A few days ago, I watched a YouTube video (posted by Seattle alt-rock station KEXP) of an on-air performance by Cherry Glazerr, a widely admired Los Angeles noise pop group. Against my better judgment, I scrolled down to the comment section. It is rare to find anything of value in a Youtube comment section, let alone one for a video of a woman-fronted rock band, but I did it out of blind optimism, perhaps wishing to find someone else who watched the video and was forced to close their eyes and dance in their desk chair, blissed out on the ferocious show the band was putting on.
It was a doozy. Launching right into “Told You I’d Be With the Guys,” the simmering, riff-alicious lead single off their latest record “Apocalipstick,” the band sounds revved up, as if they had all shotgunned espresso shots before picking up their instruments. The opening notes from bandleader Clementine Creevy come fast and loose, as though she can barely harness the energy her guitar is emanating, before being caught in a swell of synth and snare drum that flings the song up in the air like a pumpkin in a catapult.
Creevy swerves around the studio, dancing, alternating between breathy, frantic whispers and fierce yelps into the microphone. At one point, she wanders over to Sasami Ashworth’s keyboards and starts sharing her mic, before backing up and headbanging around to the music, her hair turning into a brown blur as the song crescendos. The vocals come off as weak, gaspy, brilliantly uncoordinated, overwhelmed by the energy and the obvious fun that the band members are having playing with each other.
This video is proof that the breathless music scene hype over this band is well-deserved. It speaks volumes that their energy managed to shine through the restrictive limitations of a short radio station internet video. Yet throughout the comment section were smatterings of this kind of thing:
“Damn this band went very downhill”
“Clem went from cute punk girl next door to a cracked out tweaker. the original band is gone, this isn’t Cherry Glazerr.”
“just like that clem goes from cute little blonde girl to full blown meth head”
“I used to be in love with Clem…The blond hair, the sweet voice and the pretty face. I’m super sad for her.”
My stomach contracted as I scrolled further down, the commenters attributing Creevy’s spastic vocals to a drug problem, criticizing the band’s recently amended lineup and asking for the old members to be restored. Each of these comments, which can be found on the videos and Twitter feeds of any woman bold enough to get onstage and attempt to make art, represent a step backwards, a refusal to acknowledge a woman as an artist and a performer with a vision for her own art, a stubborn rejection of the idea that art, made by anybody, can be universal. Most of them were posted by men.
I’m personally familiar with this kind of idiocy. A few years ago, I reviewed a concert by Los Angeles lo-fi beach rock duo Best Coast. The concert was a disappointment, something I attributed to a lack of passion on bandleader Bethany Cosentino’s part. I wrote a negative review in which I described the outfit she was wearing, pointing out how the extensive and arresting outfit she had chosen to wear belied the lack of passion that was evident on stage. I wanted to know why Cosentino had decided to invest so much energy in her outward appearance, while short-changing an audience that was raring for a great concert.
The thing went viral. Cosentino was furious. She screenshot the review and posted it to the band’s Instagram, which had over 145,000 followers, many of whom let me know through my own social media exactly how they felt about my article. MTV News picked it up, an op-ed defending me popped up on online magazine Death and Taxes and the article became the most read article ever posted to the Foghorn’s website. The staff had to craft a response letter, in which my editors boldly defended me and the article. It was embarrassing and exciting and horrible.
I stand by my assessment of the show. There was an obvious lack of energy or enthusiasm, and more than one person I’ve spoken to shared my impression. I think posting a screenshot to the band’s Instagram before discussing things with our staff was a bit unprofessional. But the fiasco forced me to question what I expect from musicians, from bands, from artists in general. I needed to consider them as something beyond manufacturers of pleasure. Creative people do not exist solely to please me. Cosentino’s performance may have been lackluster, but that had nothing to do with her outfit, and my article assumed that it did, swaying far too close to objectification. I played into my own expectations. I wrote that review without taking the band on their terms.
In short, I was acting just like those bros leaving comments on Cherry Glazerr’s KEXP performance. I was placing my own expectations on a creative person. No serious critic or fan would do such a thing. It runs opposite to the creation of worthwhile art.
So first things first: Gentlemen? C’mon. Cherry Glazerr does not exist to please you, to provide you with personal pleasure like a sonic Flesh-light, something you can whip out anytime you need a release. Cherry Glazerr exists because Clementine Creevy needs to express herself, and they are directed by her muse to create songs and play music. She is an artist, and she deserves the courtesy of being treated like one. Take her seriously. Any moron talking about “loving” an artist because they are sweet and cute and pretty needs to shut their mouth and put their dick back in their pants.
Has her music changed? Of course it has. “Apocalipstick” is a heavier record in a lot of ways, more of a full roar than the snarl of the group’s previous album “Haxel Princess,” recorded (amazingly) when Creevy was just 16. Creevy’s band evolved because she evolved. She’s 19 years old now, and I dare you to find me a 19 year old who bears any resemblance to their 16-year-old self. Any real fan of art and the artistic process would see the growth and emotional surrender on display in the KEXP video, and might appreciate it even more for the layers revealed by such a raw performance.
And no, I guess I don’t know whether Creevy is on drugs in the video. Does that matter? Assuming she’s taking care of herself, not really. I doubt Creevy’s constitution was what was concerning the commenters, especially if they’re basing their concern solely on some discordant singing and the few jittery responses offered to the DJ interviewing her between songs. I attributed the jumpy Q&A responses to Creevy’s noted media aversion, an inevitable dislike given how she has been forced to mature artistically in the eyes of an expectant public. Creevy actually addressed this in the brief KEXP interview, proving to me that those commenters were never watching to understand what her musical expression means.
“It’s a weird thing to do…to grow creatively in a public way. People are like ‘Wait! I thought you were this one thing! Why are you toying with my reality?!’ You just kind of have to ignore that,” said Creevy.
Thank God she does. And you know what? If the commenters had stuck around a little longer, they would’ve been treated to an immaculate version of “Trick Or Treat Dance Floor,” one that reigned in all the free-wheeling gusto of the earlier track, all gorgeous, delicate synth and creeping guitar, played beautifully and sounding almost exactly like it does on the album. The kind of clean, easy-to-love performance I’m sure those fellas were looking for.
Photo Credit: Flickr/ Kexp