Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cannibal Girls Play the Living Gallery and other secret histories

Erik McGregor photo from May y18th

Fan  mail.

I’ve written about the Cannibal Girls a lot lately.
The Cannibal Girls is a 1973 Canadian independent comedy horror film, directed by Ivan Reitman
Its also a Brooklyn based punk band,
Founded by
With bits of
Classical training.
Appreciation for Franz Liszt
Pop culture.
Ladies and Gentlemen the Faaabulous Stains.
God Save the Girl
Almost Famous
The Clash
A grandad who played with Jaco.
Memories  of  Pete Seegar shows.
Riot Grrls documentaries.
They rehearse in the basement here.
Peter Shelley was going, and the Cannibal Girls  were  coming. 

Last Saturday, they played a full set,

passiveaggressivenyc” wrote on Instagram,

“Next show is May 18th for Olivia’s birthday at the Living Gallery! Come out and celebrate with us and our friend on the line up! Doors open at 6pm
The Cannibal Girls were last band to play.
Their set included
two covers,
And three
Or four original songs.
“We are the Cannibal Girls  and we eat men,” they scream, in  unison, much like Johnny Ramone’s, “1234” before  the  Ramones began their songs,
Inviting a blitzkrieg of sound.
Legions of fans sprint inside, colliding within the mosh pit.
The doors flew open and the people crowded in,
They can’t wait for the show to start
Penelope Houston sang about those old Avengers shows.
The set begins with “Fairy Tale of  the Supermarket,” from the same daydream.
The old Raincoats 1979 anthem, released  months before the Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket.”
We’re all big Raincoats fans. 
We also love the Slits.
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys,  Boys, Boys,
Viv Albertine’s memoir is one of the best books ever.

The Cannibal girls are Josie on drums,
Maya on guitars and vocals,
Dodi on bass and vocals.
But they usually switch instruments.
Josie pulls out her flute,
Reminding the  crowd this is an aesthetic experience fans are entering.

The band is provocative. 
One observer said the name was cheeky.
But Priya reminded him, its better  for girls  to be doing the consuming instead of being consumed.

The mosh pit thickens.
A boy waves his red  t-shirt in the middle.
He sometimes  writes fan mail to the band. 
The band follows with:
 “Basement Song,”
“Hey there boy,”
“Mother,” straight into “Cats n Kittens.”
Jazz and punk
Into its own jam,
Bodies lunging.
A man in people’s hands, crowd surfing.
“She walks onto Me,” the old Hole song.
She walks over me
She walks over me
Hold you close like we both died
My ever present suicide
Such thoughts are everywhere, 
A year after Thea left from the 16th floor in Manhattan.
Thirty-nine years to the day that
 Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, hung himself in his Manchester kitchen,
On the evening of May 18, 1980,
The night before the band was to begin their US tour.

The Cannibal Girls would have played another song,
But the crowd was moshing so much that the sound system crumbled.
Chanting “open up the pit!!! Open up the pit!”
Before the band was about to play their final song,
“Fractured mirrors broke her spirit.”
The originals standing up with the covers.
The sets  no longer include early covers,
Cherry Bomb and  Rebel Girl, by Bikini Girl.
Darby Crash and Lorna Doom would have been proud.
But unlike Germs shows, where heroine pumped through Darby’s veins,
And  he screamed for someone to get  him a beer,
Cannibal Girls often play at straight edge venues,
Where no alcohol is sold.
But it wasn't straight edge for  the Cannibal Girls. 
Smiling  and pounding their instruments, 
Bodies bouncing, in  a distinct DiY culture,
A scene rejecting a world that  seems to consign them to climate catastrophe,
More guns in schools,
And PTSD symptoms,
Just making  it through high school.
Many  take part in  climate walk outs,
Sit ins in Times Square.
Climate strikes.
I last saw Max, whose band, Big Pitty, played earlier in the night, at the Extinction Rebellion,
action at City Hall. 
He changed  the name  of the band from Big Titty to Big Pity.
I worry about their  turn toward respectability.
Max finds his way into half the photos of  the set.
They are a generation asked  to be sane in an insane world.
They wear their contradictions,
The clash pulling at each song in their set.
Everyone still lost in  the supermarket.

The first song of their set has a distinct place in  the history of music.

Maybe one of the kids in the mosh pit will remember the Cannibal  Girls music,
In the same way Hanna recalls the Slits  and  their fairytales.
We all create our own worlds.
Certain the Cannibal Girls are.

A few weeks before their gig, they did a radio interview on RFB.
Here is some of the transcript:

RFB: Hey, thanks for tuning into RFB. We're live. My name is Sam, I'm here every Wednesday at 7:00. I'm here with Cannibal Girls. This is pretty crazy. Say hi, guys.

CG: Hi! Thank you so much for having us.

S: I'm so excited. This is actually the first all-girl band I've had on here which is kind of upsetting since the show has been going on for almost a year and I've had a lot of bands come on for interviews but I'm so excited that you guys are here and I'm so happy to talk with you now.

CG: Yeah we're super excited. Thank you.

S: So you guys don't have any recordings unfortunately but we're working on that, right?

CG: Yeah we are.

S: So we're thinking we'll just talk a little and play some songs at the end. Do you want to go around and introduce yourselves and say what instruments you play?

J: Sure, I'm Josie, I'm the drummer.

D: I'm Dodi. I play bass and guitar.

M: I'm Maya. I also play the bass and guitar and I sing.

S: Nice. Alright. I'm so so excited you guys are here. So I wanted to start out by going into... I always think it's interesting to find out how everyone got into music in the first place.

M: I started playing piano before elementary school. That was the very start of it. I did that for two years. Then I did violin for seven. It was for orchestra and recitals and all that. Then I quit in 7th grade and I picked up the guitar and I started teaching myself and then I started taking bass lessons. So that's where I got to where I am now.

D: I have kind of a different story where I kind of started more recently, like two years ago. I think it really all started when I started reading about more of a female music scene. I read the book Clothes Music Boys, which you've definitely read too and that kind of blew my mind. I was like, "Holy shit, girls are so cool. I want to do this." So I started playing guitar and exploring more music and taking more things in and I prefer the bass now, honestly. But that's how it started for me.

J: I think my story is more similar to Maya's where I started playing classic flute as pushed on to me by Jewish parents when I was like 7. So I've been doing that for literally a decade now and it's still I think I love. I had a period where I quit in the middle like, "This isn't to me. It's too regimented," and then I picked it back up to figure out if I could adapt the type of music I wanted to play, the type of music I was personally interested in, expanding the repertoire of stuff I was playing. I was also in a song-writing ensemble in school and I was like, "I'd like to be more actively involved in the composing of music." Because in a rock song-writing group, you don't really have a lot to do on the flute. So I started playing the drums. I'm pretty much totally self taught. I've had two-odd-ish lessons and I've only been playing a little less than a year now, but these guys have been super supportive. The classical music background helps.

M: Since we're all a little newer to our instruments, it helps because we don't have this pressure where someone is going to be like soloing for five minutes. Dodi and I switch off on instruments all the time, like in the middle of the set. And we all song write. So we'll mix and match and help each other.

J: It's also like, with what Dodi was saying, I think it's kind of nice for us sometimes that we're all sort of novices because it's a really good way to connect with your audience and three, I think it's a thing that makes sense for us as a band and as women, almost. I think what Dodi was saying about five minute solos where men treat their instruments as extensions of their dicks a lot of the time. It's so much showing off of technical prowess instead of creating --

M: This stuff has happened so many times. Men who are so amazing at their guitar but there's so many people …I think for us, the most important thing is creating a kind of new sound. One that we like, but we haven't heard a thousand times.

D: Content that actually expresses what we're trying to express in that moment.

S: So I haven't heard you guys live which I'm really sad about, but I'm going to your next show. But I've seen some of your videos. You guys -- we're not trying to go into genres here -- but it's kind of like punk, alternative...

CG: Yeah.

S: I had an interview with one of the first female punks in the 70s. Cynthia from the B-girls and -- you can find that in the archives -- she was talking about some of the exact same stuff that you're saying. You know, males with the solos.

CG: How much has the status quo of music really changed in terms of male behavior in 40 years?

S: She's still doing music stuff and she just went on a reunion tour with the B-girls to Japan. And she was saying that things have really not changed. In Japan, she said it was great, but you have to think about how much has changed. I hope you guys are having better luck.

D: Kind of, but I've seen so many bands -- and so have Josie and Maya -- with teen bands, and we haven't seen a single female band play. You hear about riot grrrl and you hear about all this stuff and you think things are progressing and things are going well, it's all basically better. But the fact that we -- we haven't played that many shows -- but we've never played with a female musician.

CG: Hello Mary, once.

D: It was an all female set but it was at the all female show, but it wasn't even all female.

S: I remember when I first got into teen music, that's what the show was kind of founded upon. Trying to expose teen artists. It was a lot of male musicians. But I think the first all-girl teen band that I found was pretty sick. They were amazing and I was like, "Oh my god, girls can do this." Just thinking about the fact that I've only interviewed boy bands.

J: Right, but even when you do see women in music, a lot of the time it's just limited to vocalists. And absolutely no shade to vocalists. I love our vocalist. But it's a really big problem that women aren't seen as being capable of doing things like literally outside of themselves a lot of the time. I think it very much perpetuated the idea that women are self-centered, or divas, or only want to perform when they're in the star role. I fucking love being a drummer.

S: Yeah. It's awesome.

D: What I like about the bass is that it's the background. It determines which way it's going to go. It's not in the front/center like a guitar soloist.

S: But it really determines the way the song goes. I used to be in a band like freshman year and they graduated a couple years before I did, so we just kind of tapered out. But I played bass in that band and we had two drummers in our band, which is pretty rare, but they would switch off. Being a girl band -- we were one of the only all girl bands. I had no idea how much pressure...

CG: You feel like you're a spectacle almost a lot of the time.

To be continued…cannibalgirlsnyc

Erik McGregor



the shows over. 

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