All the Force in Her Gut

Courtesy photo

I went to First Avenue with antibiotics loose in my pocket and a bottle of DayQuil in my bag. I was dizzy from tonsillitis. Although I had kicked the fever, I was still on the edge of keeling over. I thought about the mosh pits my mother had once been in when she was my age, how she had to punch a guy in the neck because he was getting too handsy. I did not have that kind of strength at the moment, but it didn’t look like I’d need it.

The crowd couldn’t seem to dance when the Linda Lindas played. Eloise Wong, the band’s then-14-year-old bassist, was singing with the fervor of a scowling teenager as she led the vocals on “Nino,” a two-minute cat-punk ballad driven by then-17-year-old Bela Salazar’s angry guitar riff.

Despite the intensity on the stage, and my own elbow-thrusting, this was hardly a mosh pit. I scanned the room to see only an occasional head bob. That was until Bela, the guitar hanging lazily from her shoulders, her hands clutching the mic like it was the face of a runaway lover, started to scream with all the force in her gut.

“If you’re looking at the news, I think we can all see that the world is a pretty scary and angry place right now,” Bela shouted, her face framed by two blonde streaks and red from stage sweat and hot lights. The audience roared something angry. It was two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, wiping out abortion access for 33 million Americans. When Bela invited us to scream, we did.

I first heard of the Linda Lindas when a video of their song, “Racist, Sexist Boy,” went viral. I watched the four girls scream into microphones and was reminded of the Riot Grrrl bands who marched on the National Mall in the wake of Planned Parenthood v. Casey uproar, bringing a new type of youth and vigor to the 1990’s women’s movement. “This is why Riot Grrrl climbed mountains,” I thought. “So that the Linda Lindas could scream off the top of them.”

In the blue-lit venue, a crowd of faces, bloated from summer heat and exhaustion, looked up toward the stage lights and let their lungs empty of all the anxious breath they’d been carrying in their chests.

The scream was loud, sustained, and unified.

Lucia de la Garza, 15 years old then, thrust her body into the neck of her guitar; Eloise stood center stage and screamed with the rest of us; Mila de la Garza, the then- 11-year-old powerhouse on drums, crashed her symbols with a smile on her face. And then, when the electricity in the room was hot, they choreographed a final chord with huge swings of their arms, ending both the song and scream with an exclamation point we could feel in the lingering echo of guitar feedback.