ICYMI: Dream Wife, THICK, and Russo rock out at the Knitting Factory

“Gender is a construct, go tear it apart. Make your own rules, it’s 2018 and about time.”

Above are the wise words of Rakel Mjöll, lead singer of the pop punk/indie rock group known as Dream Wife. The group, joined by L.A.’s Russo and Bushwick’s THICK, were the triumvirate that played out Knitting Factory Brooklyn on September 25.

THICK kicked off the night as the girlwave trio howled out “Don’t touch me/Im bleeding,” while making somewhat frequent menstruation references (much to the crowd’s delight). THICK was right on par to start off the night — but what made their appearance especially noteworthy was how they initially ended up on stage. For each city Dream Wife tours in this year, local women and non-binary artists are sought out in an open call to open up each one of Dream Wife’s shows. THICK was hand-selected by Dream Wife out of 433 other local artists. THICK’s electric guitar riffs matched with impassioned vocals made the selection clear: their bold, unapologetic demeanors complimented the following two sets while paving the impenitent feminist tone for the rest of the night.

Next up was Russo. Formed in 2018, the band is easily Los Angeles’s best kept secret. Cailin Russo takes lead vocals with Tyler McCarthy on guitar (whose animated facial expressions made while shredding his guitar are very worth your time), Hayley Brownell on drums plus supportive vocals, and finally, Sean Ritchie on bass. Russo’s lead vocals are reminiscent of the powerful sirens of Tove Lo and MØ, but also manage to have commandeering haze. The group’s debut project “House with a Pool” holds seven tracks – including a 17 second interlude titled “Pizza” – so the set sped by far too quickly for the crowd. One day after the show, Russo’s “Bad Things” found itself on repeat 58 times on my work computer before noon.

The long-awaited performance of Dream Wife closed out the night. Coupled with Alice Go (guitar and vocals) and Bella Podpadec (bass and vocals), the night took off with Dream Wife’s steely “Let’s Make Out” and “Lolita Fire”. The riot grrrl inflections Dream Wife is known for were amplified as the night continued, peaking as Mjöll belted out “I am not my body/I am somebody” in a callout for body autonomy and simultaneously, an open call to disassemble the patriarchy. Dream Wife’s music doesn’t shyly brush politics: it’s an antithesis to misogyny within this political landscape. The crowd knows it, too, which is echoed by the trio’s “bitches to the front” policy that beckons women to mosh upfront so that frustrations can be carelessly released on the dance floor. When I first listened to Dream Wife’s “Hey Heartbreaker”, Le Tigre’s “TKO” surfaced to memory – which, it turns out, is not an unusual comparison. Others have drawn similarities between Dream Wife and Bikini Kill, assumably because Riot Grrrl pioneer and residential badass Kathleen Hanna held down vocals in both Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. As “FUU” and “Hey Heartbreaker” closed out the night, I found myself bobbing along and feeling overcome with gratitude and a sense of pride for what I had just witnessed: fiery feminism with a penchant for rocking out and catalyzing change.

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