Local Current Blog

Why GRRRL PRTY have meant the world to me

Photo by Shenae Johnson

As much as I’d enjoyed their music to date, I couldn’t have predicted how happy I’d be at GRRRL PRTY’s First Avenue concert last summer. I danced; I watched from the front row; I caught (and still have) one of the Jeremy Nutzman masks-on-a-popsicle-stick that GRRRL PRTY wore. Andrea Swensson described the show like this: “To call the evening empowering is to undersell it; there was no question that these women owned the stage, and that their messages resonated deeply with their audience.”

I know they resonated with me.

Since then, I’ve counted GRRRL PRTY as a favorite local band. Last week, though, the Minneapolis hip-hop crew revealed that Rock the Garden will be their last show. Now feels like a good time for me to thank them: both for facilitating safe spaces in the city and for being there when I was alone.

One member, Shannon Blowtorch, has only been a DJ for six or seven years, but she’s a key figure in the Minneapolis/St. Paul dance scene. She’s also starting to produce, setting up a home studio this summer. At shows, Blowtorch and her crew don’t let bad behavior slide; if she has to, she will shut off the music to call offenders out.

MC Manchita remembered a now-defunct bar that Blowtorch used to DJ: “Pi Bar was one of the first safe spaces for [the queer] community,” she said, “and I remember all of us going there and parking our bikes and going inside and being like —” She exhaled. “Just a sigh of relief.”

When we talked last week, Blowtorch shared some powerful words: “Can we talk consent for a minute? Like, on the dance floor? […] Men need to stop touching women inappropriately and dancing up on them — not that women don’t do it, too. There just happens to be a higher ratio of heterosexual, cisgender men.”

Blowtorch’s no-nonsense, advocate’s spirit seemed to extend to the GRRRL PRTY performances I saw. While I go to many concerts alone, I usually keep to myself at the venue; I’ve had too many scary interactions to feel safe otherwise. When a girl struck up a conversation with me at the August concert, though, the comfortable atmosphere made me happy to engage. We ran into each other again at another GRRRL PRTY show in December.

Writing for MTV News, Alfred Soto just published a beautiful piece about this week’s mass shooting. He said, “The politics of dancing is the politics of feeling good; the politics of dancing is also the politics of willing yourself to feel good.” That line, while resonant all around the country, made me think of GRRRL PRTY. Lizzo, Manchita, and Sophia Eris leave it on the stage, and it’s not because life is easy; it’s partly because dancing heals.

MPR / Leah Garaas

This spring, I visited Granada, Spain for a month, and I spent a lot of that time alone. Sure, I had gone there to visit friends, but they all had school during the day; at night, they needed to stay in and rest. I would wander the city for hours, grabbing a café or a tapa on my way home, and read books until my roommates came home. The key decision of every day? Which albums I’d listen to while walking.

It sounds like the ultimate vacation, but it could be deeply lonely. I’m almost fluent in Spanish, but speaking the language still intimidated me. And with so much new culture coming my way, I felt like I might forget myself.

GRRRL PRTY became my anchor — not necessarily to the place I grew up, but to several of my identities (woman; music devotee; Minnesotan; feminist). They ended up on my iPod almost every afternoon (usually sandwiched between “sleepdrone/superposition” and Charli XCX). I especially adored Manchita’s bilingual rapping, prizing how she transformed the state of “solita” — “alone,” but framed affectionately — from a sore spot to a positive.

The same day I took that Snap — sitting in Granada, about to board the first of many planes back to Minnesota, where I’d start my new job at The Current — Rock the Garden announced GRRRL PRTY as one of its 2016 bands. Along with the Chance slot, that made my day. I messaged everyone I could think of, bouncing in my vinyl seat.

Now, the June 18 show will prove even more important. For starters, I’ll have an opportunity to be there for a crew that has often been there for me. I’ll join a huge hometown crowd in gathering for the group. And all together, we’ll wish well Manchita, Lizzo, Sophia Eris, and DJ Shannon Blowtorch as they share the stage once more.