Before the Riot Grrrl movement of the early '90s or before the advent of social media, there wasn't a network of like-minded all-female bands across the country working together. All you had was the notion of DIY bands, pockets of groups in far-flung areas of the country maybe mining similar territory. Maybe you'd have a band like L7 in Los Angeles. And maybe you'd have a power-punk trio like Burning Bush here in Phoenix.
Burning Bush existed from 1987 to 1993 and consisted of Thomascyne Ryther (guitar, vocals), Denise Tanguay (bass, vocals), and Audrey Creed (drums). And in fact it was social media that brought them back together. When Kevin Daly posted a picture of his '80s band Hellfire on Facebook and mused about bringing them back together for a show, Denise Tanguay texted him that if he was going to do that, there ought to be a Burning Bush reunion as well.
The band's show at Rips on March 28 will be the first time that all three original members have ever reunited. And they will have to do it between three states, as Tanguay lives in San Diego, Ryther in Portland, and Creed in Flagstaff.
Having never been in bands before, the members of Burning Bush came together and developed their style of pop punk and, later, a kind of psychedelic post-punk funk infusion organically. "Kevin Daly first introduced me to Thomascyne," Tanguay says. "She said, 'I want to put a girl band together. I need a bass player. You should get a bass.' So I did, and I just learned to play in the band."
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They developed their unique style of unison singing organically as well. "Thomascyne and I both enjoy each other's songs so much we just like singing along to them, just like you would sing along to your favorite song on the radio. We never really worked on it too hard."
Of course, Burning Bush met with early opposition.
"Because we weren't pop music, we were rough around the edges, and weren't guys, we definitely got pegged as the novelty girl band for awhile. We played with some cool bands like the Meat Puppets and were called the female Meat Puppets because we admired their musicianship. We knew a lot of female musician in bands, but there wasn't any other all-female bands that we would regularly play with. And there still aren't that many today."
You can hear the band at the peak of its musical powers by the time of Burning Bush's second album, Lick Bush, in 1991. And, yes, it does feature a tongue about to take a swipe at a burning visage of our 41st president. When you consider how vilified the Dixie Chicks became after criticizing our 43rd president, or that Burning Bush's first official photo had a "Fuck the Pope" message a good seven years before Sinead O'Connor ripped a papal picture on Saturday Night Live, the '80s seemed like a much freer-thinking world than we remember.
Says Ryther, "I don't think Burning Bush ever was particularly radical so much as community-oriented. While I admit to some lyrical finger pointing and kettle black calling, it was more fun-poking, as in everyone is fair game. As a group, we weren't the ones to break the law or support any sort of violent or even rude behavior to 'get our way.' Instead I'd say the mainstream has actually caught up with us. Indeed, now vegetarians and girl musicians abound."
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