I think it is probably safe to say that most people in the punk scene have at the very least dreamed of starting their own band. Many, like my husband, did more than just dream; they formed bands and may have even experienced a small level of local celebrity that continues to linger two decades later.
I have also dreamt of starting my own punk band. However, sometimes we let our self-doubts interfere with our best of intentions. I doubted my singing voice and believed it wasn’t strong enough to stand alone. I would have to play bass or something to be seen as a creditable artist. Clearly, my self-doubts are/were heavily laced with internalized misogyny because that is ridiculous, especially within the punk scene.
Greg Graffin is likely a better biology professor than he is a vocalist. However, he is a good enough vocalist, which is all you need in punk rock. As a lyricist, he is in a class of his own, which played a critical factor in Bad Religion becoming one of the most influential punk bands of all time…but more on that in the Bad Religion review.
I knew we were going to like War on Women before the show; I didn’t know that we would be so blown away. We listened to them in rotation on Spotify with Alkaline Trio and—of course—Bad Religion for a few days. By the time we arrived at Express Live, I was pretty confident we both had “Silence is the Gift” stuck in our heads. I was so confident that War on Women would put on a good show that the first thing we did upon entering the venue was swing by their merch booth to purchase a shirt and a beautiful brass knuckles pin for my show jacket.
Before War on Women started their set, the main floor in front of the stage was fairly vacant despite the venue being quite full, likely due to the perfectly natural trepidation most of us were feeling in the days following the tragedy at Astroworld. However, ears perked as the band took the stage to the tune of “Nasty” by Janet Jackson, and you could see the puzzlement on the faces of most of the AFAB attendees as they were trying to figure out if this was a cheeky joke, a carefully planned reference, or both.
I immediately thought that the classic pop tune would be an ideal interlude for Aqua Tofana. For those who don’t know the legend of Aqua Tofana, I encourage you to look it up. I feel like the story would distract from the performance review. All you need to know is that it’s the perfect title and topic for a hardcore feminist punk song. It’s also a track that I knew would likely sound better live, so I couldn’t help but smirk when I heard its opening and saw how its heavy progression of familiar power chords started to summon attendees toward the main stage. Those not compelled by the incredible instrumentals were soon transfixed by the bands’ lead singer, Shawna Potter. Shawna has an unworldly stage presence that is difficult to describe, especially without using the male gaze, but I will try. The members of War on Women look like they are going to a punk show, and while taking the stage, Shawna looks like the average fan from the Riot Grrl scene, which doesn’t sound like much of a compliment if you weren’t there. Something utterly bewitching happened when the music started. Shawna channeled this immensely powerful energy that can only be described as the “divine feminine,” for lack of better words. Too often, when an AFAB person radiates sex appeal, it leaves cis straight men salivating on themselves and women feeling inferior. However, Shawna’s energy stirs the confidence of the women in the crowd and reminds them of their own ferocity.
From start to finish, the entire set was a high-octane ride that left us wanting more. I was utterly blown away by Aqua Tofana, enraptured by White Lies to the point of tears, and comforted by Silence is the Gift. Do you know how hard it is to steal the show from Alkaline Trio and Bad Religion? But that’s what I love about a good tour line-up, you come to see one of your all-time favorite bands, and you leave with a new fave. So far, Bad Religion has introduced us to a myriad of fantastic bands, including Rise Against, The Bronx, Lawrence Arms, Against Me, and now War on Women. So, I want to leave you with the confidence their set bestowed upon me. Whatever you are dreaming about, whether it is starting a band or a blog, go and do the damn thing. Otherwise, you will see the band you always dreamed about starting on stage, opening up for Bad Religion.
Video Review Below!