So like, ohmigod! I'm totally psyched to party all night long with the Donnas. Lemme just squeeze into these hot pants and I'll meet you in front of the Bowery Ballroom pronto. Punk-rock heroine band Bratmobile is opening for the Donnas, and I don't wanna be late.
Along with Bikini Kill, Bratmobile was Riot Grrrl when the band formed in 1991. The Riot Grrrl movement set out to show people that girls could make punk rock music, play live and be just as rowdy as the fellas. Erin Smith (guitar), Allison Wolfe (vocals) and Molly Neuman (drums) did just that. Pottymouth was released in 1993, and the rest is herstory. Though Bratmobile's songs all sounded more or less the same quirky pop-punk beats, straightforward guitars, annoyingly whiny vocals and shut-up-listen-to-me lyrics there was power in their determination to rock out, have fun and shout feminism. While tradition lectured to girls to be flaky, adorable and timid, Wolfe's lyrics were earnest, pissy and bold, and inspired girls to follow suit. Then Bratmobile disbanded in 1994. Wolfe and Smith formed Cold Cold Hearts and cut an album, while Neuman drummed with the PeeChees. The three regrouped in 1998 and released
Ladies, Women and Girls in 2000. And here they are, opening for the Donnas.
Watching Bratmobile open for the Donnas is kind of like watching your older, wiser sister open for you, the popular kid sister. You know full well you'd be nowhere without big sister, but her time to shine has passed and now you're the one the masses want to see.
Wolfe acknowledged that some members of the crowd would rather be doing a million other things than be at a Bratmobile show. Shit, even the band knows people think of them as new-old news. But true to Bmob style, the ladies rocked like it was 1993. They opened with "The Real Janelle" and kept heads bobbing with "Eating Toothpaste," "Cool Schmool" and "Cheap Trick Record." Wolfe bounced around the stage in sequin Captain America underwear, blabbering nasal lyrics like they were a mantra. She kicked her legs up high, jumping-jacked off and shook her mound of red hair like a spoiled, uh, brat. Wearing bitch-red lipstick and snapping on chewing gum, Neuman's drumming was especially tight, and Smith hunched over her guitar, playing the most basic of chords with a James Dean swagger. At one point, Wolfe held the microphone to a girl in the crowd who screamed, "Girls kick ass!"
Speaking of ass, Bratmobile decided to have a butt-shaking contest with some of their pals before their set ended. Backs to the crowd, the contestants assumed their positions and shook their butts with gusto. Wolfe was the undisputed winner her ass vibrated as if a 9-volt battery were squeezed between her cheeks. Is this love that I'm feelin' or what?
While Bratmobile's sound hasn't developed much since the early '90s, the Donnas just keep getting better. Here's where I mention the musical comparison to Ramones (except the Donnas know more than a few catchy chords) and the attitude comparison to the Runaways (I want my music loud and my boys disposable!).
The first thing that struck me when they played the first song, "Are You Gonna Move It For Me," was just how much the Donnas have improved musically since I saw them on their Get Skintight tour. Donna R.'s guitar was screaming as she dexterously wailed crunchy energy through the air. Bassist Donna F. wore a bright yellow T-shirt with black iron-on letters that read "EAT A DICK." She played her angular white bass like a seasoned rock star long, dark hair in her face, mouth wide open, theatrics galore. (Mid-set she screamed "Let's get Jewish!!!" Uh, okay.) With little pigtails whipping around her head, Donna C. drummed frantically, obviously aware of how good she looks behind a drum kit. Singer Donna A.'s not-quite-singing-more-like-demanding voice sounded pretty much the same, but her delivery was more comfortable.
"This is a true story about our last tour," said Donna A. before the band played "40 Boys in 40 Nights." Other songs included "Let's Go Mano," "Huff All Night," "Get Rid of That Girl," "Skintight," "Hyperactive" "You Make Me Hot," and a cover of the Judas Priest classic, "Living After Midnight."
"This is a song for all the guys. It's called 'You Got a Crush on Me'" Donna A. declared. "It's easy to see/ You write about me in your diary/ You got a crush on me/ And it's never gonna go away." Donna A. knows she could get a piece of ass faster than a toilet seat.
For the record, I should mention that although the Donnas sing about guys, they didn't forget their sisters. "Hook It Up" a song about scoring some pot and getting high with your friends was dedicated to all the girls.
More Donnas: The Donnas Turn 21 CD Review
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