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By Lisa Weeks

OCTOBER 27, 1997:  MIXED-UP MEDIA: I simply must take issue with the insulting premise of the latest installment of Spin Magazine (November 1997, Vol. 13, No. 8), "The Girl Issue" (it's like "Women in Rock," but younger and thinner). I must also take issue with the execution of said theme. Apart from devoting the bulk ofooked music industry demographic, perhaps in order to afford claims of comprehensive coverage, Spin's assemblage of stories does little more than provide fashion and pop culture tips for aspiring GRRRLS. I suppose it would be a bit idealistic to expect Spin to come out with careful, behind-the-scenes articles investigating the plight of women in pop music, when magazines like Spin with issues like the "Girl Issue" are so clearly defining the scenes.

Quite pointedly, although the focus is clearly intended to be devoted to girls and not women, the majority of the musicians and celebrities touted as having, or at least giving face to, "girl power" (as manifested by "self-love, independence and robust health") are not girls at all, but grown women. Xena may be a princess, but she's certainly no girl.

Fiona Apple is a shrewd, if obvious, choice for the cover photo/story: The boys love her and will probably race to buy the issue simply for the pseudo-junkie Calvin Klein-esque snaps of her, scantily clad and writhing in the cushions of a red couch. The girls, we assume, all want to be her, which is just fine--that's the typical mechanism of pop stardom for either sex--but it's certainly nothing new or inspiring. (Unless you consider the teenage girls inspired to starve themselves in order to emulate yet another rail-thin image of "girl power.") Several pages later is an article complaining the media co-opts and eroticizes provocative images of young girls for their own seedy purposes, citing poor Fiona as an example. I guess this is Spin's attempt at self-referential enlightenment; in the cover story Apple is portrayed as a self-determined spokesmodel for Girl Power, having overcome abuse and rape, and in another she's a doe-eyed victim of the male-dominated media's thirst for sexy, salable images of teen-girl "abuse chic."

At the very least, Spin's editors managed to resist the temptation to put the Spice Girls on the cover, though in the end it may have been most appropriate to their apparent task. Even so, Ann Powers, in her story "Everything And The Girl," couldn't resist leading in by lauding the Spice Girls, pointing to similarities between pro-girl power SG quotes and encouraging policy statements made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services--Powers' frail attempt to prove their credibility as spokeswomen for all of girldom. Like, whatever!

If we, like Spin, stretch the boundaries of girldom so waifer-thin as to include Portishead's Beth Gibbons, then in the regular part of the issue you'll find she's actually the only "girl" featured. Ironically, Gibbons categorically refuses interviews, so while there's a photo, the only person quoted in the story is not even a girl, but bandmate Geoff Barrow.

Contrast this with the balance of the special issue stories: three on fashion and its victims, a pop-culture compendium meant to define Girl Culture--The Gwen Stephani look ranks second, by the way--and a story about teen pregnancy. Spin is really going out on a limb for girl power, don't you think? So, when does the "Boy Issue" come out? Oh, silly me, that's the other eleven months of the year.

HOT PICK: If you didn't get enough blues between the Blues Festival and the House of Blues performances, then gear up for another dose, Boondocks' style. On Thursday, October 30, Terry O Productions, in conjunction with The Boondcks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., presents Black Top recording artists Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, featuring Delta blues vocalist and harp player Sam Myers. The guitarist-vocalist duo has been recording and touring as a team for nearly 11 years. Their very recent release, That's What They Want, is less a Rockets record and more a collaborative effort between the duo and several guest musicians, including Kevin McKendree, Wes Sarli and Wes Starr. The live show, however, will be the Rockets all the way. Advance tickets and tickets for TBS members are $10, $12 on the day of the show. Call 690-0991 for more information.

LAST NOTES: Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop comes through once again, sponsoring a show by one of the pioneers of Jamaican music, Justin Hinds and the Dominoes. Veteran of ska, rock-steady and reggae, Hinds' recording career spans nearly 35 years, and his work has influenced many more widely known artists, including Bob Marley. Hinds' backing band, named after Fats Domino, counts eight musicians, including a three-piece horn section. Although he's appeared previously in the U.S. on rare occasions, including a run with the Reggae Sunsplash, this appearance is one of a limited number of dates on his first-ever solo North American tour. Fans of reggae should make a point to check him out at 9 p.m. Sunday, October 26, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Call 620-1810 for ticket information.

Nimbus Brewery Company, for those of you who haven't been paying attention, has been featuring entertainment by a wide variety of local bands three nights a week, every week. The Organ Donors, billed as "psychedelic garage country and western"--which sounds pretty appropriate, given that shows at the Brewery are a bit like seeing a band in someone's industrial-sized garage--rock the brew house at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, October 25. Call 745-9175 for more information.

Officially, the Nightmare on Congress Street isn't until Halloween, but you can get an early dose on Sunday, October 26, when Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., hosts ABBALANCHE. Oh, the horror...ABBA all night: A DJ will be spinnin' all the greatest, interspersed with some live music--presumably playing ABBA covers--and the real reason to go, a spectacle frightening enough to vie with any Hallow's Eve encounter, Abba-syncing with dancing queens Benny and Frida (better known as Al Perry and Darren Clark). Cover is only $2, free if your best '70s polyester chic passes muster at the door. Call 622-8848 for more information.

J.J. Jazz has been making rounds recently, with appearances at Borders and Plaza Palomino. The group will be part of Tucson Jazz Society's Jazz Diva Night, which features headlining vocalist Mary Baker. Event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, October 26, and is part of the TJS Plaza Jazz at St. Philip's Plaza, 4340 N. Campbell Ave. Call 743-3399 for more information.

A little off the beaten path--in Ramsey Canyon just south of Sierra Vista in the Huachuca Mountains--The Arizona Folklore Preserve presents Greg Scott's Songs and Stories of the Arizona/Mexico Borderlands. A native of Nogales, Scott entertains with indigenous folk songs and stories, giving two performances this weekend amidst the Canyon's cottonwoods and sycamores: an evening show at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 25, and another the following afternoon at 2 p.m. Reservations are required. Call (520) 378-6165 for more information.

--Lisa Weeks


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