Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, March 28

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« The Chicago Party Is the Place to Be Chicago at SXSW 2015: Our Complete Band List, Showcases & More »

Artist Fri Feb 27 2015

Kicking Against the Pricks: A Recap of Kim Gordon at the Music Box Theatre

"What happens when you go into this space that's so dominated by men?" Alison Cuddy asked her guest, Kim Gordon, in front of a packed house at the Music Box Theatre Thursday night.

No doubt Gordon has heard variations on the question throughout her career: the constant, nagging prod of "What's it like to be a girl in a band?" was enough of a jumping-off point to become the title of her new memoir, the excellent Girl In A Band (Dey Street Books). Still, Cuddy seemed careful to rephrase the question in a way that offered real curiosity at Gordon's outsider status, and without the attendant sexist baggage these kinds of questions inevitably imply. How did Gordon so deeply infiltrate the boys' club of indie rock and manage to tilt the balance of power, however fleetingly or slightly, in her power?

Cuddy, a former on-air host for WBEZ, wasn't shy about her fangirl past, professing her love for the riot-grrrl movement Gordon helped spawn in the early '90s, and calling Sonic Youth's appropriation of seminal schmaltz-rockers the Carpenters "genius" (Gordon, for her part, called Karen Carpenter an American icon "on par with Jane Fonda.") As host and MC, and here appearing on behalf of the Chicago Humanities Festival, which sponsored the event, Cuddy was careful, polite and reverent, and thankfully eschewed the more obvious dramas underpinning Gordon's recent career turns.

The night's discussion traced the outline of Gordon's memoir, veering from her's LA upbringing in a hippie household with very "hands-off" parents, her growth as an artist in New York City in the '80s across several mediums, to her band's flirtations with mainstream culture in the '90s. Francoise Hardy and the Carpenters were recurring subjects, as were fashion and, inevitably, the '90s culture. Tossed-off anecdotes about using Keanu Reeves' bass rig, dating Danny Elfman, and appearing on MTV's "House of Style" with Cindy Crawford to rep her fashion line added color and helped lighten the mood.

Gordon also spoke candidly about the voyeuristic pleasure she found observing the largely male-dominated No Wave bands of turn-of-the-'80s New York City: one of her first "roles" in that scene, Gordon explained, was commenting on the "male bonding" of these groups for various insider zines from a uniquely non-male perspective. Fast forward a few decades and her knack for pointing out the imbalances and contradictions in the (mostly underground) rock tent are nearly unmatched, her observations sharper than ever.

With a singular voice gleaned from years navigating the sweat-stained fraternity of indie rock over the past 30-plus years, Gordon's career is a testament to her ability to navigate such a restricting subculture on her own terms. Her self-proclaimed status as a non-musician, even within the confines of Sonic Youth, fed into other explorations with fine art, fashion and the mixed-media collisions of downtown New York culture over the years. The lack of fame and mainstream attention given to Sonic Youth, she explained, enabled her to explore these different forms without the scrutiny and harsh criticism reserved for celebrities, and allowed her to "slip into other things" and places where she otherwise might not have had access. In her own words, "It's hard to be famous and want to do other things and be taken seriously." Just ask Keanu.

Perhaps because of this, Gordon is careful to note how separate fine arts and musical disciplines can be. In particular, Gordon has explored the fuzzy and often complicated issues surrounding gender, body image, fashion, and femininity throughout several mediums, but has given it renewed emphasis with her recent forays with noise project Body/Head and her latest collection of essays, Is It My Body? The notion of the body, and in particular the female body, as a source of personal power and agency is a recurring theme in her art, and she repeatedly referred to using the body as a "canvas" with which to shatter misogynist expectations of what a woman should or shouldn't do on stage.

And yet, for all she has achieved on her own and during her remarkable tenure with Sonic Youth, Gordon still appears to be taking it in that she can command the attention of a sold-out crowd on her name alone. Surely, the success of her memoir and its attendant press tour are the rewards of a long and inexhaustible career spent furthering her art and kicking against the pricks of patriarchy and expectation. But for the rest of us, there should be no novelty in surveying the reverence and authority that Gordon's name commands in 2015, even if the head-trip is still new to her.

When asked during the brief Q&A session that followed what had motivated her to write such a public and revealing memoir so seemingly at odds with her quiet, guarded persona, Gordon shrugged. "If I die tomorrow, I've told my story." Wink implied, she seems to know there's plenty yet to be written.

GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

GB store


Featured Series


Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.

About Transmission

Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Sarah Brooks,
Transmission staff inbox:



Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15