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Using a bass to smash the glass ceiling

Posted by Scott McLennan  April 15, 2013 01:58 PM

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Note: This post is something I was just mulling over the weekend and set down yesterday, Monday, April 15. Shortly after finishing it, I heard the news about the Marathon bombs. It was not the time to talk rock. Today is not much better. But I feel today much like I did after 9/11 that music is one of the few things that binds us together as decent people, even when we bicker about it. Music expresses what we feel like no other art form can or does. We need music now more than ever. Thank you Rumble for giving Boston a platform for its best music.- Scott

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The New Highway Hymnal, with bassist Amelia Gormley (Photo by Sam Stambaugh)

In all the years that I've been going to rock shows, the routine has not changed a whole lot. Anywhere from a few to a few thousand people shuffle into a venue, wait for the lights to dim, and then watch a band of dudes get busy.

Going to the first three nights of the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble under way at TT the Bear's in Cambridge was a bit different, though. It started normally, with the shuffling, and the dimming, and the watching first with the Okay Win and then Cancer Killing Gemini. Then came the New Highway Hymnal. Amelia Gormley was playing bass. Next, it was Velah, with Jen Johnson playing guitar and singing.

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The Deep North with singer Rebecca Frank (Photo by Chrissy Bulakites)

On Night 2 of the Rumble, I saw Rebecca Frank singing with the Deep North. On Night 3, Eddie Japan expanded its ranks with five women musicians_ back-up singers Kate Connell and Teri Brosius, and violinists were Clara Kebabian, Joanna Ostrander and Jenee Morgan. Later in the night, I watched Cilla Bonnie play bass with Glenn Yoder and the Western States.

Pulled away on other assignments, I missed the second half of the Rumble preliminaries. But in sussing out the field couldn't help but notice that Night 4 had Mary Flatley singing with Mount Peru; Night 5 had Annie Hoffman playing bass with the Field Effect, and Michelle Suicide doing the same with the Suicide Dolls; and Night 6 had Parks with Liz McBride on keys, and singer Ruby Rose Fox was there with Lauren Eicher and Sarah Guild providing additional vocals.

That's a lot of ladies.

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Suicide Dolls bassist Michelle Suicide

Let me provide a little context. Since January, I've covered 14 concerts involving 31 different bands. Five of those bands had women members. Oh, and by the way, of those five, two bands_ Kingsley Flood and Pressure Cooker_ were Boston groups booked with a touring headliner.

Compare that to ten of 24 Rumble bands having women members. Rumble organizer Anngelle Wood wasn't sure if this was a new high for rock 'n' roll gender parity, but it certainly sustains a trend. Personally, seeing Helen Privett play bass and Laural Blanchard play drums for Lou Miami and the Kozmetics was my first inkling that things may be different in Boston. These ladies were dudes_ so to speak_ in the band, not necessarily focal points like Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde, or such homegrown talent as Aimee Mann, Kay Hanley, and Amanda Palmer.

But to have women musicians be part of the Rumble every night of the prelims, and now in both nights of the upcoming semi-finals, well, you just don't see that in the routine shuffle. Those semis are Thursday and Friday at TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. Both nights begin at 9:30 p.m.

On Night 1, things begin with Glenn Yoder and the Western States, then it's White Dynomite, the Daily Pravda, and Lifestyle. On Night 2, Twin Berlin kicks off the semis, followed by the New Highway Hymnal, Camden, and Eddie Japan.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Scott McLennan is a Boston Globe music correspondent and previously wrote a music and entertainment column for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for 15 years. After seeing the band Boston in the Boston Garden as a teenager he never looked back and eventually figured out how to be a professional fan. Scott is very good at writing in the dark. This blog is an ongoing discussion about music happening in and around Boston. Scott will be leading the trek across genres looking for new releases and hot shows as well as just checking in with the people who make Boston such a great place to listen. More »
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