Sat Nov 20
1 SW 3rd
As a teenager growing up in the '80s, I was obsessed with heavy metal. Unfortunately, uncovering any female representation in that field felt futile: Lita Ford and Joan Jett were initially intriguing, but lacked the darker tone and brutal execution that drew me towards the British metal scene and bands like Judas Priest, Motörhead, or Iron Maiden. Scouring an early Runaways record for a harder edge left me disappointed and MTV pop-metal drivel like Vixen just pissed me off.
Then I discovered Girlschool.
As soon as I dropped the needle on 1982's Screaming Blue Murder and unleashed Kim McAuliffe's guttural, fearless voice, I knew I'd found my girls. Whereas the Runaways sounded like they just wanted to get drunk and rebel against their parents, these South London women came off like they'd take you to a trash-strewn alley and either fuck or fight you. Between McAuliffe's antagonistic growl and Kelly Johnson's lightening-fast, intricate guitar playing, they sounded like Motörhead's hard-bitten younger sisters.
Fittingly enough, it was a mentoring friendship with Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister that lead to a deal with Bronze Records, who released Girlschool's debut, Demolition, in 1980. But their ambitions were landlocked; the label only released the album in the UK.
Girlschool's sophomore effort, Hit & Run, built upon the strengths of their debut, namely their menacing fusion of metal's instrumental complexities and merciless speed, with punk's roughneck attitude and delivery. Sadly, a combination of perpetual lineup changes and studio missteps began watering down the band's previous potency and they all moved on to other projects in 1988. There were sporadic reunion shows in the UK throughout the '90s, but this Saturday's performance is one their first Portland appearances since the '80s. Whether the women tear up the stage remains to be seen, but if they muster even half of what they delivered back in the day, it'll be well worth attending.