The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Men are still beating women, and rock music is still trying to change the world

The members of 7 Year Bitch (whose original lead guitarist, Stefanie Sargent, died in June 1992 after consuming alcohol and heroin) were tight with another Seattle band, the Gits, a smart quartet consisting of three guys fronted by a remarkable singer named Mia Zapata. On July 9, 1993, Zapata and the band were supposed to return to the studio to add some vocal tracks to their second album. But the night before, Zapata was strangled, her mangled body found in the streets of Seattle.

Agnew and her bandmates joined with other Seattle groups to record a compilation album, perform benefits, and back a new organization called Home Alive. They hired a private investigator to find the killer of Mia Zapata. And they've made a concerted effort to help Seattle shelters for battered women obtain enough funding to stay open. Money raised at the Miami concert is to be divided among a shelter in the hometowns of 7 Year Bitch and headliners Babes in Toyland (from Minneapolis), as well as South Florida's shelters and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "This is something that's a nationwide problem," Agnew says, "so anything we can do is cool."

The members of the two local bands on the bill, Jack Off Jill and Livid Kittens, share that sentiment. "Domestic violence affects 50 percent of women, and with our band being 100 percent women, we felt it needs to be dealt with," says Jack Off Jill's Jessicka. "We're not for benefits, but when we heard about this, we jumped on it. We took this one because it affects us at home. It's something I understood in my teen years. You can add me to the 50 percent."

Promoter Allyson Kapin notes that female publishers, visual artists, and referral-service representatives will be on hand to help the bands spread the message that it's not okay for a man to hit a woman. Ever. For any reason. And it's not okay for a woman to allow herself to be attacked. "These are female role models," Kapin says of her fellow messengers. "If these women can do it, if they're doing okay, so can you. If that's what you really want."

Adds Jessicka: "People these days still seem to have the illusion that it's okay to hit someone you love. It's not. Women have been treated really poorly, not because they're the 'weaker sex,' but because the information isn't there for them to see that it's not okay. And you can't just say, 'Go to a shelter,' because women get turned away every day. I don't know what they should do. If there was more money, then I would know: Go for help immediately."

Livid Kittens, like the Gits in Seattle, is a band of men fronted by a charismatic female singer, Paige. The local group's bass player, Dave Heikkinen, says he's happy some males will have a part in the concert. "When Allyson lost the original venue and had to drop a band, it was between us and Demonomacy. In fact, we were going to open for them. Allyson was frank about it A it was because we had guys in the band. We pleaded with her. We support any anti-domestic violence thing. We're disgusted with it. It's not just a 'girl thing.' A lot of our songs, I guess you'd say the point of view is pro-female, and Paige is the voice; we just play."

The bassist's sister, Jane Heikkinen, runs the Glass House, a private counseling service in Broward County where Dave himself works with troubled adolescents. His sister's endeavor also includes counseling men sent there by the courts after being arrested for battering their mates. "Our family-violence program addresses both the abuser and the abused," she adds. "And the abusers can come back for free any time for further help. Several have, which is encouraging."

She believes the music of her brother's band A the music of Babes in Toyland and 7 Year Bitch and Jack Off Jill and others A might actually be at the heart of possible solutions to living-room violence. "I think it's important that the new generation of kids gets the education, the awareness that domestic violence is so big," Heikkinen says. "I'm not a big feminist, and I know some songs are benign, but the slap-her-in-the-face kind of things A well, Dave's band is cautious of that. If the next generation can learn that it's not okay, any time you can touch the next generation, you're always going to do better."

When U2 played the Hollywood Sportatorium several years ago, Bono stopped the show because he saw a guy in the crowd slap a girl. At the Tobacco Road anniversary party last year a man pushed a woman against a car and screamed repeatedly in her face. The other night outside a club on South Beach, a woman was seen running down the street, leaving behind a trail of blood. Perhaps, some might argue, the energy of the music can be as harmful as it sometimes is helpful. "Music does more good than bad," says Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland. "Most of the time, I've discovered, with music that's really popular it doesn't make any difference what the lyrics are. But a lot of that music should not even be played because it's so racist and sexist. It's like it's cool, it's status to be nasty and mean. That's not to say it should all be 'the sun is shining and grass growing.' But it can be more positive, therapeutic. If some musicians are yelling and screaming their heads off, it doesn't always mean they're angry. It doesn't mean we hate because we play aggressively. For us it's a release to play that kind of music, instead of punching out windows or other people. The violent person must admit he has a problem. Usually it's the way they were raised, they became used to it. You must realize you have a problem, and you have to want to do something about it."

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