Handing Off the Torch
We crossed the busy street to get to the bus. His band mate is standing on the other corner getting ready to cross in the other direction, coming toward us. “Oh man. He always gets the cute groupies.” Did he just call me a groupie? Did he just call me cute? Am I pissed or flattered? Or both? It‘s just an interview. I know now how it looks for any woman to be hanging out with a guy in a band. I’m extra cautious from that point on.
Punk rock has been my love since I was 16 in 1994. A boy in school had a crush on me. He was in a punk rock band and wrote a song about me. The guys in the band teased him when they were about to play the song for the first time and word got back to me on Monday morning. I wound up dating that guy all through high school and fell in love with punk rock when I fell in love with him. Thankfully, my relationship with him ran its course, but I never gave up my love of punk. It spoke to me, it touched my soul. It made me think in new ways yet reinforcing that I wasn’t alone. It was the soundtrack to my anger and frustration. It was a love letter to myself.
I found my second punk rock soul mate in 2001. We went to grad school together in Boston and I was in love as soon as I spotted the nofx bumper sticker on his truck. He broke my heart, however, when he just wanted to “be friends”. But we went to shows together for 10 years as friends while I guided him through his loves and eventually his wife. Isn’t that what ya do for soul mates who friend zone you? Brutal. Eventually his wife wouldn’t let him go to shows with me anymore.
So I spent the next five years or so going to shows alone. I’d skip the opening bands because I didn’t want to stand alone looking lost in between sets. I’m shy and don’t just strike up conversations with strangers the way some people do. I’m envious of that. So, I’d go to shows late and leave early, but enjoy every second of seeing my favorite bands. Until one day it hit me. There must be other women who love punk rock as much as I do!? How can I find them?
I had an idea, and I knew just the woman to ask to help me! She was a moderator on the face to face Facebook group to which I belonged. We’d exchanged some laughs and I loved her posts. She was a true fan. And cool. And a mom. So she lived on the other side of the world. The internet works in magical way and I knew I could make it work.
I wasn’t sure what Mable would look like, but I knew two women who loved punk had an opportunity to make a change.
I remember us getting 20 followers… and then some people on other continents… and some people who commented or DM’d us that they believed in what we had to say. It felt awesome. I’ll never forget one of the first emails we ever got, it was from a woman named Julie. She had kids, had a partner who didn’t like punk rock and hadn’t been to a show in years. Because of us she decided to go to a show by herself; she said she felt excited and her love of punk rock was reinvigorated. THAT was why we were doing Mable Syndrome, and it inspired us to keep going.
I always thought of punk rock as a boys club. At least, that’s how it was for me growing up on the west coast, and how I felt going to shows as an adult on the east coast. When I wanted to watch interviews of my favorite bands it was always men doing the interviewing. Young men, climbing on to the bus to interview a band of young men… can’t women be doing this too? So we started doing women-lead interviews of bands and artists. But we had to be pushed to do a podcast.
In fact, it was mostly men in the early days who supported Mable Syndrome, men who understood the concept and knew that our idea had some value. It was a man who made our first logo for us. It was a man who gave me some of his contacts in the scene so I could write people and ask for interviews. It was a man who I would run ideas by and he would be encouraging and positive. It was a man who did our first written interview. It was a man who did our largest podcast interview. And it was a man who encouraged us to do a podcast in the first place. They all believed in us, and it’s really easy to believe in yourself when others so strongly do.
And it was women who gave us the hardest time. While 99.9% of the women who stumbled across our platforms were awesome and supportive, there has been a small subset of women who tried really hard to sabotage us. We’ve never called these people out or spoken badly about them. We’ve always run Mable with the ideology of “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” And I’m proud of how we’ve held our heads high and tackled some really difficult situations. They just come with the territory of leading a successful podcast/ platform so I guess we should be flattered.
Mable Syndrome started out aa Jessica and me running it. When Jessica stepped down for a while I ran it solo. It’s been mainly me running it for a very long time, and I’ve loved it. But I couldn’t do it without an amazing team of women supporting and encouraging me every single day. They know who they are and all the ledges they have talked me off of.
Lately Mable hasn’t been fun for me. It was supposed to be a website and podcast run by my besties and me. When it became just me for so long it wasn’t fun. And it became known as just “Kristen’s project” so no one else would step up and get involved. I want Mable to be a collective again. The Voices of Punk Rock Women. And I think more women will get involved if I “retire” from my leadership position. I will always be involved, always be a fan and always be cheering for Mable’s success. There is some new blood in the ranks and with that comes new ideas and new energy. There is no drama, no bad blood… I just wanted to hand off Mable to a team of women who could reinvigorate it and take it to new heights.
If you’ve taken the time to read this, thank you. I started this story out by speaking up about women being atomically called “groupies”. It’s something we’ve always stood up against. Mable has also spoken up about creeps in the punk rock scene and outed some abusers. I’m proud of that. However, the vast majority of people I’ve met through Mable have been awesome!
From Frank Turner allowing us to have a table at his shows. To Nikola from Millencolin doing a two hour interview with us and then dedicating a song to us. To Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy coming out of the woodwork to do his first video podcast interview with us. To Authority Zero telling me my interview was the best ever. To getting a hug from Joey Cape. To having Bad Cop Bad Cop spend two days at my house. I can’t count the number of fantastical, amazing experiences I have had because of Mable Syndrome. And now I get to watch new people have similar experiences. I get to watch Mable grow to new heights. I will always be involved but now I’ll be cheering from the sidelines and watching the magic happen for other women.