The Gossip may have the same blues and roots music influences as The Rolling Stones, The MC5 and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but what they do with them is entirely new. In the hands of three barely post-pubescent Southern kids, blues-based rock gets fused with punk bile and a genuinely earnest desire to bring fun back to the live show. “Thanks to all the kids who came out to see us and danced” yell the liner notes of their first EP, “and a NO THANKS to anyone who didn’t dance.” As Beth, the sexy powerhouse of a singer puts it, “We started a band cuz we were bored. Our mission is to make you dance and if you’re not gonna dance, just stay at home.” She is famous for singling people out at crowds and screaming: “You! Why aren’t you dancing?” If that doesn’t get the perpetrator moving, she will get right in their face and shake her not-demure frame right at them until they HAVE TO move with her.
The Gossip (Nathan, Beth, and Kathi) moved together from Searcy, Arkansas to punk rock mecca Olympia, Washington as soon as they were of legal drinking age. It was a matter of months before they had the whole town eating out of their hands, as I witnessed when I was in Olympia last August for the week-long Ladyfest music carnival-thing. Everyone was talking about The Gossip, even amidst the stiff competition of other groups like local heroes Sleater-Kinney, the saintly Cat Power, and VICE favorite Bratmobile. I finally got to see them perform in a sweltering basement at a party at some kid’s house. This wasn’t just seeing a cool band or a friend’s band play a show, there was a different kind of excitement in there. It must have felt kind of like that to see the NY Dolls play the Mercer Arts Center when they were just starting out; the feeling of sharing in something rad that belongs to your little crew. The show began in true DIY fashion with Beth asking if anybody had an extra amp for Nathan, the guitar player, to use. An opening band contributed one and The Gossip launched into their set. Everyone there was mesmerized from the first song, “Dressed in Black,” an ode to the real rocker girls Beth loves: “Mama warned me about the girls all dressed in black!” When Beth removed her shirt in response to the heat a few songs later, the crowd let out with the most good-natured catcalling you’ve ever heard. Spontaneous disrobing is pretty much in-line with The Gossip’s edict of rocking out in whatever way makes you happy, unselfconsciously and full-on. Kathi thumped her stripped down drum kit and Nathan did his best Pete Townsend moves through the remainder of the night.
I guess I’m not the only person to have been converted by seeing The Gossip live. When I saw Sleater-Kinney a few nights later, Carrie changed a line in one of their songs to a Gossip quote. And rumor has it that professional talent scout Thurston Moore, after seeing The Gossip play, personally called them to request that they open for Sonic Youth in Seattle. The Gossip are on tour now, so go see them. And they have a full-length, That’s Not What I Heard, out on Kill Rock Stars so if you’re too chicken to dance at their shows you can replicate one at home with the record.