A Feast Fit for a Queen!

Revulva's Marlyse Girl Feast - Riot Don't Diet
A Benefit for the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre
with Spiritual Heroine, It's Not My Onion, Lisa Dewey, The Go-Devils, Sunny, Celestial Magenta, Jabber, Hissy Fit, Liquid Amber, Jessica Rose, Puncture, Revulva, Mizmo, Dirty Harriets and Jen Wood
The Columbia Hotel Pub
Vancouver, B.C.
November 7-9, 1996

Review and photography by Rodney Gitzel

It started out as a typo, and ended up as one of the highlights of 1996: "Girl Feast - Riot Don't Diet." Organized by a handful of members of a few girl bands around town, this three-night festival was designed to bring together a big chunk of Vancouver's girl-led bands to raise some dough for the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. Twelve local bands, to be exact, four per night, with each night opened by a different performer from... California? (Uh, ok.) It was, in two words, really cool.

Sunny Sunny, from, of course, down south, opened the first night. Sunny is actually the duo of Lissa Buerge and Bill Johnson, with both playing electric guitars and Buerge doing most of the singing. They've got a chorusy, dark sound, with a bit of an edge, and Buerge has quite a strong voice. Johnson should stay away from singing, though. Eeeeg.

a Go-Devil Up next were the Go-Devils, who were playing their very first gig, and who played a more enjoyable set than I've seen from some more established bands. Straight-forward punk leaning towards pop -- though please don't think that means Green Day. The best thing was watching the instants of terror in their eyes, followed by big grins, as the mistakes and tricky bits came -- and went. A cool debut.

Lisa Dewey I was over at the Pump to shoot Daytona during the break, which turned out to be a nice segue into Lisa Dewey's performance. Dark jangley pop, sort of Cure-ish, Dewey's trio took it from soft to screamy and back again. They seemed to have trouble consistently maintaining a spark to their playing, however.

It's Not My Onion It's Not My Onion. Is it yours? This trio was all OVER the place, stylistically, and pretty good, for the most part. Jazz pop folk rock blues... not much metal, though. Lots of little songs, lots of instrumentals. Are you thinking they were hard to pin down? That was probably the point.

Finally, bringing the first Feast night to a close was Spiritual Heroine. They started out a bit lethargically, but quickly made it up to speed. While they put on an otherwise good set, I was left scratching Spiritual Heroine my head: something wasn't quite right. Aha! They just seemed a little out of place playing in a bar. Their exotic music (definitely check out their CD This Body is Stolen) and the air of etherealness and sensuality that vocalist/bassist Camille Baker brings to the band were kind of lost. Perhaps they would be best seen in a dingy cabaret, maybe in Cairo or Istanbul...

Liquid Amber I was late, the second night, and completely missed singer Jessica Rose. So many people told me how wonderful her performance was that I was starting to get annoyed for having missed it.

I did catch the last chunk of Liquid Amber's set, though, which was good. They put out a rockin' -- if not interestingly-tailored -- set of their aggressive bluesy tunes. There is a lesson in there, Hissy Fit somewhere: be careful when shopping at Value Village with Revulva -- and don't forget to remove the price tags! :-) Oh, yes, farewell to the band's departing guitarist.

I like Hissy Fit's demo tape, so I was expecting to like them, live, but not this much: they were great! Gisele Grignet's growling was outright frightening, and when she scowled, "What is it this time? What is it now?" it made you wanna hide. The band's punky-bluesy playing was tighttighttight, and Rich Colwell's bass playing, especially, had a lot of energy to it. Cool.

On the other hand, though, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Jabber, having seen and heard them a number of times before and not liking them. That said, their first song really surprised me: it had a good chunk of funky punch to it! Hmmm. They soon reverted to -- as someone else put it -- their "FM-friendly rock sound," Jabber though. Still, I have to admit that they had probably as good a crowd response as any band that night... Perhaps I'm missing something.

Celestial Magenta Anyway, Celestial Magenta was the last band on the bill, and they... weren't what I expected. Not that I'm sure, anymore, what I DID expect, but I didn't expect a punk band -- or a bass player with lotsa hair and a cowboy hat! This all-girl trio has been around Vancouver for probably forever, and that experience came through, but at times they seemed rather disaffected, like they weren't really there. One moment they'd be kicking butt, and the next they'd be plodding along. Too bad, cuz when they kicked butt, they kicked it well.


Jen Wood Jen Wood started off the final night, just her and a guitar. Her acoustic folk was drastically being overshadowed by Mike Tyson being pummeled (woohoo!) on TV, until the bar was forced by Feast organizers to shut it off, thank-you.

a couple Dirty Harriets With the acoustic portion of the show taken care of, it was time to kick the full house into gear. Enter the Dirty Harriets, winners of the coolest sticker award for their Trainspotting morph, and certainly the rawest of all the bands in the Feast. Who says girls can't get drunk and punk out? They were good, not so much for their music, but for their energy, their 70's dresses -- and their scrappiness.

Mizmo Mizmo put in a looong set, and were the most 'rock'-ish of all the bands. They started out with some laid-back blues before -- wait for it -- breaking out into something a little heavier. Their breasty vocalist had a lot of boppy presence on stage, similar to No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, actually. The quintet sounded a little muddled, though, which detracted from their set.

Revulva's Marlyse Up next were Revulva, easily and absolutely the highlight of the Feast. The quartet TORE through their set -- there's no other word for it. Oddly, their playing was not very together at times, but they still had an awesomely powerful sound. Hmmm. Maybe it was forcefully aggressive guitar and drum work, or maybe the strong pipes and wild eyes of vocalist/guitarist Marlyse. Or maybe it's that they are so openly -- and confidently -- dissonant. Whatever -- they left me staggering about the room, the word "wow" circling about my head like the little birds that must have been chirping around Mike Tyson's noggin right about then.

Puncture's Nathan Puncture were stuck with trying to follow Revulva. Not many bands could do that, but Puncture could and did. Aggresive, stripped-down metal-slash-punk-slash-whatever. Bassist Nathan (yeah, the singer guy from Another White Male, R.I.P.) careened about the small stage like he was either in serious need of a psychiatrist or having the time of his life. Vocalist Meegan spent half her time on the floor, half her time in the air, and half her time making Henry Rollins sound like a wuss. And then it was over.

Puncture's Meegan Ultimately, this was probably the most successful "grass-roots" benefit I've ever been a party to. Attendance? Thursday had a good turnout, and each night got better, so that on Saturday there was a line up down the street! Financially? Organizers are looking at sending about $1900 to the Women's Center, in addition to over 500 pounds (!) of food and clothes. Egos? Didn't notice any. Musically? You don't get a better success rate out of 15 bands, and they didn't even need to bring in any "name" bands. The venue? It felt a little cramped on Saturday, but worked really well, otherwise. Great sound, too.

Most impressive, though, is that this was all done by the musicians. Not by promotors, not by publicists, not by charities -- but by the musicians themselves. Like, maybe they have an idea what makes a good show?? Maybe we should put them in charge of Vancouver's decaying club scene!

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 15, 1996

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