LIVE: The Bloody Return of Jack Off Jill (7/18/2015)

The riot goth legends reunited for one gory night in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jack Off Jill
July 18, 2015
The Orange Peel

Asheville, NC

On Saturday, July 18th, Florida riot-goth legends Jack Off Jill reunited in Asheville, NC, for their first show in fifteen years. Maybe you haven’t heard Jack Off Jill. But you might have heard the bands they’ve played and toured with throughout the years: Babes In Toyland, L7, Joan Jett, 7 Year Bitch. They formed in 1992, in south Florida—land of malls, Florida Man and Woman, roaches the size of cats, and a subset of people so disgusted with the heat and sun they just decided to wear black all the time, no matter the weather.

Though riot grrrl and popular feminism have been run through various buzz machines in the past twenty years, Jack Off Jill has always been the real deal. At shows, they practiced the “girls in front” mantra, sending meatheads to the rear—and even outside—of the venue. People shunned for their looks, gender identification, weight, or sexual preference populated their front rows. JOJ brought them together, created a community. The band’s message of female empowerment is more important now than ever, reminding us where we’ve been and how far we have to go.

So it’s no surprise that when their reunion show in Asheville was announced, the tickets sold out in less than six hours.

The band went through many personnel changes during its tumultuous eight years together, but the reunion was all about the three original and founding band members: Jessicka Addams, guitarist Michelle “Inhell” Oliver, and drummer Tenni “Ah Cha Cha” Arslanyan. They were joined by bassist Helen Storer (Fluffy, Thee Heavenly Music Association), who played with the group at their final show at LA’s Troubadour in 2000.

Though riot grrrl and popular feminism have been run through various buzz machines in the past twenty years, Jack Off Jill has always been the real deal

 

The band planned an entire mini-festival around Saturday’s show, with JOJ friend and artist Camille Rose Garcia unveiling a mural painted for the occasion and Scott Putesky (whom you might know better as Daisy Berkowitz, the co-founder of Marilyn Manson and a former Jack Off Jill guitarist) performing, as well as a show from old Florida friends Notch Above Kafka. That’s the thing about JOJ—they’re staunchly loyal. Unlike other bands they might have come up with, when you’re a friend or a fan, you’re a friend or fan for life.

And the fans—they want to tell their stories. Their need to share, to make the band understand how their music pulled them out of the deepest and blackest pits, is overwhelming. No matter their age, JOJ has touched them in ways they can only express through tears.

“Jack Off Jill changed the way I look at music, and helped me find a strong voice as a woman. I started to cry when I got the chance to tell them what they meant to me,” said Stephanie Fawn, a thirty-year-old fan from Pennsylvania.

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Backstage with Jessicka.

Leading up to the show, Jessicka seemed quietly excited, yet somewhat stunned that it was actually happening, actually here, as if it could all crumble underneath her feet in an instant. This was something the band not done in years: getting up before a crowd and performing these songs together.

There was a moment when I thought, ‘I cannot do this, I am not this person anymore,’ and I curled up in a ball on the couch in the green room,” she said of the preshow moments. It was was strange to hear her say that the identity that her fans had clung to for years was not hers anymore. “The thought of possibly letting all of those people down that had traveled from so far away was terrifying. I was frozen until I saw Helen, Tenni, and Michelle, and thought that no matter what I did up there they had my back.”

So the show would go on.

Opening band Kitten Forever banged out their short and sweet punk rock. Multi-instrumentalists and the next generation of young grrrls, the Minneapolans traded instruments from song to song, including a telephone/microphone à la Mika Miko.

And then it was time.

One by one, the band stalked onstage, followed by Jessicka, who was dragged, kicking and screaming, by men in white coats. Don’t fret—this was performance art by good friends Nik Sin and Noah Antieau of Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans, a preshow exorcism of those preshow demons. We held our breath. To the backdrop of Tenni’s pounding drum beat and Helen’s bass, Jessicka took the mic and sang the opening lines of  “When I Am Queen” and then we were all set ablaze, full of sparks and whipping hair and pure electricity.

This was a JOJ who’d shed their rough musical skin—blistered as it was by humid teenage years in Florida—and emerged more powerful than ever.

This was a JOJ who’d shed their rough musical skin—blistered as it was by humid teenage years in Florida—and emerged more powerful than ever. “The glitter sores will heal themselves,” sang Jessicka. She’s a woman, no longer a girl, who’s come out (somewhat) clean on the other side: a woman whose glitter sores have scarred over, but still a woman who feels, so deeply and poignantly, that her fans’ adulation makes her cry.

Almost two dozen songs were ahead, and the crowd knew every single word, from the sinewy verses of “Swollen” to fan-faves “My Cat” and the highly personal “Strawberry Gashes,” to the cathartic “American Made,” its chorus of “STAB STAB STAB” filling The Orange Peel like a defiant dare.

Putesky joined JOJ for the encore, along with the men in white coats, who poured a bucket of (fake) blood over Jessicka in a welcome bit of the band’s old theatrics. They closed the show with a bittersweet cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong”—dedicated, of course, to the audience.

“It was a big deal for me to see them,” said Felix Spencer Keigh, twenty-two, who traveled from Buffalo, NY, for the weekend. “I’m a trans-man and had a lot of issues with my gender dysphoria and misplaced self-hatred for years before I realized what was going on. JOJ became my meds, and helped me work through the anger and find some strength.”

These words are like gifts and mean more to Jessicka than the fans would ever know. “A weird, very abused, damaged girl who, along with her bandmates from Florida, made a difference? That’s not something you hear every day,” she said. “Maybe this time Florida Woman wins.” 


Set List

“When I Am Queen”
“Nazi Halo”
“My Cat”
“Horrible”
“Super Sadist”
“French Kiss the Elderly”
“Cumdumpster”
“Don’t Wake the Baby”
“American Made”
“Author Unknown”
“Media C-Section”
“Lollirot”
“Swollen”
“Working With Meat”
“Yellow Brick Road”
“Girlscout”
“Angels Fuck”

[Encore]
“Strawberry Gashes”
“Cinnamon Spider”
“Lovesong” [The Cure]

Jack Off Jill plays the Electric Ballroom in London, UK, on Wednesday, October 21, 2015. General admissions tickets are sold out, but you can still purchase VIP Golden Tickets here.

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