Pornbelt was an all-female full-frontal assault back in the early 2000s, with members residing in both Boston’s Jamaica Plain and Somerville neighborhoods. Travis, the former drummer, gave me this description of the band dating from their heyday :
Take a listen to some of their songs. Pornbelt will melt your face off and injure your hearing.
- Babysitter Fucker
- Gash Rash
- Cherry Commando
A couple of show reviewer/writer-type dudes had some words to share on Pornbelt:
“Hell spawned and godlike at once…Pummeled the audience with feedback, white noise and a kazoo. They brought a power to the state that can barely be described.” Tony Reaves. 11.11.02. UMO
“This has to be some milestone in evolution, or a sign of the apocalypse. Perhaps the shrillest, most painful and pointless cacophony I’ve ever witness and I’ve seen some real train wrecks. I’m outta here.” Joe Coughlin, The Noise, Boston Issue 221.May 2002.
I had some questions for band members about what is was like to be a queer band in Boston in the 2000s, if the bandmembers were all from the city, and what the queer music scene was like at the time the band was performing. Their drummer Travis, was kind enough to answer.
Travis: “This is a really good question. And honestly, queer was not really a word floating around Boston yet, the way it is today. There were dyke bands, but not queer bands. And even though we all were dykes at the time (or bi and trans etc) we were almost more of a feminist band then a queer band. Most everyone was from the city. I was a country bumkin from Maine who must moved to Boston and had discover Team Dresch 5 years AFTER they had broken up and I thought they were the greatest thing i’d ever heard (still my most fav band). I wanted to play dyke punk music and found an ad on Craigslist. I “audition” for the guitar part at this basement/practice space in Jamaica Plain and joined in. Wtihin a year, we lost the drummer, so I switched to drums and we got a new guitar player.
We were also playing music at a time when many bands were being protested for any affliction with the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. We played a show once with a few performers who had played there, and subsequently were being protested. My bandmates reminded me that we bought them hot-coaco cuz it was cold out. And even though there were trans members in our band, we did not stand behind the protesting of bands. My girlfriend was in a band at the time (The Kitty Kill – another band you should look up) and they were also protested because they played there.”
Merry, the lead screamer, also shared some of her experiences in Boston’s queer womens’ music scene and playing with PornBelt.
“PornBelt took on many iterations over the years.I think we can be loosely defined as a gig band between 2001-2003. At that time, the music scene in Boston was fairly segregated. There was the main rock bands of Boston that played shows at places like The Middle East & T.T the Bears, Punk bands playing O’briens or basement shows- of course there were many other types of bands and venues but there was also a strong & prominent dyke scene in the early aughts. I suppose that’s were PornBelt came in. Our lineup changed over time and we didn’t adhere necessarily to the label of “dyke band” but I think we fit a broader definition of a Queer band-at the core PornBelt had 5 women-lesbian, bi & straight, later we had transgender members. As far as a Queer music scene in Boston, I’m not really aware of any gay male bands that could be considered a counterpart like a Pansy Division of Boston. There were however many bands that consisted of mostly queer women (and not just folk!)
Our shows were pretty evenly divided between the rock bands that Debbie networked with: Neptune, Young Sexy Assassins, Donna Parker, Japanther, Tunnel of Love and playing shows with dyke/queer bands that the members of PornBelt were fucking, or maybe wanted to fuck: The Kitty Kill, Chelsea on Fire, Secret Cock, Pelvic Circus and Naughty Shirley to name a few. At the time the dyke scene had a very loyal following. The Midway, a bar in Jamaica Plain had a ‘Dyke Night’, and back then Thursday nights were ground zero for Dykes/Queers in the Boston area. Chelsea on Fire were true rock amazons, they were like the Beastie Boys of the dyke scene-I think everyone can agree that they were just in a league of their own- holy shit the pipes on Josie! they were all truly talented, they had a hardcore dyke following but I think they could hold their own, and did with many other bands. The Kitty Kill also was a great band, they brought a lot of melody and rhythm to their music. I always viewed PornBelt as a novelty band, novelty in the sense that we didn’t fit any particular genre and we definitely were not the kind of band that you would want to blast really loud while zooming down the highway (unless you were perhaps an escaped mental patient with a messiah complex). I like to think our shows were fun and intense -individually the musicians in PornBelt could have been stand out musicians in any other band- but PornBelt was more GWAR meets Smothers Brothers, in my mind- then a true band.
We did have a few stalkers, which I guess does qualify us as a real band.
Debbie was always the driving force in PornBelt. She was the one who got the practice space, networked, made flyers and booked the shows. As for me I was the lead screamer for PornBelt, though when we first formed I was slated to be the bass player. I couldn’t play bass, or any instrument for that matter so I transitioned to the lead screamer and I kinda sucked at that too- for example-the other members had to give me signals when to start ‘singing’, I also needed to make cheat sheet of lyrics & I generally just winged it with a mic and a pair of well-worn knee pads.
I think towards the end of our time playing together, the last true line up of PornBelt was stellar-
Larissa was sheer force. she is so versatile on bass, shredding and fully engaged, she fucking brought it full on. Larissa also occasionally hopped on the guitar. As a side note, I was out of the Country for about a month and when I came back Larissa bought a van for PornBelt to tour in. The rest of PornBelt tricked out the van, so when I came back I remember being really confused that a van and what turned out to be an ill-fated tour were booked and ready to go.
Travis was our grounded player, he kept the music tight and worked with Larissa to come up with new musical arrangements for the lyrics, he also went between guitar and drums. When we gave each other A-Team characters names, of course Travis was Face because he is dreamy and the lady fans loved him.
Slamber did guitar and drums- (her and Travis would trade off on different songs). Slamber brought raw energy and a provocative appeal that would captivate and engage the audience.
Debbie introduced a lot of unique noise elements to the songs-kazoo, and various mic’d contraptions. Deb also sang what turned out to be some of best songs. Without Deb PornBelt would not have made it past our first basement show. Deb is a true PR machine, she is The Closer.
As for me, when I was in PornBelt I lived in Mission Hill, but I essentially cut my teeth in the Boston Punk scene of the 90’s. I left home fairly early, at 15- so I always felt I essentially spent my teen years growing up behind the Rat, drinking cheap vodka and hanging out in The Pit in Harvard Square. Having come from the Punk scene, labels and designations were antithetic, that being the whole punk ethos-so it was sort of natural for me to get involved with a variegated music spectrum, though I did take a lot of heat from some punks over my love of Motown, Seals & Crofts, Michael Jackson, Guns n’ Roses-to name a few. I think because I did not play an instrument my involvement with PornBelt was a bit different from the other band members. I just sort of showed up at gigs, it felt sort of happenstance. But, I loved writing lyrics. It felt great to capture a feeling or experience in a song. It was cathartic and I suppose therapeutic, to unload a torrent of emotion and weird ideas in lyric form. One of our songs was “Baby Sitter Fucker”, the idea for the song came to me when I was dating this guy that I kind of thought was a creep. It was as Oprah would say “An Aha moment”, I remember thinking- this guy, this dude that I am dating-he’s the kind of guy who would volunteer to drive the babysitter home after a date night and make the moves on a young girl, it was also inspired by the various indiscretions of the Kennedy family. The song “Covered Girl” was inspired by an experience with my father’s wife when I was about 12 years old, she told me I need to be demure if I wanted to get a man but that I was too tall anyway and guys don’t like tall girls (I’m 5’8, that’s not even tall). I am a picky eater so I wrote “portion cup” about my O.C.D. need to segment my food.”
I would like to thank PornBelt for giving me everything I needed for this article and basically doing all the work for me! If you thirst for more PornBelt, check out their Facebook page.
If you or anyone you know has further information on the queer scene in Boston either past/present/or future, send me a line. Did you go to any of PornBelt’s shows? Tell me about it. Were you at other shows you wanna discuss? Got any pics, stickers, pins, pit-stained t-shirts, memories, or scars you wanna share? Do it. I want it all…give it to me. Please.
(Article by Tina Lafleur)