Since forming in San Francisco in 1982, feminist punk pioneers FRIGHTWIG have been wielding joy and smashing the patriarchy. With life-changing live shows that spread revelry and revolution, Frightwig became a formative influence on the Riot Grrrl movement and paved the way for the likes of Hole, L7, and Lunachicks, among others.

The band’s cult-favorite albums Cat Farm Faboo (Subterranean Records 1984) and Faster, Frightwig, Kill! Kill! (Caroline Records 1986), plus the EPs Phone Sexy (Boner Records 1988) captured the hearts of fellow freaks and outcasts. Songs like “My Crotch Does Not Say Go,” “A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Gotta Do,” and “Crazy World” upended the masculine hardcore scene by infusing it with the vicious wit of women on a tear. Tours with Flipper, Butthole Surfers, and Redd Kross saw Frightwig screaming and shredding their way through glass ceilings and unapologetically leaving behind a pile of shards.

Co-founders Deanna Mitchell (bass, vocals) and Mia d’Bruzzi (guitar, vocals) discovered a soul sister in Cecilia Kuhn (drums, vocals). The trio obliterated the stages at The Farm, Mabuhay Gardens, and the Fillmore with a level of intensity that flabbergasted audiences, critics, and fellow artists.

Over the years, the lineup featured different casts of characters — including the most recent permanent addition, Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, Snakefinger, Frank Black, Pere Ubu, PJ Harvey, Knife & Fork), in 2012 — but the core tenets of the band never wavered. More than just a punk rock coven, Frightwig is a vehicle for art as activism and have certainly contributed to the American counterculture rooted in their hometown.

After Kuhn transcended this world in 2017, her bandmates made the decision to honor their sister’s wishes that Frightwig forge ahead. Mitchell, d’Bruzzi, Feldman, and veteran Frightwig guitarist Rebecca Sevrin returned with We Need to Talk… in 2023, a collection of 11 songs (four of which were previously released) recorded with Kuhn on drums, vocals, and accordion. The band added new drummer Tina Fagnani to complete the lineup and continue a legacy 40 years in the making.

— Jeanne Fury, writer, co-author of Fallopian Rhapsody: The Story of the Lunachicks(Hachette Books, 2021)

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Frightwig has an exhibit at the PRM in L.V.

Las Vegas’ Punk Rock Museum Has a Treasure Trove of Bay Area Treats

By Rae Alexandra

Las Vegas, Nevada. Late Saturday afternoon inside the newly opened Punk Rock Museum. Eugene Hütz, frontman for Gogol Bordello, is giving a tour of the building to 20 or so fans. Nearing the end of the ground floor’s maze of memorabilia rooms, Hütz makes a casual reference to GG Allin — one of the most nihilistic and controversial figures in punk’s history. Immediately, all the power in the building suddenly goes out.

“Oh my God,” one woman on the tour says. “Did the ghost of GG Allin just f–king do that?!”

It’s not a setup. Nobody who works at the museum has any idea what’s going on. Employees grab flashlights, check fuse boxes and scurry in different directions trying to figure out what the problem is. Right on cue, NOFX frontman and museum co-founder “Fat” Mike Burkett emerges from the on-site bar, the Triple Down (named in honor of legendary Vegas punk venue the Doubledown Saloon), and offers everyone free shots.

Museum visitors pile into the bar while Fat Mike holds court. He may not be beloved by the entire punk scene — thanks to a number of controversies over the years — but today’s visitors are clearly excited to be in his proximity for the 25 minutes or so it takes to get the lights back on. Only one visitor leaves early, visibly irritated by the inability to finish her visit or buy merch at the on-site gift shop.

When the lights are on, The Punk Rock Museum is a thoughtfully curated collection of punk memorabilia organized by both time period and region. The Bay Area is represented consistently, starting with portraits of Rancid and No Use For a Name frontman Tony Sly in the entrance hall. Around the way sits a cabinet of historic ephemera (including posters, flyers, instruments, outfits and photos) relating to San Francisco bands like The Nuns, Avengers, Flipper, Frightwig and Crime. All of which is accompanied by original artwork by Winston Smith — best known for his album artwork for Dead Kennedys — and classic issues of legendary San Francisco punk fanzine, Maximum Rocknroll. Elsewhere, a cabinet marked “Punk’s Big Break” includes homages to other local favorites like Green Day, Operation Ivy and Rancid.

As is to be expected at a museum co-founded by Fat Mike, there is a ton of NOFX and Fat Wreck Chords memorabilia. This includes an entire wall of photography, album artwork and old mail order flyers, along with a No Use For a Name setlist written on a longboard, plus a whole corner dedicated to Japanese Fat band Hi-Standard. Most delightfully, a handwritten Fat Wreck record contract sits framed on a wall. There’s also a sloppily penned interview by NOFX that was sent to a fanzine before the age of the internet. Sample text: “We just like to go on tour a lot. We want to go to Europe this summer and eat good food. We are also concerned about crabs.”

Indeed, there is a dizzying array of punk rock collectibles in this 12,000-square-foot black box of a building — some of which are bizarre to say the least. Joe Strummer’s last bag of weed, labeled “Joe Strummer’s San Francisco Stash, 2005,” sits half-submerged in a tin foil wrapper. A handwritten letter to a fan by The Damned’s Captain Sensible is present. Pennywise’s garage practice space is here in its entirety, after bassist Fletcher Dragge emptied it, hauled its contents to Nevada, and rebuilt the entire thing in the museum.

As the blackout during KQED’s visit reflects, the opening of The Punk Rock Museum has not been smooth sailing. Its original opening, slated for January, was delayed because the museum hadn’t come together in time. Then the scheduled March opening got pushed back after a failed fire inspection. Though the museum is open and operating now, some of its advertised attractions — a wedding chapel and on-site tattoo shop — remain closed. It’s also impossible not to notice various inconsistencies when it comes to photo credits. (Some walls simply have none at all.) An entire wall of leather jackets — presumably donated by famous musicians — remains unlabeled.

There are a variety of reasons for the ongoing chaos at the museum. First and foremost, this supremely ambitious entity has been put together by a tiny team of 12 punks, almost none of whom have any experience in setting up a museum. In addition to Fat Mike and Dragge, the team includes former Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Fiorello, Warped Tour manager Lisa Brownlee, rock photographer Lisa Johnson and production manager Mona Whetzel.

The most experienced team member is San Jose-born Bryan Ray Turcotte, a jack of all trades who has worked in publishing, music journalism, music production and museum curation. The museum’s setup was funded by punks too, including Obey artist Shepard Fairey, Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. (Hawk paid the museum a visit two days before KQED and apparently, bedlam ensued.)

The Punk Rock Museum reflects punk’s DIY ethos to a tee, as well as the tight communities that hold the scene together. That community has supported the museum opening with valuable donations and few questions asked. Donors have the option of loaning their property to the museum for a fixed period or handing it over, in perpetuity. When that happens, donors must sign a contract stating that they are granting the museum: “Absolute and unconditional ownership of the property described herein.” They agree to “assign to the museum full powers of management, access, display, conservation and disposition at its sole discretion.”

The museum’s appeal to the punk and hardcore community has been strong since even the earliest days of set-up began back in 2021. Now the doors are finally open, prominent musicians are lining up to guide fans around the property. In May alone, members of Sick of it All, Social Distortion, The Casualties, Bad Religion, Less Than Jake and The Vandals are all giving tours. (Regular tickets to the museum cost $30. Tickets with tours are $100. Fees are in addition in both cases.)

To be clear: the average lay person, or even anyone looking for critical, intellectual discussion of punk history, will not find it at the Punk Rock Museum. It wastes no time explaining why punk started or who the genre is for, and really provides little information alongside the mountains of memorabilia it has collected. No, this museum, like so many of the dingy rooms from whence punk sprang, assumes that you are there because you already know. And in many ways, that will make it a more appealing proposition for punk fans everywhere — ongoing screw-ups and all.

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Sunday May 12th Benefit show for RAICES

Sunday, May 12th – Mothers Day
Address – Oasis 298 11th Street, enter under the Big O on 11th Street
Show time – Doors open at 4pm. Show 5-9pm
Ticket price/donation $10. Please consider donating more if you are able. If you are not able to attend, you may still buy a ticket online to help support RAICES.

First set by Frightwig is unplugged. Stories will be told about their early songs.

Then Chaki is bringing his funky groove to warm you up!
Second set by Frightwig is going rock you out. Guest star players, full on fun and a man in a tutu! There will be unicorns!
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Counter Punch: Frightwig: 1980s SF Punk Band Still Feminist & Sassy


“California Über Alles,” Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys sang during the Golden Age of Punk. Across the Atlantic, The Sex Pistols screamed, “I am an anarchist.” At its best, Punk in the U.S. and in England expressed anti-racist and anti-authoritarian sentiments. Bands like the Ramones—who sang songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away”—revived rock ‘n’ roll when rock needed reviving in the age of Thatcher/Reagan. Macho guys enjoyed successful careers, but the music industry often turned a deaf ear to the women singers and musicians. Sometimes male audiences weren’t much better.

Deanna Mitchell and Mia Simmans. Photo: Jeanne Hansen.

Frightwig, a San Francisco based all-women’s band, had to fight for time and space in a male dominated culture. With grit and determination, it carved out its own territory and made a name for itself. Then the group disbanded so the two mainstays could have kids and raise families. Now, just in time for the terrors of the Donald Trump/Theresa May era, the band is back and raring to take on the powers-that-be once again. I caught up with them recently and listened to them talk about their lives on the road, music and politics and the comeback plans.

In the 1980s—when punk began to flower in San Francisco—Deanna Mitchell and Mia Simmans—Frightwig’s founders— never wore fishnet stockings, stilettos or had panda-like eyes and spiky hair, though the name of the band suggests unkempt hair that stands straight up. Frightwig never fit the stereotype of the female punk band. Maybe there never was such a thing.

Still, Frightwig lived punk as thoroughly as any of the guy bands that grabbed headlines in Rolling Stone magazine. Deanna was 24 when she and Mia first shook up the clubs where guys leered and geared. Mia was 18 and learning how to defender herself when she was hassled. Deanna’s last name was Ashley. Mia’s was Levin. That was in San Francisco before the HIV/AIDs pandemic wasted whole communities.

“It was a wild time and a horrible time,” Deanna said. “We lost a whole community of beautiful young men, mostly, and we had to learn very quickly how to deal with death.”

Over the years, Frightwig has played with several women drummers who came and went. Cecilia Kuhn, who recently died of cancer, was the heart and soul of drums and vocals. “Yeah, we lost Cecilia physically,” Deanna said. “But we’re still here.” Mia added, “We go very deep. We used to joke that we should marry one another, but we found good men, married them and raised families. And here we are, together again.”

Band members have included Susan Miller, Lynn Perko, Bambi Nonymous, Rebecca Sevrin and Eric Drew Feldman, the only male, who plays Synthesizer.

In the largely male dominated world of 1980s Punk—that stared Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone and his brothers—Frightwig was often viewed as “a female freak show.”

Mia and Deanna toured the country and cut a few records, opening for Butthole Surfers, Redd Kross, DOA and many other bands. They performed in New York, L.A., Chicago, New Orleans and all across America, as well as in Canada and Europe. In the 1980s Mia and Deanna had jobs at movie theaters like the Strand and the Egyptian that paid $3.25 an hour.

“We did what we wanted to do,” Mia said. “We paid the rent, lived on burritos, went to Rainbow, picked up vegetables that were too ripe to sell and at home made soup.”

Deanna added, “A lot of the San Francisco punk bands didn’t want to go on the road. But we’d always said, ‘Get us outta here.’ We’d pile into a car, drive to New York and do our gigs. There were places where we had the support of male bands.”

On stage at The Fillmore, Tool & Die and Mabuhay Gardens, they played mean guitars, belted out their lyrics and couldn’t help but look sexy and sound like they belonged to the world of street protest.

“I can’t write a happy-go-lucky song,” Deanna said. “They

have to be political.” Mia explained, “Writing lyrics is my favorite thing in the world to do. I’m compelled to write. All the words belong to me.”

Deanna is now 60. Mia is on the cusp of 55. “We’re crones,”

Deanna says. They’re youthful crones who are outraged by the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots and shocked by the mushrooming detention centers along the U.S./Mexico border. They can’t not stay at home and not perform songs such as “Redistribution of Wealth.”

In fact, Frightwig is back by popular demand, as sassy as ever, and ready to take on the culture of misogyny all over again. “Smash the patriarchy is my hashtag,” Deanna said. “We need a woman in the White House to clean up the mess that men have made all over the planet.” She added, “I tell Trump to ‘Fuck off’ on his Twitter account and he can’t do anything to stop me.”

Deanna and Mia both remember that guys in the audience would look up at them on stage and shout, “Show us your tits.” They’d shout back, “Get up here and strip for us.”

Mia explained, “We weren’t into being offended. We didn’t want to play the victim.”

In some ways, Deanna and Mia were unlikely band mates. Deanna was born in Bakersfield and grew up in Fremont, California, where her mother raised her on country music, which she still loves. Mia grew up in New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Palo Alto, California. Her hippie mom gave her a musical education in Joan Baez and the Beatles. At 16, Mia moved to San Francisco on her own steam. Despite the cultural differences between them, both women have a keen sense of humor. They also both like to dress up and give the audience something to look at. 37-years after they first came together they still dress up and give audiences something to look at.

On Mother’s Day, May 12, the newly recreated Frightwig performs at Oasis, the legendary gay nightclub that features cabaret and drag shows. It’s a benefit for RAICES, a Texas non-profit that helps asylum seekers. “The audience will be very appreciative and also very demanding,” Deanna said.

The venue, the cause, and the Mother’s Day occasion promises to bring out the best Frightwig has to offer.

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