Women musicians were scarce in rock music until the punk movement of the late 1970s. New York City's Bush Tetras in 1979 proved that women rockers were not only growing in visibility but also were innovative and groundbreaking. Today, hundreds of bands are copying Bush Tetras' progressive funk noise, even if these bands do not know it. Cynthia Sley's half talking, half scolding vocals, Pat Place's searing, hypnotic guitar resonance, Laura Kennedy's sturdy, funky bass grooves and Dee Pop's pounding, thumping percussion together combined for a sound like no other band. Bush Tetras failed to grow out of the punk rock circuit and into the mainstream, however, and ultimately the band split in 1983. Bush Tetras reformed from 1995 to 1998, and then reformed again in 2005. Kennedy died in 2011; the band's current bassist is Val Opielski. Bush Tetras' third and most recent album, Happy, was recorded in 1998 and became available in 2012.
Bush Tetras celebrated its 37th anniversary as a live band tonight at the Bowery Electric. Although the group is headlining the same kind of clubs it did decades ago, tonight's performance proved that the band's music was still as electrifying and invigorating as it was nearly four decades ago. Pop caught the beat, Opielski gave the backbone, Place slid into dissonant, distortion-filled riffs, and Sley snarled bold, deadpan vocals. Together, they released a primal, intense energy alongside an integral rock and funk swagger. The results were chilling. One can only speculate how the Bush Tetras' music would have grown if the band had remained together into the alt-rock 1990s.
Bush Tetras returns to the New York stage at the Delancey on April 27.