At the Tacocat merch table, between some vinyl and sweatshirts for sale, was an old paper book titled The Woman’s Dress For Success Book. It was priced at $100. It was a partially a joke, but mostly a direct statement. There were a lot of statements, musical and otherwise, from Tacocat and Sallie Ford Thursday night at the hi-dive, because those two female-fronted bands — while they can be romantic, cheeky, even playful — are nothing if not direct.
Tacocat is a pop-punk band from Seattle, spawned from a generation raised on Blink-182, irony and X-Files Netflix binges. Sallie Ford calls Portland home but has a Southern, romantic heart and a beast of a voice. The two bands couldn’t be farther apart except, in a musical world so dominated by the point of view of a cis white male, the pair both manage to cut through the patriarchy with ease and speak directly to and about women's experience.
Tacocat makes feminism, a topic so ranted about in every internet comment section, into something fun and obvious. Whether the band is singing about periods (“Crimson Wave”), catcalling (“Hey Girl”) or doing acid on your fifteenth birthday (“Psychedelic Quinceanera”) it proves that women not only can, but do have a voice in music to sing about boys, uteruses, pet cats and how fucking fed up they are with being treated like objects. The women of Tacocat, and the women narrators of their songs are never objects, but fully-formed human focal points expressing feelings everyone, no matter the gender, can understand.
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Of course, what makes Tacocat brilliant is not the subject matter of the music but its masterful delivery. Singer Emily Nokes was born to be a front woman, armed with a tambourine and wild dance moves. Drummer Lelah Maupin sported a ridiculous Christmas shirt featuring a monkey taking a selfie with a candy cane. Guitarist Eric Randall, after popping a string, was forced to play a guitar with pink strings and rainbow stickers. The quartet was as disarming as could be. Add in the unique pop-punk-meets-Beach-Boys sound and you get 40-year-old dudes in the front row singing along to “get me some white wine and Vicodin/ call my girls and see if they want to go get their minds off dumb aunt flo.”
While Tacocat manages to make art out of songs about Dana Scully and depressing Seattle winters, Sallie Ford (no longer with the Sound Outside but a band of all women), with her precision guitar work and howling vocals, reminded the crowd that women have feelings and urges, just like men. Ford’s songs are mostly about men, her desire to want them, to leave them, to be consumed by them and to leave them to suffer by the wayside. Her lyrics rip you to shreds while her voice, full of so many octaves, crushes you. Ford is a women in pain, in love, never quite sure what she wants. She is sure however, that no man is going to make the next decision for her. In “Lips and Hips,” she belts “take my eyes, take my lips, take my thighs, take my lips.” That’s her giving permission, never the other way around. Men can have what they want, but only if she decides to let them.
Tacocat and Sallie Ford filled a void so often missing from the hi-dive stage. A point of view often sung about from just one side of the glass, rarely mirrored or experienced from another. It’s no coincidence that both bands have a song called “Hey Girl” that deconstructs the male fantasy towards the women they encounter. It’s also no coincidence that Tacocat sings about the taboo topic of menstruation, and Sallie Ford has a song about expectation where the chorus is literally “Fuck That.” Those motives are direct. Sure, women may still make less than men for the same job, have to deal with literally getting yelled at by strangers, viewed as no more than the eye candy and fantasies of those they’ve never met. But those fantasies can go both ways. Women have guitars and drums and microphones just like the boys, and damn if they don’t know how to use them.