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Rockrgrl Music Conference

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(Excerpted from my Once In A Blue Moon Newsletter of November 21, 2000)

November 2 - 4, 2000

It was a crazy, busy few days, and with 90 things going on at once, I can only tell you bits and pieces of what I experienced. But I'll be happy to drop some names and give it the overall thumbs up on what was a very, very cool event I think.

Seattle is filled with great clubs and I tried to check out as many as I could (read: out til 3am). My showcase was on a Thursday night, had a gig in Portland, Oregon on Friday, and Saturday night got off to a delayed, but delightful start as Courtney Love did a last minute Q & A in the ballroom that lasted at least two hours into the evening. The hotel where the day events occurred was fancy-schmancy and all the great people who showed up ROCKED! I ran into many friends and colleagues from all over the country, made new acquaintances, and of course, the dreaded words: made contacts. Yes, there were a good number of famous or used to be famous and soon to be famous folks around, but the coolest thing about the whole shebang was that a positive and respectful vibe prevailed.

When I arrived at the hotel on the first day to register, I found out that in addition to being on the Guitar Clinic/Panel, I was moderating it. So during the course of the next couple days, in a no-sleep pattern, non-stop of activity, I wrote down topics to bring up with what was an awesome group of women. They all played amazing lead guitar and were very willing to share their experiences with the audience. In addition to the socio-political issues pertinent to being a chick with a loud guitar, there was a good amount of simple guitar techie talk, and when not enough time was left for individual songs, we had a five way blues jam session. Five because we added Arjo Klingens from Holland band Handsome 3some at Leni Stern's request. Arjo is a great guitarist and they are touring now in the midwest, so go see them!

For me, it was great to talk about stuff I think about, but don't usually have an outlet like this. Mostly, I hope it was an inspiring push to the non-lead players in the room to "go for it" and dare to step up to the plate and take that solo. The other musicians on the panel were Janet Robin (L.A.), Leni Stern (NYC), and Shelly Doty (S.F.). If you live in these towns, go support these great players or check them out when they tour.

Keynote speakers were 60's superstar girl-group leader Ronnie Spector and Indigo Girl Amy Ray. Ronnie brought everyone to laughter and ultimately tears with a cautionary tale of why no one should ever completely control your career. In her case, it was former producer/husband/major asshole Phil Spector. No time for details, but a roomful of women rockers was good therapy for Ronnie, not to mention the mega-settlement she finally received after many torturous years under his thumb. Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls was also inspirational, but more because of her knowledge and understanding of the music industry and how we as musicians can affect change.

Things I Missed and Wished I Had Seen

The Women of Valor Awards given to Seattle sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band Heart. But I did hear Ann on a panel called "Woodstock '99 to Eminem: When Did Women Become the Enemy?"

playing at RockrgrlAnn Wilson, arguably the most famous performer of the 3 day event, performed "with friends" during the same time slot as my showcase across town. Bummer, I know. I heard she was great. Madison's was a bit off the beaten track then the other clubs, but there were a lot of people when I got there. I thanked those there for NOT leaving to see Ann Wilson which was free to all of us Laminated Conference Attendees. I think I put on a strong show and played mostly newer material.

Other missed Panels: "The Secret Life Of Groupies." Panelists included the two most well-known groupies: Pamela Des Barres (whose book I read in the 80's) and the real Pennie Lane (recently immortalized in the film "Almost Famous"). Also on board was Stefanie Eulinberg (drummer for Kid Rock) who was there to shed light on the groupies of the post-modern era. I peeked in and heard only one question relating to gifts they may have received from their famous rock star partners and the only response I had time to hear was "you mean besides sexually transmitted diseases?" and then I was off to talk guitars.

A songwriting panel with Sue Ennis (wrote many Heart singles), Ann Wilson, Jill Sobule, Eliza Gilkyson, Wendy Melvoin (Wendy & Lisa/Prince), Kim Richey. Not too shabby. Missed this one.

Favorite panel title: "Mommy, Do We Have To Go On Tour?"

I did go to "Lilith Fair: I Will Remember You" with Sarah McLachlan's manager and Kate Schellenback from Luscious Jackson on the panel. It was a tough call because next door was the equally depressing "Starting Over: Surviving a Band Breakup or Label Drop".

Fortunately, I ran into someone from Rockrgrl magazine who I'd met the first day, and she said "Oh Laurie, you haven't gotten any drink tickets yet! Here!" And preceded to give me 5 of them!! The free booze was in the trade show room with all the gear, business cards and free candy. It was just a short while til the Courtney Love Q & A, so I got two glasses of wine (one for me and one for my alter ego) and went straight to the elevator trying to down one before getting to the lobby. It was a massive traffic-like parade of people all coming together in the lobby outside Ballroom A where we were being funneled. All the while, I'm hearing Courtney's rules being spouted around me: "No cameras, no one standing, once the chairs are full, no one stands, only questions written down and selected by Ms. Love herself will be addressed, if you leave, you can't come back, if you come after it starts, too bad...blah, blah, blah," sip, sip, sip...I go in and sit right in the 2nd row in front of my Boston compatriots: my publicist, and journalists from the Globe and the Herald, oh yea, "No journalists..."

The thing is I really dig Courtney Love's music and I think she's a very sharp woman. The most invigorating thing of this was at the beginning, after the doors were closed and we sat patiently through the list of RULES, and finally SHE is there and sitting up at the panel table, and it's quiet... Loud POUNDING and from the outside of the door, chants, women's voices shouting "Let The Rockrgrls In! Let the Rockrgrls In!" and finally, Courtney smiles and waves the doors open and a diverse looking, multi-colored hair-styled, funky, leather flood of women rockers burst through to cheers and the doors closed and we were all one. Of course, Courtney had a LOT to say. I particularly remember the comment she many times said about "You will never be friends with your lawyer." I know I have at least one music lawyer on this list, so dude, I haven't called you back because Courtney made me paranoid, but give me a week or two; it's wearing off gradually. I won't go over the whole thing. There were at least 300 people there, but the second glass of wine made it seem like a private little party, so I'm going to stop there and just say if you are a female bass player and have real musical chops, Courtney needs you and she wants to make you a star. Send tapes to her management and postmark them from Canada if you can; Courtney thinks they are better players there due to the music programs in the schools. Oh, I did shake her hand, speak to her briefly as she read my laminate and I told her I was sorry I didn't play bass.

The final act I saw was Exene Cervenka's Original Sinners at the Crocodile at around 1 am and just as I was pogoing and feeling that I wasn't at a music conference, she walked off the stage and the drummer told us she thought we didn't like her. More banging on the dressing room door and chanting and she came on for one more song that her band didn't know, and the whole event was over in one truly, beautiful Punk moment. And I was happy.

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