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(en) Ireland, Dublin, The anarcha-feminist magazine RAG #1 - Khatarina Tour Diary

Date Tue, 13 Nov 2007 12:11:32 +0200

I met Khatarina in Turku, Finland when I was on tour with my band (Easpa Measa) in July 2005. Khatarina are five people who play fast, noisy punk rock. The fact it was five women intrigued me. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of bands I've seen or played with in the DIY punk scene that are all or majority women. ---- I liked their music and the girls were friendly, so when they asked me to help them with a tour of Ireland, I was enthusiastic.
I have come to find it normal that the DIY punk scene is a male dominated place. I have wondered how things would be different if this wasn't the way e.g. if shows were majority female or if there was only one guy in the band I'm in. Would it make a difference at all or would the same personality traits come to the fore and everything run more or less the same? I could fill many pages on these musings… but I won't. I asked Johanna if the women in Khatarina found any difference in being in an all-female band. She has never been in a band that had any guys in it, (in fact her daughter thought that playing in a punk rock band was something only women did) so couldn't comment herself. Johanna mentioned how the others find it:
"Helena says she thinks that we don't drink as much at rehearsals as the blokes do but Laura disagrees and says that she finds our drinking habits even worse than those of the boys she's played with… all in all we all feel that it's lovely to play with each other... is it partly because of the gender, we don't know... or it might just be because we get along so well."

The band started in late 2003 when Helena, the bassist, (other bands Kymäsota, Stumm, Transkaakko) put a posting up on a feminist mailing list looking for other women to start a band. Johanna (guitar) was in Haarakiila and had to travel 300km to rehearse so the idea of a local band appealed to her. Helena saw Laura (ex-Viper Arms, Pohja) play drums and approached her to join. After a few months practising they decided it was time to look for a singer. In Spring 2004 Helena asked Anne, who she knew from the music scene in Turku, to sing. Anne wanted to share this role with somebody so Kerttu, an acquaintance of everyone else, came on board as a second vocalist.
I began arranging the tour in September, Khatarina arrived in Dublin in February 2006.

Late on Tuesday they arrived at my house. They had come by car, ferry, two flights and two buses over four countries for 36 hours. Look at the map! Finland is really far away!! All were very, very tired so after pizza and tea I left them to sleep on the sitting room floor while I got a bit drunk with my housemates. Hey, I was on tour!

Kerttu went to the pharmacy to try and get some relief for her sore throat. I cooked some Irish cuisine for breakfast: beans on toast with cups of tea. I discovered all of the women in the band spoke near perfect English.
Around midday Seán (who would drive us around Ireland) arrived with his van. We were all impressed: comfortable seats, plenty of room for the musical equipment and windows all around. Next it was off to the suburbs to get Kidd Blunt (the band who would do the Irish tour with Khatarina) and their back-line (i.e., guitar, bass amps and drum kit which everyone would play through at the gigs). Kidd Blunt travelled in their own car and the rest of us piled into the van. Spirits were high: lots of laughing and singing of Finnish communist songs!
The venue (a tiled, atmosphere-less bar that plays heavy music) was relatively easy to find upon arrival in Limerick which is laid out in blocks like an American city. A poster outside declared that there would be "live punk" tonight! Two drunk guys smoked in the venue upstairs (smoking indoors in public places is forbidden in Ireland) and set up the PA. The large room remained cold and empty for most of the night. Local band Titarse were due to play but never showed up. Khatarina and Kidd Blunt played tight sets although there were few around to see it and no amount of dry-ice could hide that fact. Oh well.
Our twelve strong touring posse and some friends of our hosts/promoters (Fiona and Mickey) headed back to their house to party and sleep.

As is my habit, I woke early and read. The Kidds Blunt were asleep all over the house and in their car, some even shivered under towels on the bathroom floor. Meanwhile, the Finns slept snugly in their hand-knitted socks, sleeping bags and ground mats. (How I envied their hand-knitted socks!)
Later Fiona, Luke (ex-bassist of Kidd Blunt along for the trip) and I set up a tea 'n toast conveyor belt. Kerttu went to try and get some drugs for her throat. After breakfast we left for Galway on the scenic route which brought us through the Burren (beautiful rocky landscape on the west coast). We stopped to see a dolmen, which is an ancient burial monument. This one dated from 3,000 BC. We arrived very early, set up, sound-checked, got fed and were enjoying a traditional music session and creamy pints of Guinness by about 6 o' clock.
The band diary made the first of many appearances this evening. Khatarina would produce it and write in it periodically and occasionally ask one of the Irish lot to write in it. It served as a document of merchandise sold, monies received for playing gigs and personal thoughts, observations and information. But what should I write in it? A few words about the day we had? Maybe draw a picture? I scribbled something and tried discretely to pass it on to the next person only to have it taken and promptly scrutinised by the Finnish ladies.
A grand sized crowd had formed when we returned to the venue. Local rockers Fulcrum played first. The girls were all visibly nervous before the gig. I recognised the signs because I have often felt them myself: anxious expressions, restlessness and countless trips to the bathroom. They played a stormer. There was lots of dancing and roars for more. Everything was tidied up and the two bands split up to go to where we would sleep. Back in Dan the promoter's house we drank a few mellow beers then fell asleep.

After breakfast most of us relaxed in the venue, while Johanna, Laura and Kerttu shopped. Once again, Kerttu found some medicaments for her throat. A group outing to La Salsa for vegetarian burritos was next, my favourite! After the daily mental challenge of fitting all the equipment into the van in a safe, secure order we left Galway.
I had observed by now the focussed way the band from Finland operated. While Kidd Blunt were often split up, individually doing their own thing, Khatarina operated as a group: purchasing food together, laying down their sleeping mats together to get the optimum floor coverage, simply doing things as a unit. I'm not saying Kidd Blunt were bad for being individuals - it made Khatarina easier to work with because they would almost always be together. I also couldn't help noticing how "nice" (for want of a better word) they were to each other. A trait of women, Finns or punks? Who knows? Hugs were administered as required, for example. They all seemed totally at ease with each other, like family. It was pleasant to be around them: a tight working team who included me in conversation (by speaking English, I really appreciated that) whenever I was in their presence.

The venue was just outside Sligo town and had funky 70's décor, a smell of damp, a big hall and stage that must have been custom built for showbands. We all hovered around the fire and waited for the people to arrive.
They did! A great band of young lads, Asylum Choir, played Slayer covers and some of their own stuff, there was a brilliant punk band, Excuses, and our protagonists Kidd Blunt and Khatarina. The crowd were really into the music, lots of dancing and good-natured messing about.

I slipped out on a few occasions to drink illicit cans in the van with some of the others. We spoke about how the band started, the different personalities, who does what in the band. By this I don't mean who plays which instrument but, for example, who looks after the finance (Laura), or who will stay up all night chatting and drinking beer (Johanna). I was let in on the legend of Laura's bag, which apparently contains everything anyone could possibly want or need on tour e.g. papers, pens, needle, thread, berocca, gum or those strange Finnish sweets that are, in fact, salty.
At the end of the night, the normal drunken chaos ensued: who was going where, with whom and when? After a long drive through back roads we arrived at the house where we would stay. There was a kicking party underway, with lots of good punk tunes. Some vegetable soup was circulated and our host promised us the breakfast to end all breakfasts in the morning.

At some very early hour the room full of sleeping Khatarinas and Kidd Blunts was awoken to what seemed like an emergency. Seán and his van were needed. Why? The awful possibilities ran through my head and I presumed it was for a trip to the hospital. No, someone going home had driven into a ditch just outside the house. The residents thought that a tow was the only remedy but as it turned out a few bodies pushing got the vehicle onto the road.
The party was still going on when my alarm went off at 9 a.m. We quickly rolled up our sleeping bags and left for Greystones. The fantastic Sligo scenery unfolded before us in the clear sunny morning. Breakfast at a service station. The van was becoming a bit messy with sweet wrappers, beer cans etc., so Laura produced a black sack from her bag. Why do you have a black sack in your bag? I asked… "just in case" or words to that effect.
The early start meant we arrived in good time for the all-ages, afternoon gig. This show had been the most difficult to organise as the original venue became unavailable, then it was near impossible to find another until someone's parents involved themselves in the process. We were on a strict timetable of 4-7p.m. I for one was very excited as two of the guys in the band with me were to play with their other bands. All-ages shows are full of energy and really good fun in my experience.

Khatarina went for a walk along the beach adjacent to the venue and were hugely impressed by the beautiful wild waves that day. The venue, a community hall, was so, so cold partly due to the fact that some vandals had put stones through the windows. The local bands which played (Tunguska and another without a name) were excellent and Khatarina rocked the house when they played last. My friends and I built a human pyramid (this is three layers of people sitting on each other's backs) which is "constructed" as a sign of respect to a band and is also lots of fun. For some reason I was on the top of this particular one. Ouch, my old cold muscles!
It was a strange on-tour-but-at-home feeling for Kidd Blunt and me. We all had the "on tour" feeling but were surrounded by friends or, in Kidd Blunt's case, sleeping in their own beds. I said goodbye to my friends and partner who were all headed to a party back in Dublin. I was off to a gathering in the house of Eoin from Kidd Blunt. We gathered around the TV there to watch reports of the riots that took place in Dublin City centre that day. It was all quite surreal. The rest of the evening was spent drinking, chatting and listening to 80's dance music (played by a chap who was born in 1989). Really fun!

Although yesterday had a real sense of finality, today was the last day of the tour. We drove south to Cork, once again icy cold and once again beautiful scenery. When it doesn't rain Ireland is really spectacular.
We arrived in Cork and hauled the back-line up lots of steps. The plan of action for the evening kept changing but it was finally agreed on that Khatarina should sleep a few hours in Leo the promoter's house then be dropped to the airport. Apparently, Cork airport closes at night so sleeping there was not an option. Good grub in Leo's then back to the venue for the by now familiar routine of waiting around for people to arrive and the gig to begin.
[R]evolution of a Sun played first, an excellent metal-hardcore band from Cork. Things ran a bit late and 10 minutes before curfew Khatarina still hadn't played. Of course it annoyed the bar staff but the gig ran over time. Loading the van was awkward, as it needed to be parked on a busy road. Khatarina wished the boys of Kidd Blunt goodbye then we all bundled back to Leo's house.
It was a bit of a session there, with lots of people and cans of beer. Everyone posed for a group photo with "QT" the cat for her "myspace" page. Unfortunately Laura was really allergic to the cats in the house and chose to sleep in the van for some relief from streaming nose and eyes. There was a room that rest of us gradually slipped away to for a few hours of sleep.

At 7 a.m., we gathered our things and headed to the airport. I had wisely slept in my boots. Sleeping bag off, coat on and I was ready to take on the cold, bright Cork morning. Starbucks Coffee ("proudly" brewed in Cork Airport) provided some overpriced and morally questionable sustenance while we waited for the time for Khatarina to board their flight.
Big hugs all around and some tears were shed. Seán and I waved them off and I felt a little emotional myself. Touring made me feel very close, very quickly to Khatarina, Kidd Blunt and Seán. How was I going to go back to normal life and the day job tomorrow? The road home was tough in the quiet, emptier van as we were both very tired (but happy as the saying goes). More coffee and tunes kept us awake to Dublin 'til we parted ways.

To be honest, before I went on the tour I didn't expect too much in terms of respect and equal treatment for the women of Khatarina. I'm glad to say I was proved wrong.
There was one drunken moron who wanted them to teach him how to ask for a particular sexual act in Finnish. Apart from that all the bands, promoters, audiences that we encountered on the tour treated Khatarina like any other punk band. And why wouldn't they? You could almost say it was only your humble narrator who got her knickers in a twist over the all-girl punk band!

Thank you Khatarina for progressing the "normalisation" of women in bands.

by clodagh
You can find out more about Khatarina here: www.khatarina.tk
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