Fall, 1979. There they were again: the two girls, disappearing into the fog by the park blocks in downtown Portland. One blonde, one redhead, bright berets floating over long wool coats.
The bus came once an hour and I'd missed it. Sometimes I missed it on purpose. But it was too cold to hang around much longer. I dug a book out of my backpack and sat down to wait.
Who were those girls? They weren't like anyone I knew in the suburbs, or at the big-box high school I was stuck at for two more years. They looked like they might be interesting. Maybe I could talk to them. But what if they were bitches? It didn't matter. The times I saw them, they were always at least a block away. Ghosts I could never catch.
I went back to my book. Then my bus came. Forty-five minutes later, it dropped me off in the middle of nowhere: the place I spent most of my time.
At home I had more books--mostly poetry--and records from Park Avenue and Renaissance. On Sundays I taped Joe Carducci's show from KBOO. I wanted to be in a band, but I wasn't old enough or cool enough. Worst of all, I wanted to play an instrument. Nobody wanted a girl in their band unless she was the singer. I knew that was stupid, but how could I argue? Obviously, there were rules not even punk could stop.
The eighties started. That summer, I went to an all-ages show at The Long Goodbye. The band came on. Four girls. Wow, two of them were THE girls. The redhead went to the microphone, the blonde picked up a bass. They even had a girl drummer.
How did they do that, start a band with other women, three of them not the singer? Maybe they thought the rules were stupid too. No, that hope was too big. I pushed it down. I watched them tune up, waited for them to be terrible or act campy.
But they weren't, and they didn't. The Neo Boys had a strong pop energy, but Kim's hard-edged voice was never too sweet. KT wove her basslines around Pat's solid beat, while Jennifer played a twangy, clean guitar.
The lyrics were real poetry. None of their songs were about boys. THEY weren't about boys. They were a band. Four equals, up there on stage in their regular clothes, being their regular selves. And kicking ass.
Their regular selves kicked ass.
By the end of that year, I was in my own band with four other women. I got to know KT, Kim, and Pat. They were real. They were nice. I should have talked to them sooner. I should have thanked them sooner. Thirty-two years is a long time to wait. But here goes.
Over the decades here in the Northwest I've seen countless other all-female bands, good ones, up there on stage being their regular selves and kicking ass. KT, Kim, Pat, Jennifer, Meg, you knew the rules were stupid. Your music made them irrelevant. This work has aged well, but I'm not surprised. It's just proof.
Thank you, Neo Boys. From the bottom of my teenage heart.
- Lesley Reece (aka Suzi Creamcheese): bassist, The Braphsmears, Jungle Nausea, The Redheads, 1980-84.
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