Paige Schilt

Queer Music Friday: Gretchen Phillips

Filed By Paige Schilt | February 06, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Gretchen Phillips, lesbian history, lesbian rock, Shearwater, The Butchies, women's music

I can still remember the first time I heard her voice. It was the early 90s, and I was listening to Seattle's famed college radio station, KEXP. When the usual barrage of angsty boy-rock was interrupted by a clear, quirky female voice, my interest was piqued. I waited for the DJ to i.d. the song. When he said, "that was the lesbian band Two Nice Girls," I shot a nervous glance at my indie-rock boyfriend and seared the information in my brain for future reference.

Flash forward a few years. I was hanging out at a record store when I came across a DIY cassette by "former Two Nice Girls singer," Gretchen Phillips. I surreptitiously shelled out a few bucks for the tape, not knowing that its contents would change my life.

For me, the transformational song was "Swimming," which is also featured on Gretchen's brand new album, I Was Just Comforting Her. "Swimming" converted me from a "heterosexual with homosexual tendencies" (as Ted Haggard would say), to a full-on dyke. It also led me to spend a lot of time at the pool, in the hopes that something like the scenario described in the song might happen to me.

Follow the jump to win a free copy of I Was Just Comforting Her.

On I Was Just Comforting Her, Gretchen proves that she's a prophet of the current cultural moment with songs like "Red State, Blue State," the perfect Obama-era electro-pop paean to hope (available as a free MP3 download). "In Case of Rapture" begins with a stuck-in-traffic-behind-an-evangelical-bumbersticker kind of moment and ends with a rousing chorus of "Why don't we stay here and try to make things work?"--a sentiment that reflects the feeling of responsibility and optimism in the new political landscape.

In honor of the record release, Gretchen is launching a west coast tour and a YouTube channel, which archives many memorable video moments in lesbian cultural history. Two Nice Girls may have been the first out lesbian band to make the college charts, but Gretchen also helped create influential bands like Meat Joy and Girls in the Nose (who played at the 1993 March on Washington). The YouTube material ranges from live performances, to interviews, to videos for the new album, including the poignant video for "Red State/Blue State."

Three randomly selected commenters below can get a free copy of I Was Just Comforting Her, which features percussion by Melissa York of The Butchies and Thor Harris from Shearwater. Each and every copy comes in a package hand-assembled by the artist herself.

Contest closes Saturday at midnight. To win, just leave a comment. Contributors are not eligible to win.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

The thing I miss most about Seattle is KEXP. Sigh.

Karen Collett | February 7, 2009 11:26 AM

If you have an iPhone, you can listen to KEXP via Public Radio Tuner. (I'm listening to it right now.)

Ai yai yai...the moment of conversion, so aptly described! i MUST hear the song "swimming," and soon. Thanks for entering a gem into the chronicles of underground lesbian history, paige.

How cool! I'm super inspired by the Butchies, but somehow missed out on knowing about Gretchen Phillips til now, so thanks. West coast tour, yeah.

i would love to get to know gretchen! :) thank you for the contest!

Oh, I remember her from the Two Nice Girls days, too. I still love "I Spent My Last $10 On Birth Control & Beer" ("Life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer....")

Yes, "I Spent My Last $10" was the song I first heard on college radio.

Some of you might also remember "Swimming" from the Rhino records compilation "Women Like Us." But the version on the new album retrofits the song with a crazy psychedelic freak out at the end.

OH MAN. This really got me caught up for hours on the new Gretchen phillips you tube channel. SOme of the old stuff is off the hook! Of course I love the new as well. You rule Paige.

Wow do I miss Austin and the lesbians there.

Can't-miss performance of Reluctant Butch:

-What are you? Butch?!
-I'm seven.

Two Nice Girls. It's been awhile since I heard them. Makes me think of Phranc, one of the other lesbian singer/songwriters of the time. Oh the memories!

To think that I have never heard of Two Nice Girls until now! Maybe it is because I grew up in the midwest, sheltered from all things lesbian! What an angelic voice! I will be sure to check out youtube!

Travis Ballie | February 7, 2009 7:56 AM

I hope I get to own a piece of lesbian history. There's no better type!

Thank you. Please excuse the delay. I was busy listening to her music.

I'm going back to find some more of Gretchen Phillips. That way, even if I lose the contest, I win.

Thank you! Her Sweet Jane video on youtube is so beautiful! Going back for more!!

So great to see Gretchen again. Used to see her in the Bay Area back in the day and LOVED those 2 nice girls so much.

Thanks for the memories. Hope to see her again sometime soon. In the meantime, there's always YouTube.

If you're still in the Bay area, she'll be playing SF on February 23. At Cafe du Nord.