When Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna made her influential call for “girls to the front" in the early '90s, she aimed to make punk gigs more accessible to the women who were often neglected, rejected, or physically threatened in the scene. It's no secret that punk rock has always been a boys' club—and a very exclusive one at that. Since the genre's inception in the late '70s, women have often been an afterthought in this community, if they were even thought of at all. That's not to say that punk—a subculture to which women too have gravitated because of everything it offers in terms of creative and social escape—has never been welcoming to women, but there are outdated values pervading this male-dominated space that continue to affect women and female-identifying individuals today.
Despite these prevalent issues, something amazing has happened recently in the contemporary punk rock community: Women have not only succeeded in taking up space, but they are also dominating and taking the reins, thus leading the music scene forward. Still, though, it's not perfect. Music promoters and festival organizers have been known to push back against requests for more femme-fronted acts by arguing that there aren't enough female musicians to book and feature. Well, there's no reason to hide behind this excuse any longer, and any justification for not booking more female-fronted acts is completely invalid because of all the amazing acts out there.
Need proof? Below is a list that details the best and most prominent femme-fronted acts putting in work today. While not totally comprehensive, these bands are a testament to the remarkable fact that women in punk are no longer a rarity, commodity, or a gimmick. The women—especially the women of color—have always been here, will always be here, and are no longer in the shadows of white, hyper-masculine, suburban boys with outdated perceptions of punk.
The Oakland-based quartet is one of the most successful and better-known femme-fronted acts in the scene today—and with good reason. TØRSÖ captivates audiences with their aggressive performances and bombastic raw energy, but they also manage to transcend their live sets with the respectable philosophies that drive them. The band’s vegan, feminist, and straight edge values are just as important as the music they write, and as impressive as the cacophonous melodies they create.
DYH is an all-female outfit from Los Angeles that writes their lyrics exclusively in Spanish. Comprised of women of color who grew up in L.A.’s impoverished communities, the band writes about their marginalized existence in these types of environments. DYH first began to play local DIY backyard shows starting with a set in South Central during 2011 and, eventually, climbed the ranks to move on to bigger events, with upcoming performances at Oakland’s Manic Relapse Fest in April and Mexico’s Internacional Punkytud Fest in May.
Seeing this band live is as mesmerizing as their music—very. The New York-based act performs their songs in Portuguese, but translations are not necessary. Vocalist Nay Vieira-Rosario is a force to be reckoned with when she’s given the microphone, and when she gets ahold of it, she forces you to feel the band’s powerful beats, the raw guitar riffs, and the wild dynamic sounds booming from her diaphragm. La Misma doesn’t just play shows, they create spectacles of pure unadulterated energy that absorb you and mercilessly suck you in without escape. But why would you want to leave?
Texas has birthed its fair share of punk talent, and one of its most recent contributions to the scene is none other than Kurraka, an Austin-based band that writes their songs in Spanish. The trio plays a mix of darker-toned melodies with reverb that drives the band’s unique sound. It’s almost difficult to believe that three individuals can produce so much depth in their music, but Kurraka has achieved this, and they have rightfully gained recognition for their musical skills.
New York delivers once again, to bring us yet another great hardcore band to add to its catalog, though Krimewatch is nothing like its predecessors. Rhylli—the band’s vibrant frontwoman—proudly spews lyrics in both English and Japanese, opening up various avenues in which her fierce vocals and combative attitude can be disseminated and interpreted. The band has a few East Coast shows taking place in the next three months, including gigs in Brooklyn and Chicago.
What can be said about the iconic Alice Bag that hasn’t already been said before? The East L.A. native made her mark in the late ‘70s with punk rock pioneers, The Bags, and, 40 years later, she’s still going strong. Alice Bag recently released a song and music video titled “77,” which addresses the gender/race gap in pay and features music veterans Kathleen Hanna, Allison Wolfe, Shirley Manson, and Seth Bogart. While the music video is full of color and lively scenes, Alice Bag’s lyrics are anything but—the intersectional song forces you to pay attention to her words as she furiously hollers, “I make 77 cents, and it’s not right/ It’s bad for women/ And worse if you’re not white!”
The Flytraps were founded nearly 10 years ago in Orange County, California, by bassist and vocalist Kristin Cooper, who was inspired by hardcore punk and influential rock ‘n’ roll acts like The Cramps, Motorhead, and The Runaways. As such, their music is a vibrant amalgamation of lo-fi garage, surf, punk, and rock ‘n’ roll. Since forming, the band has performed large-scale events with acts like The Black Lips and, most recently, completed a West Coast tour for BURGER-A-GOGO, as they also prep to open up for The Distillers’ upcoming reunion tour. Kristin opened up to NYLON and shared that she never anticipated recognition for being in a band: “Playing music is like something that makes me feel free, it makes me feel powerful… this is my fucking life.”
The San Francisco-based band has had a few lineup changes over the past few years, but its core members, guitarist George Rager and vocalist Jenny Angelillo, remained a constant and, as such, maintained its signature sound, which blends melodic hardcore with raw garage punk influences. The band went on hiatus following the 2014 release, Recovery, but returned in 2016 to announce a brief West Coast tour followed by a European tour, as well as new music in the works. Presently, Neighborhood Brats is set to release their highly-anticipated Night Shift, which is available for pre-order.
Firewalker evades any semblance of lighthearted, sensitive, or harmonious sounds with the kind of volatile noises that only a place like Boston can produce. The band negates any doubts about the potency of their music with deep, guttural, and bellicose vocals driven by heavy drumbeats and fast-paced guitar riffs. The band first released its demo in 2015, and brought forth its self-titled full-length EP last summer, which is its most popular release to date. In 2017, Firewalker played L.A.’s Sound and Fury Fest, which is one of the biggest hardcore festivals in the country. The budding outfit opened up for prominent acts like Turnstile and Harley Flanagan, a feat that doesn’t come easy for fresh bands.
Huntington Beach, California, is known to harbor bro and bohemian lifestyles, but, as a band, Rats in the Wall is the complete opposite of these regional stereotypes. The hardcore act’s vocalist is guided by her tough and proactive intersectional feminism, as she frequently writes about oppression, poverty, and personal experiences dealing with sensitive topics like dysfunctional upbringings caused by drug use and mental illness. Eva Hall’s live showmanship is just as forceful in conveying these themes, as she erupts and releases mounting energy caused by the stressors that influence her songs. The band also includes Brad Logan, who previously played in distinguished acts like F-Minus and Leftover Crack, further making Rats in the Wall a band to follow in the punk community.