Arts Desk

DC Punk 2008 Part 3: Allison Wolfe

Third in a series of 6, Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile presents: "Top Five Things in DC That Keep Me From Losin' My Mind!"

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1. Girls Rock! DC!

As Sleater-Kinney ax-woman Carrie Brownstein so succinctly put it in her foreword to the recently published Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls book, “Everything at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls takes place in a single week. For anyone out there who’s ever tried to write a song, start and finish a painting, or make a film, you know one week is nothing. One week is the time it takes for an adult to think about what we have to do: prepare and procrastinate, produce a draft, doubt we are capable, fail, and start again. But one week is all it takes for young girls, some of whom have never strummed a guitar chord in their life, held drum sticks in their hands, or stepped foot on a stage, to come together with complete strangers, form a band, and write a song that will blow your mind...and to be surprised, to truly be caught off guard, by something so unselfconscious, is to realize that a lot of what we believe to be bold is really quite tame. Bold is not a wanky guitar solo at Madison Square Garden that lasts five minutes while hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of lights and pyrotechnics tell an audience when to applaud. Nor is bold a bassist jumping from the top of a kick drum and doing a scissor kick in the air at the end of a song. Bold is learning how to play the drums on Monday and performing in front of five hundred people on Saturday. Bold is screaming into the microphone, or merely talking into one, when you didn’t even know you could. Bold makes the hair stand up on the listeners’ necks, gives them a lump in the back of their throat, makes them happy to be alive.”

Right on! So there was some talk post-Ladyfest (DC) to do a girl rock camp as a follow-up, but these fine ladies really blew it outta the water. With the first meeting in October of ’07, the labor of this musically-minded female collective culminated in a well-oiled machine of a camp in August ’08 that changed the lives of young 8- to 18-year-old girls in swamp town. As part of the worldwide Girls Rock Camp Alliance, Girls Rock! DC consisted of up to 20 core organizers, 50 volunteers, 48 campers, 8 newly formed bands, and 2 DJs. I know for a fact it ain’t easy being a girl in this city, but a girl like me’s gotta get psyched about a final GR! DC showcase that boasted 600 people in attendance, not to mention Eddie Vedder! Next stop, Madison Square Garden? (“Where is your next show? In Honolulu! Where is your next show…”)
Get psyched: girlsrockdc.org

2. Hear Mount Pleasant!
Yay to Hear Mount Pleasant for fighting the insanity of the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance in my ‘hood. Mt. Pleasant used to be so fun, interesting, REAL, and culturally vibrant ‘til rich people took over with their uber-entitled “quality of life” demands and crushed its spirit like a bug. I know we all play a role in gentrification, but I tried fighting the power for years, but just couldn’t take the straight-up hatred and steamrollering anymore. Mass thanks to the more diplomatic mouths of HMP for organizing to try to bring back something culturally/artistically cool in our neighborhood, to promote more constructive conflict resolution, and to expose the few wealthy homeowners’ agenda, which privately controls our business strip and absurdly gets cemented into law. I love Don Juan! I love Haydee’s! Gimme back my neighborhood!
Get real: hearmountpleasant.org

3. Transformer!
Not sure why, but I get the feeling DC’s also not the easiest place to be for visual artists either. But what do I know? That’s why I like to mosey on down to Transformer when they have exhibitions and programs to get my art on. A beacon of cutting-edge on a block that’s been almost totally Whole Foods-ized, this nonprofit arts organization focuses on supporting emerging, mostly local, artists. Now this sounds pretty DIY and non-alienating to a punky-doodle person like myself. I can dig it. And they’re totally art-world legit with support through grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.  Transformer got founded about seven years ago by two true local heroines of the arts: Victoria Reis, current executive and artistic director, and Jayme McLellan, who remains on Transformer’s advisory council but is now director of Civilian Art Projects. Which leads me to my next big-ups item…
Get art: transformergallery.org

4. Civilian Art Projects!
Hey, I wasn’t able to reach director Jayme McLellan by press time, but trust me, she’s totally cool. Situated down near the Mall (sorry, I can’t say “Penn Quarter”–makes me gag), Civilian kicked off in 2006, breathing very interesting and engaging new art life into the DC scene through up-and-coming artist events, programs and exhibitions.
Get (sm)art: civilianartprojects.com

5.  Halloween on Lamont Street!
Alright, I know I shouldn’t be publicizing this in the paper, ‘cause ever since DC’s main daily paper let the cat outta the bag a few years ago, our street gets totally trampled by scary little munchkins every Halloween while we go broke enabling their sugar highs. But oh how adorable are these little candy-grubbing mess-makers. I’ll even make an exception for that one bold little Spider-Man who wiped out our candy bowl too early in the eve (that crap’s expensive!) in five fell swoops while glaring coldly into my eyes, as his daddy unapologetically looked on. What the hell? Anyways, first organized years ago by the coolest lady on the block, Athena Viscusi, and others, our Halloween block party is most specialest ‘cause it’s closed off to traffic, there’s age-differentiated costume contests, and the whole thing gets broadcast live on the radio. It’s downright neighborly.
Get out:  1700 block of Lamont St., NW, at dark on 10/31, duh.

Allison Wolfe was in the bands Bratmobile and Partyline, among others.  She is also the co-founder of Ladyfest.

All contributors to this series were guests on DISSONANCE, a DC punk oral histories show on Radio CPR. Allison Wolfe's interview can be heard here.

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