A few hours before more than 100 campers slayed the crowd at the Oriental Theater as part of the Girls Rock 2018 Showcase on Saturday, July 14, the organizers realized this was the group’s tenth anniversary. But whether they knew it was their big day or not, the showcase was a fitting celebration for the nonprofit that uses music and performance to empower girls and trans youth in the Denver area.
The fifteen bands that played, including Queen Cobras, Jazzy Jellybeans and the Dead Roses, Diamond Skulls, and Tropical *Punch*, had been formed in the past week by girls and trans and gender-expansive youth ages eight to eighteen. Some were picking up instruments for the first time; others had been at it for years.
The songs the groups wrote ran the gamut from surreal to empowering to despondent to defiant.
The show opened with Molly’s Ocean Eyes. In “What a Sight (The Brain and the Elephant),” vocalist Ariana sang the Salvador Dalí-worthy lyrics, “What a sight! It’s a brain swinging from the trees/With macaroni and cheese."
The Belladonnas’ lead singer, Casel, inspired the crowd with her lyrics in “Underneath”: “We are not alone/We’ll always have a home/Even if it ain’t a house/We’ll always have a way out."
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And Blue Dutchess’s members pointed out that their rebellious song “Untitled,” originally dubbed “I Don’t Give a Damn,” had been altered thanks to some self-censorship. “We changed 'damn' to 'ham' so it’s appropriate for all ages,” said one of the members to the crowd.
The effect was hilarious: “I don’t give a ham/So don’t tell me what to do,” sang singer Sheridan again and again. But it seemed clear that they did give a ham — at least about making the Showcase friendly to all.
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The concert was no stiff-spined recital. Not all of the music reached pitch-perfect harmony as instruments collided in clashing keys, but that was as it should be. After all, these bands, and Girls Rock itself, have been inspired by the DIY punk ethic: Anybody can pick up a guitar and rock. Forget being in tune.
There's a lot that could be said about how nationwide this kind of program is fueling the resurgence of rock led by trans- and women-fronted electric guitar-driven bands. There’s more that could be said about how these camps are empowering young women in the #MeToo era, under the patriarchal rule of Donald Trump and in an age when Proud Boys and alt-right bros loudly champion the worst of men.
But most of the details of all that were left aside during the showcase to make room for a message the band Tropical *Punch* summed up in a fist-pumping chat: "Stop being cruel/And Let! Girls! Rule!"