consumerism and celebrity watching”. Erase Errata were around for the Bush years, and they were watching. Take this impassioned anti-war commentary, “Tax Dollar”:
Between Team Dresch’s raging, passionate pleas for it to be okay already for us to just be who we are and Erase Errata’s plucky insistence on leaders who don’t fuck us over, for a couple of hours, the Riot Grrrl Movement was born again. While it’s not exactly comforting that those fights still need fought, it is nice to know that these women are still fighting with us. And for a couple of hours at MFNW, it felt like maybe, just maybe, they could be won.