Prior to November 8, Sadie Dupuis figured she would release Slugger, her first album as Sad13 (pronounced “Sad Thirteen”), to an America celebrating the election of its first female president. Like most people, she hadn’t planned to go to bed on Tuesday night coming to grips with the startling new reality of President-elect Trump, and she certainly didn’t plan to release her album three days later still reeling from the news.
As she put it in an official statement on Facebook, Slugger arrived in a world far scarier than the one in which she wrote it. And in a particularly sick twist of fate, it arrived in a world more in need of it than ever.
In the absence of a Madam President and the presence of a demagogue months away from assuming the role of commander-in-chief, Slugger’s pro-women, pro-inclusivity, anti-racist message is nothing short of vital. It is a true-blue pop record through and through, but its message is urgent and unrelenting. It addresses its subjects — consent, outdated notions of male-female friendships, abusive relationships, women supporting women — directly and specifically. Dupuis has chosen to write feminist songs far more polarizing than the vague, inoffensive girl-power anthems infiltrating the Top 40 following pop culture’s most recent embrace of feminism. And she hasn’t forgotten how to write a damn good pop hook along the way.
No part of Slugger sounds like a lost cut from Dupuis’s indie-rock band Speedy Ortiz. In fact, everything about the album is more melodic, synth-friendly and pop-oriented than those she writes for her self-described “day-job band.” The ferocious guitar licks are still there — “Line Up” conjures sonic images of Ex Hex’s Mary Timony and Sleater-Kinney — but they’re matched by equally forceful (and thoroughly delectable) ’80s-inspired synth riffs.
In fact, it took Dupuis leaving the birthplace of Speedy Ortiz to kick Sad13 into gear. Having finished graduate school and a brief teaching stint at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she relocated from western Massachusetts to Philadelphia in January this year, drawn to its vibrant, inclusive scene.
“The scene is filled with really earnest songwriters who are supportive of one another’s work,” she says. “There’s an awareness to the city and a kindness and an agenda of inclusivity that I haven’t always seen in Massachusetts.”
But inclusive punk scenes have always been high on Dupuis’s priority list. She broke into New York City’s DIY scene at eighteen, attending gigs at the original Silent Barn and working the door at Todd P-organized shows. When she started touring with Speedy Ortiz, she found herself the token woman on multi-band bills on an almost nightly basis. She pushed back by adopting an overtly feminine style (including wigs, glitter and stage makeup), and she hasn’t ditched her light-up shoes since. “I liked the idea of showcasing a very feminine persona who was also good at guitar and could play styles of music that were unfairly associated with men,” she says. “I dress like I’m in a pop band.”
Now that she’s touring Slugger, she technically is in a pop band. As with Speedy Ortiz, she’s hoping her performance will provide much-needed visibility for any young women in the audience.
“Nothing makes me happier than a fifteen-year-old girl coming to one of our shows and being like, ‘Hey, I just started an all-girl punk band, and we never thought we could, and now we’re doing it,’” she says. “That’s always the times I feel happiest to be doing this kind of work.”
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As happy as it makes her to be an inspiration to young women, Dupuis can’t help but wish that more women her own age had experienced a similar mid-show epiphany when they were teenagers.
“There are so many women I know who are adults now who didn’t start learning to play guitar until they were 25. The reason they didn’t start earlier is because no one encouraged that interest,” she says.
Dupuis, however, is here to loudly and proudly encourage it. And to teach young girls everywhere that with the help of a guitar and a fair amount of rage, pussy most certainly grabs back.
9 p.m. Saturday, November 26, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, 303-291-1007, $10.