w/Davies vs. Dresch
Sun May 16
320 SE 2nd
In 1994, a Portland-based band named Team Dresch self-released its debut and permanently altered the landscape of the Northwest punk scene. Personal Best was a 24-minute onslaught of self-proclaimed "lesbionic punk rock," recorded in a breathtaking five days at producer John Goodmanson's tiny studio in Seattle's Fremont district.
The cheeky homage to Mariel Hemingway's teenage lesbo coming-of-age flick (reflected in the cover art and the title) was clever and sassy, but it was the sheer muscle of the musicianship that was so stunning. While much of what was coming out of the local Riot Grrrl scene at the time was highly compelling politically, no one had released work this accomplished musically. Donna Dresch, Kaia Wilson, Marci Martinez (one in a series of drummers, including Built to Spill's Scott Plouf) and Jody "Coyote" Bleyle traded lyric-writing and instrumental duties, creating brief but blistering diatribes about queer issues and backing their sharp, funny lyrics with an articulate roar of guitar and percussion that recalled the best moments of melodic punk forebears like Hüsker Dü and Fugazi. Personal Best sold a startling 20,000 copies and was critically regarded as one of the best independent releases of the year (CMJ went as far as calling it "one of the best releases of the century").
Like most great punk moments, it was over far too quickly. After releasing a disappointing sophomore effort in 1996, Team Dresch dissolved, with Wilson redirecting her efforts toward a solo career and Dresch returning her focus to nurturing her label, Chainsaw Records. Dresch also took up production duties for Call the Doctor, the second release by rising Olympia band Sleater-Kinney--a band destined for more longevity than Team Dresch, but clearly inspired by Wilson and Dresch's call-and-response guitar lines. A variety of rumors swirled around the breakup, including speculation about romantic entanglements between Dresch and Bleyle, and Wilson's push to strike out on her own (she released a solo album shortly before they disbanded). Whatever the reason, it was a huge loss and fans who had caught their jaw-dropping live show considered themselves lucky. Remarkably, the band sustained a devoted fan base who maintained websites and fifilled Internet bulletin boards with dreams of one day seeing their idols reunited.
Now, nearly eight years later, their admirers have their chance. The band is gearing up for a reunion show at Olympia's Homo a Go Go festival this summer and Wilson and Dresch will share the stage at the Meow Meow this Sunday. Wilson is touring with the Butchies, a breezy rock trio that includes founding Team Dresch drummer Melissa York and showcases Wilson's growing acceptance of her poppier side.
"In some ways, because I grew out of this punk rock movement, [the band has] been afraid to be a pop punk band or whatever, but the thing is... we are!" says Wilson via cell phone.
The live presence of Dresch is particularly dramatic, as she is venturing onstage for the first time since Team Dresch's demise. "Maybe I was getting burned out; I was living in a cabin in the woods, just me and my woodland creatures, chopping wood and creating a compound," Dresch jokes. "But I realized I couldn't ignore the rock for very long. Working on other people's art is really exciting for me--helping them get their CDs out and all that--but it's also even more exciting to be working on your own band."
The new project, Davies vs. Dresch, finds her shooting her signature brand of aggressive guitar lines through dual, overdriven amps and playing off the sweeter counternotes of vocalist and guitarist Kristina Davies. They've just recorded a six-song demo and have been touring around the country this spring--including a stop in New York that set in motion the idea of a reunion.
"I had the good fortune of seeing Donna in New York," explains Wilson. "She got up and did a couple of songs with us. She's my favorite guitar player ever; she's genius."
Dresch is also ready to let past conflicts be forgotten. "It's been a long time since we broke up. We can look back at the time of Team Dresch and realize that we [still] respect each other and are proud of each other. I'm just excited to hang out in the practice room with them and have fun!"