Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sister Spit: the Next Generation

Coming soon to a dive near you.... and quite a few salubrious venues it's the notorious Sister Spit: the Next Generation on their EuroTrash 2009 tour. Nice.

What I know of Sister Spit is entirely second-hand as this women's spoken word tour developed after I left San Francisco in the mid 1990s. But, I can fully imagine how such a project could spring from SF, which had an active spoken word scene of various genders and sexualities. And the legendary Kris Kovick, who staged many performances at Red Dora's, participated in their tours. So, the quality should be cherce.

It's almost eight years since I last saw Kris, then very ill with cancer, shortly before her death in autumn 2001. I remember her brimming with wisecracks, as she shuffled around her flat in Norwich Street plying me with goodies to take on my flight. It's a memory that stays with me. Alison Bechdel published a typically witty memorial last year.

As for Sister Spit: TNG, it promises a lineup of "zinesters, fashion plates, novelists, performance artists, slam poets and fancy scribblers" promoting alternative culture and raising hell across the UK and Europe throughout September.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Up Your Ears

Word reaches me today of an exciting queer music festival coming up in September in Berlin: Up Your Ears.

Among the bands playing are East London's own long-time DIY agitators, Gertrude, plus a Leipzig band I quite enjoyed some months back: sleazy, inc. operated. So, two good reasons to check it out.

The workshop programme includes Travel Queeries honcha Elliat Graney-Saucke's guide to producing your own radio podcasts, which I would definitely check out, were I there. A full programme for Up Your Ears is online now.

Schwarzer Kanal Wagenplatz; photo by Val PhoenixAmid the excitement of such an undertaking is the alarming news that Schwarzer Kanal, which is hosting the festival, has received an eviction notice for the end of the year. A one-of-a-kind queer collective wagon space, SK sits on a prime location that is due to be developed, as onward marches Kreuzberg gentrification. I only visited the site briefly during Ladyfest a few years back but, during a rather over-long discussion, I found it quite impressive.

A meeting about the eviction will take place during the festival, but interested parties are asked to contact SK at with the heading "verteiler".

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'80s Flashback: Pat Benatar

Ah, Pat. I sometimes flash back to my MTV teen past and wonder what I was thinking.

But, as a fellow Noo Yawker, I have a soft spot for Ms Benatar, now recognised as a feminist heroine. On tour with Blondie! How cool is that? Makes a weird kind of sense. There are parallels to be drawn between Debbie + Chris and Pat + Neil. Plus, they were both on Chrysalis. But do, we really need the Debbie Harry Barbie doll??? Please. Someone's 'avin' a laugh.

Here's Pat Benatar's classic "Love Is A Battlefield", complete with triumphal group dance at dawn on the mean streets of LA. I was very excited when the song came in at #14 for the year. Along with "She Works Hard for the Money", this was the closest to a feminist statement that could be viewed on MTV in those days, and so was to be cherished.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Art of LiLiPUT re-posted

One very pleasing episode in my quest to document every great women band ever was a whistle-stop visit to lovely Zurich to visit three alumna from post-punk art rockers Kleenex/LiLiPUT. Marlene Marder, Lislot Ha and Klaudia Schiff gathered at the latter's house for dinner and a chat, which I hope to publish in full at some point.

Though the band broke up years ago, they are fondly remembered and have had a compilation out on Kill Rock Stars, thus uniting them with their spiritual offspring.

Kleenex/LiLiPUT were often associated (though not necessarily by choice) with visual art, whether the Junge Wilde or the Dadaists. Here they discuss the band's connection with the art scene.

Kleenex und Kunst from Val Phoenix on Vimeo.

These days band activity is a bit sporadic. They have compiled a film from old tour footage, but it is not clear whether this will be released. Marder is happily star-gazing, while bassist Schiff(erle) has pursued a career as an artist and is currently showing her drawings and sculpture in Zurich through the 31st. She will also be teaching a course in the autumn.

They have had offers to re-form but, as yet, have declined.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Community Use: Hackney WickED vs The 'Stow

new community use area in Walthamstow; phto by Val PhoenixLiving in an Olympic borough, as I do, one exists among the stark juxtaposition of the haves and have-nots: loads of cranes, shiny hoardings and hype of a global event, contrasted with the squalor, unemployment and despair of an historically deprived area.

As Hackney WickED, an arts festival in its second year, shows, one can do a lot with one's surroundings. Bordering the Olympic construction, Hackney Wick holds a concentration of artists living in an industrial area which was pretty much a wasteland 10 years ago. No shops, no cafes, just one bus route and a canal, plus a lot of abandoned buildings.

Now it's the new Shoreditch, full of artists' studios and galleries and right on the edge of what will be a global hotspot come 2012. Regeneration or gentrification is the question.

To be fair, some of the artists are questioning the changing of the area themselves. One exhibit, the Museum of Hackney Wick, looks at the changes in the area and casts them as historical exhibits, to be picked over by future inhabitants.

Meanwhile, up in sunny Walthamstow, we have a newly opened "community use" area (see photo). After years of walking past a boarded-up derelict lot on the corner of High Street and Hoe Street, I can now walk through an empty paved lot, utterly devoid of character or personality.

Yes, after years of consultation and planning, the council has, in essence, built a car park. Genius. This, truly, is progress. And since we're in an Olympic borough, maybe by 2012 it'll be rebranded as an Olympic community use area.

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