It’s a weird time. A very weird time. Weird is probably the worst word to describe something, but in this case… the vague nature of weird is, well, all there really is to say. Today, tomorrow, yesterday — well, it was all weird in some kind of undefined, evidently strange way. What happens when you’re a woman, and you’re not clamoring to the “B-hive”? When Beyoncé just isn’t empowering you like she apparently does to all of your female counterparts? What happens when Lady Gaga is half-way to fetish porn in black lycra unitards one year and then next she’s creating music and videos that very commercially point at woman’s rights and sexual assault? I’m having a bit of an identity crisis here. I don’t feel empowered by these women, I feel kind of disgusted. I feel a little disappointed. A lot, actually.
But, my glass-half-empty apparitions were finally assuaged. It seems the open wounds of feared feminism and self-alienation have maybe, finally, healed over.
The Neosporin to my already cliche wound metaphor: Los Angeles based one-woman act Colleen Green and similarly femme-and-fatale Seattle grunge revivalists Chastity Belt. Last Tuesday night (June 14), Cambridge swelled with girl power, as the Middle East Downstairs swung its doors open for a much-needed night of all things feminine and awesome.
By a little after 9:30 p.m., the venue was nearly full: a throng of all sexes congregated in slightly awkward anticipation for the queen of hopeless romance and etc., Colleen Green. Green’s trademark black attire, ray-ban sunglasses, and messy, brown bob graced Boston in the wake of her most recent May release. The self-titled album reflects her characteristically svelte, young-in-spirit demeanor. So, as she breezed onto the stage with a much appreciated sense of enthusiasm pouring off her petite frame, there was no question that the power of this woman would respectfully outshine that of a whole band. No back-up needed.
Finally people, we have an artist, a female, a fucking WOMAN who is happy to be performing, who wants to see us as much as we want to see her. Who has the power and can transform a humid, hot basement on a June night into a mecca of compassion and empowerment. Colleen Green only needs herself, her distorted guitar style, and that admittedly kind of lame but surprisingly successful use of a backing track. Here is a real feminist. Here is someone who is accessible, relatable and actually talented. Green takes her time playing her set. She laughs in a nerdy, vulnerable way. She fucks up, only slightly, in between songs, but she’s real and she’s honest and she probably farts on occasion too. At times, her sound veered from part-Belinda Carlisle circa The Go Go’s era, and part Gwen Stefani circa Return of Saturn No Doubt into the darker, more honest, but secretly evil sister of other California, self-proclaimed “pothead” Bethany Cosentino.
Except, Colleen Green has about half the hang ups and just as much chops. Meow. Let’s not forget that she even covers the Ramones. The musician eases in and out of her old and new songs. But particularly glowing reactions from the audience erupted during Colleen Green’s performances off her new record such as “U Coulda Been An A”. But, of course… heart fluttered at the artist’s biggest hit “Deeper Than Love”. Girly vocals, catchy riffs and warming odes to childlike love and dreams of falling oh so in love blanketed even the most cynical that evening.
After the audience stole back their lighters from the new butane grave erected in trashcan form (cigarette paraphernalia now equals contraband; fuck) and successfully smoked their ciggies out front, we all then made our way back inside, just in time for the quick dash to the stage Chastity Belt. Like Green, this all girl band from Walla Walla, Washington offered their audience a unique quirkiness unseen in most female artists. Obvious nods to Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill float over this neo-grunge group. However, the ladies in question respectfully acknowledge their predecessors while ultimately creating a sound that wobbles on the edge of surf rock and ambient.
Front woman Julia Shapiro harps into her mic while meticulously playing at her guitar. Thick, white locks of hair almost perfectly frame her face as she somehow manages to keep the free-flowing do out of her eyes. All of the better to see you my prettyyyyy. Her equally impressive bandmates — guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm — work as both strong, individually styled players but also as one inspiring unit. Not to reference one band twice, but in this case it seems fitting. Chastity Belt offer to this generation what the Go Go’s did for theirs. Like Belinda, Jane, Charlotte and Gina, CB is comfortably themselves—be it as woman or as musicians. Or really, as both. Songs such as “Cool Slut” offer solace to the slightly more insecure via lyrics proclaiming: “To all the girls in the world, trying to take off their shirt, ladies it’s okay to be, it’s okay to be slutty.”
Chastity Belt’s growing fan base flourishes under the guise of these affirmations. Maybe it’s fourth-wave feminism, or maybe, just maybe intellect is meeting at the crossroads of sound and style. Whatever it is, Chastity Belt hones in and inspires those who are looking for a different kind of female idol. Real girls, doing real things, and finally I feel like a girl all over again.