Brat on the Beat

After six years in the garage, the Bratmobile revs louder than ever

Working alone, Smith concocted a unique style that focuses on single notes instead of relying on chords. Her guitar lines are sparse without being thin, with each isolated sound leading listeners through the melodies like a musical version of connect-the-dots. Smith's guitar heroes include Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson, whose spare licks convinced her to pick up the instrument again after she felt overwhelmed by the lush guitar attack of Duran Duran's Andy Taylor.

Bratmobile's reunion means that a new generation of fans, many of them young women, is attempting to figure out Smith's intricate guitar lines, singing along loudly with Wolfe's cathartic words and dancing in worry-free, all-female mosh pits. It's not a new phenomenon, but it's one that Bratmobile largely missed out on during its first incarnation. This summer's Ladyfest, held in Olympia, Washington, gave the group its first glimpse of what constitutes the riot grrrl movement in 2000. The event was Wolfe's brain child, born out of nostalgia after the opening of the riot grrrl retrospective, although scores of volunteers did the actual planning and carried out the event. Smith reports lesbian pop-punk band the Butchies and female art-rock trio Sleater-Kinney played to a Backstreet Boys-style response, complete with screaming and crying. Bratmobile's set inspired similar hysteria, which -- considering that Smith got chills when her band merely was recognized in Washington, D.C., soon after its reunion -- was rather overwhelming.

From left, Erin Smith, Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman are discovering the joys of being grown-up brats.
From left, Erin Smith, Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman are discovering the joys of being grown-up brats.

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Scheduled to perform on Saturday, November 18, with Aislers Set. Showtime is 9 p.m.
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"It was really moving," she says. "This might sound cheesy, but it was a really electrifying week. When we were doing the interviews for the riot grrrl retrospective, it was so inspiring just to be talking about those things again and thinking about how it used to be, and Allison wondered, 'Why can't we do this today?' There was all this 'riot grrrl is dead' talk, but Ladyfest really proved that it's still alive and there's still interest in it. I can be really cheesy about it sometimes, but I'm really glad we're back together. There's no one I'd rather be in a band with."

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