Content warning: some of the articles use foul language and mention violence against women.
Punk music and subculture may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Vancouver’s rich history. While Vancouver is the home of D.O.A., arguably one of the founding bands of the genre, the city’s vibrant and politically charged punk subculture is often overlooked; probably due to our close proximity to the iconic Seattle music scene. However, browsing through publications like Kinesis, The Ubyssey, and Discorder in UBC’s Open Collections gives an impression of the energetic and burgeoning punk rock scene in Vancouver through the 70’s and 80’s. In particular, Vancouver was a hub for many emerging female punk bands such as the Dishrags, Moral Lepers, The Persisters, and Industrial Waste Banned. While none of these bands saw the same level of fame or commercial success as some of their international counterparts like The Slits, The Raincoats, or Bikini Kill, they were valued members of the Vancouver music scene and whether intentionally or not, contributed to the complex political landscape of the time through their artistic expressions of punk rock, feminism, and anarchy.
One of the first female punk bands to emerge on the scene in the late 70’s was The Dishrags, a three piece from Central Saanich made up of members Jade Blade (Jill Bain), Dale Powers and Scout. Inspired by punk bands like the Ramones, the three bandmates left high school and their hometown to pursue music in Vancouver.
Discorder magazine, a long-standing Indie music magazine published by UBC’s campus radio station, published a retrospective interview with Jade blade in 1999:
In 1979, The Dishrags played a benefit show at the Canadian Legion on 6th and Commercial alongside two other local bands in an effort to fundraise for Nicaragua during their revolution (see the bottom third of the following image):
Moral Lepers were a Vancouver based all-female group who formed in the early 80’s and played together until 1984. In 1984, Kinesis (a Vancouver based feminist publication that ran from 1974-2001) described their music as having “strong British roots”, likely inspired by the influx of punk rock from ‘across the pond’ in the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s.
This Kinesis article from December 1982 mentions Moral Lepers and The Persisters, both Vancouver based punk/rock bands:
In March 1983, Kinesis wrote an article on the female influences in Vancouver’s music scene and included some (mis)information about Moral Lepers. April’s edition of the magazine included a response from the Leper’s themselves setting the record straight:
The Moral Leper’s Respond: “We ain’t no Cinderellas”:
In July 1984, Kinesis published this “Beginners guide to new music” which includes Moral Lepers alongside The Slits and The Raincoats:
One of the next groups to grace the scene was Industrial Waste Banned, a predominantly female group that valued political messaging in their lyrics. While they didn’t necessarily identify their music with any genre and described themselves in an interview with Kinesis in 1985 as “just a band”, people seemed to classify them as punk and their music was described in a February 1986 edition of Discorder as having “nothing warm and non-aggressive” about it. When asked about the message behind their music, Filis told Kinesis: “Our songs are about very many different things. We sing about the economy, the environment, women’s roles, nuclear devastation. I think that our message is that society doesn’t have to be the way it is, and it’s up to the people to start making the changes today”.
The following interview with two members of I.W.B. is from the December 1985 edition of Kinesis:
A review of Industrial Waste Banned written by Brent Kane appeared in the February 1986 edition of Discorder:
I hope you enjoyed learning about some of Vancouver’s feminist punk rock bands as much as I did.
Thanks for reading!