Rock Like a Girl
Written by: Samantha Shriber
The music scene of Mount Pleasant has been through its phases, each one plentiful in grimy basements and the power of jams.
There was the 906 House on Franklin St., where beer dribbled out of Oberon bottles and 2000s’ alternative rock gushed out the windows. A living room morphed into a sea, one where performers voyaged in like cyclones. These storms summoned psychedelic guitar riffs, metal-style battle cries and super seniors dressed down in Led Zeppelin t-shirts.
There was a house on the end of Douglas St. with Crayola painted sunflowers beaming off the walls. In this space, self consciousness capsized deep into the ground, being replaced by mosh pits and a faithfulness to college town bands with fleeting lifespans.
However, the same revisiting bands are majorly comprised of men.
So as show night comes and goes, a question floats to the ground where it’ll live alongside plastic cups: where are all the chicks?
The Soirée Crusader
“House show culture is a toughie. The culture is often male-dominated and there seems to be a lot of gate-keeping that goes on,” said Mount Pleasant senior Katie Zwick, the cofounder of Mount Pleasant’s latest phase in music, the TV Party.
On her Instagram account, she described it as a series of “little soirées in my basement...think house show meets variety show meets fever dream!”
In September 2019, Zwick was inspired when her collaborator, Billy Schaber, introduced her to Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party.
“A bunch of creatives, led by O’Brien, got together and fucked around on TV,” Zwick said. “There (were) performances from Blondie and Talking Heads in their early days, interviews and (buffoonery). I decided that I wanted to do that in my basement with my friends.”
Piloting in 1978 and concluding in 1982, the public-access and New York City-based cable show described itself as “the TV show that’s also a cocktail party; the TV show that’s also a political party.”
In Zwick’s adaptation, individuals dance around her basement while a projector decorates the walls in black and white cinema. Between musical performances from Mount Pleasant-born bands like the Mad Sun and Fanclub Singles, theatrical shenanigans are conducted by peers dressed in in blue wigs or felt jester hats.
When music comes to a standstill, some guests may be hauled down to the floor, where they’ll fingerpaint hearts on each other’s cheeks or share swigs of champaign.
“I want to bring a little bit of everything and everyone together for these things. Whether the medium is music, visual art or writing, I just want people to be able to appreciate each other’s talents, learn a little something and primarily, have fun,” she said.
She said one of her goals with the TV Party series is to take women from being on the musical sidelines and elevating them into actual contributors to the phenomenon.
“So far, I have been reaching out to my friends who play music to see if they’d like to play the parties,” Zwick said. “Unfortunately, I only know one person who’s not a dude who wants to play music in that setting.”
This woman is Saginaw senior Lauren Nowosatka, referred to by the music scene as Mango Sex Bruises, Destination Wedding, Vital Consent or Laur.now.
One of her debuts to the musical underground was playing a maraca along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Cage the Elephant’s “Cigarette Daydreams.”
Jamming with friends in a backhouse got so spectacular that she actually woke up the next morning with “a gnarly bruise” on her knee. She was surprised a maraca was a powerful enough device to burst a blood vessel.
Now she performs with an electric guitar, shimmering in an evening shade of purple. One night she was dressed in a puffy top and the type of sunglasses that cloak nervousness with coolness.
Her fingertips were still yearning to be better acquainted with the strings below. Plucking at them, she prayed to the entirety of The Velvet Underground, Prince and Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin to give her strength.
Now when she performs, smiling coyly at the women asking her to sign their breasts and take their hands in marriage, she aspires to exude a thought provoking occurrence. Breathing air into “99 Red Balloons” and her most beloved girl punk discographies, she aims for shows to challenge perspectives of self and society.
“The culture inspires me to dive further into the craft because (it) could not be more supportive and invigorating for up and coming artists,” Nowosatka said. “As a Category Five perfectionist, I am very hard on myself and often find myself dwelling on small mistakes I make during sets, but friends, peers and fans continue to motivate me.”
Due to the community, which one may easily categorized as being “a small niche,” is a scene abundantly welcoming and empowering, she said. It is where the likes of passion and dedication can flourish, each force being united under a sheer love for music at any level.
“Anyone can rock, some rock better than others but those who rock for the right reasons are the real rockers,” Nowosatka said. “Eclecticism is, put simply, how I find myself existing within the community. I am drawn to form expressions that originate from various cultures and styles and this interest of mine is the most credible source of my personal style.”
She said the Mount Pleasant music culture would be nothing without the array of women building it up.
From her experiences, females are particularly gifted in immersing a space in color, revamping settings to become a kaleidoscope one never wants to venture out of. As spectators and correspondents alike are cocooned in a veil comprised by sound, she is confident they’ll be greeted by smiles slicker than honey and whispers copius in feminist leadership.
According to Nowosatka, a woman-less venue would lack hip twisting in the audience and ambitions to nosedive deeper into a whole other universe of female-constructed sound.
“And worst of all, nobody would sing ‘I Will Survive’ at karaoke,” she said, before admitting representation is something to be improved on in numerous ways.
Engagement with music is identical to the way anything can be engaged with by a woman, both her sound and narrative suggests.
“Participating in music is different for women because participating in everything is different for women. The fight for gender equality and equity is only now starting to move in the right direction, but think about how long it has taken us to get only this far.”
The Blister Sisters
The Blister Sisters is a brand new band in Mount Pleasant, playing on a foundation of multifaceted genres, political angst and independence.
Whenever they perform, they hope individuals are ultimately swept into a welcoming oasis. Following the values they esteem most in live music, the aspirations of their sets are to assist viewers in escaping “the hell-world, (finding) comradery and (getting) a shot in the arm.”
“The name takes perceptions of the feminine and pairs it drastically with something perceived as grotesque. Some perceive blistering heat (and) some think venereal disease; we really don’t give a shit either way,” said Gladwin senior Tenley Good, one of the band’s two female members.
When asked to describe their vibe, Good said it is dependent on each of the four members ability to find comfortability in diverse influences and pursue beyond their comfort zones. Their journey is about embracement, accepting new ambitions ans enjoyments.
However, when it comes to female representation in this culture, Good acknowledges it might because all music flowing into Mount Pleasant comes with an expiration date.
“There’s been a sporadic history of women in Mt. P music scene, but it hasn’t really been large enough or consistent enough to be a sustained and self-propagating presence. Partly to blame is the inherently temporary nature of college towns; people spend short stints here, then move on. So the presence of talent, especially female talent, is constantly in flux.”