Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 25 - MT JULIET, TN - An unrelated rant about female bassists

I apologize to my foodie fans at this point, but I just wanna put this out there, since it's been on my mind lately...

I picked up the bass guitar when I was 11 years old because, yeah, the one my guitar-collecting Dad happened to own had four strings (but it was also fretless... and a long scale Gibson Ribber... but that's besides the point). I wanted badly to play music with my drumming brother, because I felt we were moving apart at that age: he was my best friend, and I didn't want to lose him. I had tried to play guitar, but the closeness of the strings and idea of chords and solos didn't appeal to this shy little girl. Of course adults questioned my decision making, "Julie, isn't that instrument going to be hard for you? Aren't your hands too small?" I shrugged, and never even doubted my thought process for a moment: I had no desire to be in the spot light. I just wanted to have common ground with Eric again, and I thought that picking up the bass would be the best way to make that happen.

Over time, my competitive streak broke through. My Dad taught me Cream songs like "Politician" and "Sunshine of Your Love." He also tried to influence me by putting on Stanley Clarke vinyls (to which I'd sob and sake my head, thinking his lines were impossible to ever play). Eventually though, my competitive streak broke through, and I thought "Why can't I learn this stuff? Why can't I just practice and become just as good at bass as my brother was at drums?" I never saw boundaries - no differences in approaching the bass as a girl. If anything, I wanted to be the best as I could be - female or male. And that's not to imply that I think I'm the best by any stretch - but I'm always working harder...

Anyway, I just don't appreciate hearing things like "Yeah, she's good... for a girl." And that's not to say that I receive these sentiments personally... well, ok, I used to... and why is that whenever I tell someone I play an instrument that they also ask if I sing? I just like to think that listeners don't even consider gender when they hear ANYONE play. Perhaps it's a Utopian idea, but for now the prejudice undeniably exists, and it sucks. If a player is good, then he/she is flat out GOOD. Adrian Belew is an amazing guitar player. Eric Slick is an amazing drummer. Perhaps it is harder for them as men to make a mark in the Music Business, but maybe it isn't, since it is so male-dominated, it's almost expected.

So I guess my point is this: women should not have "the fear." Who says you can't shred, slap, tap, loop...? The guys? Really, we have to put the slimy he-men to rest and prove that we are capable of rocking (in many ways... including the kitchen) - but just don't get better than I am, because as said, I am competitive and might have to kill you...

Thank you, and good night!

PS - The ABPT's album is available now at StoreBelew... there's a sample of the title track available at http://www.reverbnation.com/adrianbelewpowertrio

6 comments:

Glenn G said...

I can't imagine anybody (whose opinion you value) saying something like 'She's pretty good for a girl.'
To me, that's about as sensible as saying 'Good swimmer, for a fish.' Women, in my experience, are AWESOME bass players. You, my dear, are among the very best. With your Bro on perc, it's just amazing. My $0.02,

glenn

scottst said...

Nobody likes a slimy he-man. . . - S S.

Julie said...

Yeah, but he's probably a good swimmer...

Michael Maier said...

Julie, I saw you kick booty in Indianapolis just over a week ago and I told you I loved your playing after the show. Your playing was a joy to hear.

But I do have somewhat of a prejudice against female players. That's simply because so many guys give females accolades and respect just for showing up when they do not do the same for guys with the exact same level of playing skill. It gets tiresome from that perspective.

My thing is that I simply judge the players for their playing, not their sex. Many guys just like seeing cuties with instruments, which can be a waste of time for my ears, an insult to the female player (whether she knows or cares or not) and a big disincentive for her to improve. I separate the sex of the player and the playing. I think "yeah, she's cute but where's the live audio?".

But then it can cut the other way too. You see female go up on stage and you typically aren't expecting as much from her because she's a girl. Then she slaps you silly with her playing!

I actually had that happen right there in Radio Radio a few years ago when i saw this cute brunette sitting off to the side of the stage. I thought "whose girlfriend is that?". Then she went on stage and pounded the skins like a madman, er madwoman for Rob Balducci's band. (Veronica Bellino) Then she came up and sang at the end of the show to boot!

(With ABT, I cheated and watched a cool YouTube video and saw how good y'all are. That made me get off my butt and go see you three.)

Overall, you have zero to worry about. I'm sure it can be discouraging for you but your playing sure speaks for itself. I bet you have shut up a LOT of naysayers, even if you don't know it.

Miss Kat said...

Oh my dear, how that brings back memories of the days I used to play bass in a band...

Seems like part of the territory: I have had everything from guys standing outside of rehearsal spaces asking me why my boyfriend was making me carry his gear, to bar managers who ask if I "actually play an instrument" when I tell them I'm in (not with, okay, IN) the band, to sound guys who comment that they've never seen a female bass player before and they "don't know what it's going to be like." (Now really, what's it supposed to "be like"? I play bass... Do male bass players perhaps play the kazoo instead?) I've got a thousand of them.

Keep being competitive, darling, because I must admit, I love to see the boys - my talented bass-playing husband included - tearing their hair out while listening to the Trio, muttering to themselves like madmen about how very, very awesome you are.

Stonehenge said...

The world of rock music (even at it's fringes) can be a frustratingly conservative place. It's interesting that the classical world doesn't even blink when a woman steps up as lead, presumably because the classical tradition is focused primarily on the skill of the individual, and what they contribute to the ensemble.
Anyway, for now, I recommend that you use the '...for a girl' or '...do you sing too?' conversations as your best means of identifying and avoiding jerks.
And, from one very competitive male bassist: you tore it up in Atlanta last week, and definitely shamed me back to my practice space (albeit with a smile on my face).