Graceland, 381-3094, $8 adv. 3 p.m. Sun., June 16 (all ages)

"IT'S LIKE EMMA Goldman said,"


Revolution rock

Eleven years on, Bratmobile provide a soundtrack for activism.


Graceland, 381-3094, $8 adv. 3 p.m. Sun., June 16 (all ages)

"IT'S LIKE EMMA Goldman said," Bratmobile's Allison Wolfe offers, "If there's no dancing at the revolution, I'm not coming."

Wolfe is a little hoarse, a little sleepy, a little jet-lagged. She's flown in from D.C. for the West Coast leg of the support tour for Girls Get Busy, Bratmobile's third album, released last month. But as the conversation proceeds, she quickly finds her wind and starts talking dirty.

"I swore I would never again play at the fucking Great American Music Hall [in San Francisco]. I always get shit from one or two people at the door—they give you 'the look' and push you around. It's like, 'Um, no, actually I'm playing here tonight. I'm not here to pick up on the band.'

"But even if you are a groupie, you still shouldn't have to take shit. You deserve to get treated like a person." She muses. "Yeah, it's still hard to go out to shows. But who knows? They'll probably treat us nice because we're playing."

Wolfe speaks from experience. One of the earliest bands to be loosely grouped under the Riot Grrrl tag, Bratmobile have also turned out to be one of the most durable. When they disbanded in 1994—essentially onstage, as Wolfe puts it—they'd released only one full-length (the now-classic Pottymouth on Kill Rock Stars) and a handful of EPs. But the sly, sometimes antic sense of humor that laced their music had already set them apart from their contemporaries.

Which is not to imply that their politics weren't critical. "Admit it," Wolfe sang on "Love Thing," "Innocent little girls turn you on/Don't they?/You like to make them cry/You like to tell them why/You like to grow them up/Swallow hard and throw them up."

"Love Thing," arriving in the leadoff slot on their very first album, summed up Bratmobile's activist aesthetic. Direct and confrontational, shot through with sardonic lyrics, it wasn't just screaming—it was eloquent screaming.

By the time Wolfe, drummer Molly Neuman, and guitarist Erin Smith played a tentative, low-key reunion gig in 1999, the riot scene was well into its second wave. Bands like the Donnas and Beezus furthered the articulate feminist punk that Bratmobile had helped model. The trio found the years apart had allowed them to enjoy playing together again—and that they still had contributions to make.

"As long as there's sexism, there's going to be feminism," says Wolfe. "There's got to be. And even though there are still a lot of problems, there are a lot of things that have gotten better. There's a big thriving queer scene, for example. And there's been kind of a rebirth of community, too, I think—sort of like how it was when we were starting out, when there was a lot of really supportive networking among bands like ours."

Wolfe herself has been helping supply a lot of that networking in recent years. Her organizational work with Ladyfest, an outstanding (and expanding) series of awareness festivals featuring music and spoken-word performances, films, visual arts, workshops, and seminars, has been especially gratifying.

"We're holding one in the Bay Area on July 24-28, and the D.C. festival is set for August." (The D.C. Web site,, provides links to specific entries in the festival series; Seattle is slated to host Ladyfest in March 2003.) "And that's been a really great thing: To sit around one day and say, 'There should be a support outlet for all these people who are doing really creative and important things,' and then to watch it take off like it has. I've liked that a lot."

Girls Get Busy, similarly, is the work of a band who audibly enjoy what they do—and who've grown a little older and wiser while doing it.

"It's kind of strange to be looked at like the elders," says Wolfe. "I mean, we opened for the Donnas, and we're not even that much older than some of the people in Sleater-Kinney.

"[Right now] we're touring with an excellent band, Glass Candy & the Shattered Theater, and the country group that my sister's in, Tennessee Twin"—whose '02 debut album, Free To Do What?, is a tiny slice of neo-Grand-Ole-Opry-style heaven well worth searching out—"and it's great. So, yeah, we are the elders. But most of the time, I don't think we even think about it. We just love playing."

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