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Women’s Work

Defying gravity: Sick of Sarah’s Jessie Farmer (from left), Brooke Svanes, Abisha Uhi (grounded), Jamie Holm, and Katie Murphy in a considerably chillier, non-Texas setting, well prior to their August 27 Rock the Plaza gig, benefiting LHI-Houston and The Rose.

Sick of Sarah headlines all-female Rock the Plaza concert
by Nancy Ford • Photo by Mike Minehart

Downtown’s Jones Plaza [new venue: see end of article], traditionally the site of the Houston Women’s Festival, gets an estrogenic, pre-autumn warm-up this month with Rock the Plaza, an outdoor rock concert featuring current reigning lesbian rock goddesses Sick of Sarah.

Earlier this year, Minneapolis-based Sick of Sarah released its sixth album, 2205, recorded at the famed Stevie Ray Vaughn haunt, The Sonic Ranch in El Paso. The number not only refers to the address of SoS’s rehearsal space, but also echoes the simple tattoo each band member has inked on her wrist, a symbol of musical solidarity—a bold commitment for individuals in a business as fluid as show.

In another bold move, the group released 2205 online, free of any download charge or fee. The release is anchored by the single “Kickback,” a layered, complex rocker, more sophisticatedly complicated than, say, The Cliks’ “Complicated.” Yet, its accompanying video is slickly directed in a monochromatic, quite uncomplicated style curiously reminiscent of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video.

Music critic Gregg Shapiro also lauded 2205, writing: “Armed with a new drummer, Sick of Sarah is back with their new full-length disc 2205 (Adamant). The all-female quintet is well-equipped to rock and does so on ‘Kick Back,’ ‘Overexposure,’ ‘Kiss Me,’ ‘One Night Stand,’ and ‘Autograph.’ They’re also perfectly comfortable slowing down the pace a bit, as they do on ‘Simple Parts’ and ‘Shattered.’”

Hunter Valentine and Vanity Theft complete the lineup, with local cover band the Grateful Geezers opening the show at 6 p.m. The Houston concert, benefiting Lesbian Health Initiative Houston and The Rose, kicks off a string of Texas stops, including Sue Ellen’s in Dallas (Aug. 28), Emo’s Alternative Lounge in Austin (Aug. 29), Korova in San Antonio (Aug. 30), and House of Rock in El Paso (Aug. 31).

Prior to the Rock the Plaza concert, Sick of Sarah’s Jessie Farmer, one of two of the group’s guitarists, chatted with OutSmart about the hazards of lesbian camping, sexism in show biz, money versus art, and more.

Nancy Ford: Good morning, Jessie! How are you?
Jessie Farmer: It’s actually afternoon where we are. We’re on the Warped Tour.

Details, details. [Both laugh] Okay, good afternoon then. Yes, you’re in Darien, New York, right, for the Warped Tour?
Yes, we’re just outside Buffalo, I think.

Very nice. Well, again, thank you for taking the time to talk with us here at OutSmart. In doing some research, I see that your band’s name comes from one of the members’ former roommate, Sarah, who had grown tired of her name.
Yes, that’s Abisha’s [Uhi], our lead singer’s former roommate.

Where is Sarah now?
You know, I don’t know! We kind of lost track of her.

[Both laugh] That’s kind of surprising. You’d think she’d still be following her namesake! Do you think she still goes by the name Sarah?
Oh yes, she still goes by Sarah. And I’m sure she’s still around Minneapolis somewhere. It’s just been a while since we’ve seen her.

A colleague wanted me to ask you if you know Prince, being from Minneapolis.
[Laughs] We know of Prince. We do not know Prince personally.

Ha, I see. Well, how is the tour going?
Today’s actually our first date of the Warped Tour. As we were setting up our tent this morning, it blew away!

That once happened to me at a big lesbian camp-out! Must be a cultural thing.
[Laughs] It could be. I don’t know. We kind of like attached a merchandise canopy to the tent of the band next to us. And all of a sudden there was a gust of wind and it just took off! Our tour manager and bass player totally ducked, and I like leapt over some of the merchandise tent and pulled it by its flag and kind of pulled it back. It was crazy.

Well, I hope that’s not a preview of what will be happening when you’re trying to play!
No, I don’t think so. We figured it out. We just didn’t weigh it down enough.

Well, that happens, but lesbians ought to be able to put a tent up, girl!
[Both laugh] Oh, I know. We fixed it.

That’s pretty funny. I wanted to ask you about a blog you wrote on You wrote All female musicians know what it’s like: People in the industry judging you first by what’s in your pants, not how you play. And even when they are impressed by your talent, they give you that whole ‘you’re pretty good for a girl’ sort of ‘compliment.’ How are you supposed to even take that? Now, that was in 2009. Is that still your experience today in the industry?
[Laughs] It’s getting a little bit easier. The more success we have, it’s like, “You’re just one of the guys.” There’s certain parts of being a female that are pretty nice, like the guys will carry your stuff if you don’t feel like it.

That’s an advantage!
But yeah, the sexism isn’t quite as bad, I guess, in the bracket we’re in. We definitely earned a lot of respect once we got our name out there.

Good. Yes, the rest of that quote was: “That ‘you’re pretty good for a girl’ kind of makes me want to come back with ‘you smell pretty good for an a–hole.’” Quick comeback! Very good!
[Both laugh] Yes, I’ve used that one a time or two!

Very useful. Now, I know you released your last album online for free. What led to that decision?
It was an idea that . . . why am I blanking on this now? Maybe because I’ve been up since 6 a.m. Our publicist got in touch with the people at BitTorrent and said, “It might be kind of a good idea to try this thing out and release the record for free and see what happens.” So we’ve definitely seen some trickle-down from it. People are like, “Yeah, I downloaded your album on BitTorrent. I loved it so I came out and saw you, and I love it even more now.” So it’s definitely been beneficial for us.

Yes. And pretty brave.
Well, in this day and age, it’s not as easy for a band to break, like it used to be. People don’t buy records anymore, so if they’re going to pirate it anyway, it’s like, “Here, have it for free.”

Yes, that kind of keeps the good karma flowing for everybody involved. Would you ever do it again, do you think?
Probably. We’ll have to see what happens with this one. If we get enough positive feedback, and enough fans show up, then yeah. It worked last time.

Yes, why not? And now you’re going to be here in Houston for the big Rock the Plaza concert. What do you want your Houston fans to know?
To come early and stay for the whole show. Both Hunter Valentine and Vanity Theft are good friends of ours, but they’re really, really, really good. We have different musical styles, but they all complement each other.

Very cool. Didn’t you play the Houston Women’s Festival not too long ago?
Yes, we did. I think it was in 2009.

Well, I know you have a strong fan base here, so the show should go very, very well. Just a couple more questions, Jessie. What is your ultimate professional goal? Or are you living it?
I guess our ultimate professional goal is to just play music and sustain some sort of lifestyle out of it so we can just keep doing it. We’ll do it regardless, but I guess that would be our ultimate goal.

Makes sense. Anything you’d care to add?
Check our tour dates and come out to see us! [More on Sick of Sarah:]


‘Rock the Plaza’ concert moves indoors

Producers for the upcoming “Rock the Plaza” concert, originally scheduled as an outdoor event on Jones Plaza, have buckled under the heat. The concert, featuring Sick of Sarah with Hunter Valentine, Vanity Theft, and Grateful Geezers, now takes place indoors inside the Hard Rock Café facility, located at 502 Texas Avenue at Bayou Place in downtown Houston. Doors open at 6 p.m.  All current ticket holders will be honored for admittance to Hard Rock without need for any new ticket issuance.

General admission tickets fort the concert remain $20. One VIP ticket level at $75 remains available, which includes all VIP benefits and an after-show meet and greet opportunity with Sick of Sarah band members. Proceeds from the concert benefit Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston and The Rose, also of Houston. Tickets: • 888-512-SHOW(7469).

What: Rock the Plaza, which benefits Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston and The Rose
When: Saturday, August 27, 6 p.m.
Where: Hard Rock Café, 502 Texas Avenue
Tickets: $20–$75.
Details: • 888-512-SHOW(7469).


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