Rehearsals for the next Maneaters gig are underway in bassist/vocalist/bandleader Barb Brynstad’s south Minneapolis basement, and the other night as the rest of the ‘eaters tuned up and settled in, guitarist/vocalist/bandleader Jenny Case took a moment to deliver a short aloud reading of the lyrics from the song that inspired the band’s moniker, Hall & Oates’ slimey “Maneater,” which spent a month atop the charts in the summer of 1982:
“The woman is wild, a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar/Money’s the matter, if you’re in it for love you ain’t gonna get too far/Oh, here she comes/Watch out boy she’ll chew you up/Oh, here she comes/ She’s a maneater…”
Nobody really laughs, and a collective heard-it-all weariness fills the room as the musicians tune up. But here in the summer of 2023, when “Barbie” has made mocking the patriarchy all the meaningful, hilarious, heartfelt pop culture rage, The Maneaters embrace a similarly wry and withering ethos for that upcoming gig, “Do Re MeToo 3,” which hits the Parkway Theater stage in south Minneapolis next month.
“I feel like this year more than any other year, it’s more important than ever,” said Brynstad, whose fulltime job is as singer/songwriter/bassist for anti-folk-rockers Turn Turn Turn.
“In previous years, I always thought of it as a fun thing to do with women, a feminist event and a fundraiser too. But this year more than ever, with the Supreme Court overturning Roe, I never thought that would happen. So this year it’s more than ever become real. What has happened when your rights are taken away?”
“My thing always has just been empowering women, and seeing all these women together on stage without any dudes,” said Case, who splits her time as singer/bassist with beloved first-wave alt-rockers Flamin’ Oh’s and as founder/instructor of her nonprofit music school for girls, women, trans and nonbinary folks She Rock She Rock.
“How many shows do you go to and it’s all like dudes on stage? All these tribute shows, all the time, all dudes. But you never see a stage with all women, and that’s my favorite part of it. Just being up there with all these women.”
“Show, on! Absolutely,” chimed in Brynstad. “I never thought what’s happening would happen, just the fact that women’s rights coming under this kind of fire would come to pass. But everything in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has happened. So yeah, we have to speak up.”
A benefit for Abortion Access Front, the Sept. 10 event features “sexist songs reclaimed by righteous feminists,” namely: The Maneaters (Brynstad, Case, drummer Alyse Emanuel, saxophonist Sue Orfield, and pianist Maureen McFarlane) backing an all-star lineup of singers that includes Annie Mack, Meghan Kreidler, Cindy Lawson, Christy Costello, Diane Miller, Ava Levy, Mary Cutrufello, Dana Thompson, Janey Winterbauer, Tricky Miki, Aby Wolf and more.
This night, Maneaters rehearsal talk turns to the band’s newfound revelations about creepy lyrics in The Knack’s “My Sharona” and The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” “Do Re #MeToo” turns a neat subversive trick that way, with music serving as a pointed, poignant tonic for the pro-choice troops at a time when the movement suffers daily setbacks — the news of which is mostly experienced alone, which is how we experience so many macro moments in this fractured world these strange days.
“It’s really easy to get bogged down by all of the terrible news and especially in terms of women’s reproductive health rights,” said Kreidler, singer for ferocious alt-rockers Kiss The Tiger.
“Oftentimes, we can feel so isolated just in our day-to-day life, dealing with these things, but being able to come together with people and to put our collective voices together, I think is really powerful: We know coming together at the Parkway that we all share the same belief about a woman’s right to her own choices about her body. We get to come together, and have fun, and be in community, and create and spread joy, and I think that kind of energy is just as important as embracing the difficulties and the sadness and the grief that also comes with these battles that we continue to face day-to-day. Creating joy is also an act of resistance. That’s why we do it and that’s why it’s important.”
Most of the past “Do Re MeToo” performances have been memorable for their humor, passion, and skewering of the male rock and folk canon, including Tina Schlieske’s rewrite of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s World,” Chastity Brown’s deadpan reading of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs A Maid,” Janey Winterbauer’s fist-in-cheek version of Guns N’ Roses’ “I Used To Love Her (But I Had To Kill Her),” Lori Barbero’s snarky take on Alice Cooper’s head-scratcher “Only Women Bleed,” and Jill Sobule’s send-up of Neil Young’s domestic abuse ditty “Down By The River.”
“I think all music kind of has roots in misogyny,” said Kreidler. “Shitting on women in really popular music, not just in rock ‘n’ roll, but in hip-hop and rap and blues music, I mean, there’s always men talking shit about women. And having women sing these songs, it almost kind of makes it funny, and then you really hear it for what it is. It’s a powerful thing to be able to reclaim those songs and help people hear them differently if they’ve never noticed it before.”
“It’s been going on forever, and as a blues historian and blues singer, I know that a lot of those songs are built on blatant misogyny,” said songwriter, producer and powerhouse blues singer Annie Mack.
“These songs that are American songbook favorites, songs that define generations and define the mentality and double-down on rape culture, and double-down on a white male supremacist culture that we all willingly bought into. You hear this music and you’re just like, ‘Oh my gosh, what prolific artists and their contribution,’ but then you realize it’s also indoctrination.
“You break it down, and you really start to realize this is what I was eating, this is what I’ve been feeding myself as I’ve been developing my music. But how can I find liberation and speaking the truth as a woman when I’m listening to these songs and buying music from problematic artists, and I expect myself to be edified? This performance for me, personally, is the reclamation and liberation from the indoctrination and oppression that I was subjected to in my formative years.”
“[Taking part in ‘Do Re #MeToo] is extremely empowering. I was a women’s studies major. I’ve been a feminist since I was 16,” said Brynstad. “What we talked about in women’s studies, it was placing women at the center of our consideration. And I feel like that’s why I’m drawn to musical events that feature women and feminists like this in particular, because it does empower women. It shows women doing things that historically they haven’t done before.”
“As a Black Queer Cisgender Woman,” said Mack, “recognizing and calling out the harmful, problematic, insidious nature of misogyny, white supremacy and retaliative culture has been imperative to my own healing and practice of agency and autonomy. From a collective standpoint, I’m excited to use my voice and performance along with these other amazing individuals to empower and demand change and accountability.”
“I guess for anybody who’s on the fence about coming out, I would just encourage them to do it because it’s such a fun evening,” said Kreidler, who performed at “Do Re #MeToo 2” in 2019. “I had such an incredible experience being in community with all these amazing and talented women, bringing our voices together for the same cause. I think it’s transformative from an artist standpoint, but also from an audience standpoint, to be participating in that act together.”