New Grrrl Order kicks off Fusebox Fest with a riot, a bang and a mob of punkrock girls
The courtyard at the Long Center filled up slowly but filled up full, accommodating a crowd composed of toddlers and teenagers and parents, empty nesters and expectant mothers, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, forty-somethings, fifty-somethings, anything-somethings. We all were waiting for Allison Orr's New Grrrl Order, the kickoff event of Fusebox 2012, while a DJ spun wax circles on turntables and kids spun in equally groovy circles on the grass.
The audience sat on the slabs of poured concrete that range outward from the upstairs entrance to the Long Center, facing north down the hill and away from the descending sun, over Riverside and across Lady Bird Lake to the jagged vista of downtown.
Festival opening ceremonies, in a sort of freshman-orientation style of presentation, started promptly at 6:46 p.m. We were encouraged to visit the festival hub and learn more. Four minutes later, the festival director was shoved right the hell off stage by a 10-year-old agitator in a pink Jean Grae t-shirt who went ahead and told everyone what was what.
The music kicked off and, in a sudden burst of little bodies, the performance space on the lawn was devoured by stampeding, screaming, laughing mobs of girls fit to shake the courtyard columns down.
If you're not familiar with the riot grrrl movement — coalesced in the early 1990s around a cadre of punk rock musicians and 'zine pioneers in the Pacific Northwest — consider the Riot Grrrl Manifesto, by Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, required reading.
You may or may not also be familiar with Forklift Danceworks, Orr's company and the team responsible for more magnificent explosions of the movement arts than you could shake any of your various sticks at. The most recently performed is Trash Project, debuted in 2009, whose choreography featuring the employees and machinery of Austin's solid waste services department drew sold-out crowds of 2,000 humans apiece to a pair of encore performances on the hottest weekend of last year’s record summer.
Orr has also worked with gondoliers, roller skaters, Elvis impersonators and firefighters. You are encouraged to go and see absolutely anything she does.
For New Grrrl Order, Orr partnered with Emily Marks of Girls Rock Camp Austin and the Scottish Rite Theater and enlisted the services of Atlanta-based punk rock outfit The Coathangers, who dressed in olive drab like revolutionary marshals.
The Coathangers charged through tune upon tune of saw-tooth jams while the mad crowds of girls, aged six to 18, danced and spun and thrashed and screamed and fell in step. Halfway through the set, four members the dancing troupe took the instruments from the band and ripped into a tune themselves, their legion of young ladies dancing and shaking their bodies all over the grass.
Between songs, a braided girl in a blue tank top and wayfarers delivered oratory in free verse and manifesto form — "We must take over the means of production in order to create our own art!" — and a line formed at the microphone before the final number for each dancer in the crew to walk up to it and shout their name.
After their introductions, the girls ran to take their places in lock-step and march like an army parade while the Coathangers played a raucous one about revolution. During the finale, the girls grabbed foam and paper-mache guitars out of a pile near the front of the performance area and smashed them and stomped them to bits.
Energy was high. Smiles were everywhere. The hundreds of girls glowed with pride at the close of the show (and the kickoff to Fusebox), amid the congratulations of parents and friends, for having staged the best riot any person in attendance had ever seen.
Fusebox Fest continues through May 6th. Full event schedule, details and ticket information are available on the festival website.