Milo and the Calf
September 20th, 2016
Ok, so I know Michelle, the author of this book, and some of the other members of Spitboy, the band at the center of this story. There was a time, a long long while ago, when we were all close. It would be really easy for me to make this review a walk down my own memory lane, but I’m going to resist that.
This is Michele story, told in a series of interlocking vignettes centered around her time in Spitboy, one of the pivotal bands of the early 1990s Bay Area punk rock scene. But the book is about much more than Spitboy. It’s the story of a Xicana from a small town in California, the daughter of a single mom, who discovers punk rock, moves the Bay Area, and forms one of the most groundbreaking punk rock bands of the 1990s.
Spitboy was a band of fierce women who played hardcore infused with passion, politics, and love. I, like many, were incredibly inspired by the band. Its fascinating to read these stories from their days touring the world, struggling against the sexism prevalent in the punk rock scene, while also forming profound relationships with each other and those they came into contact with. Today Spitboy is remembered mainly as a pioneering all women punk band, and they were that, for sure. But they were more. They were generous and kind. They were inspiring in their aspirations for, and dedication to, DIY punk culture, and they were a hell of a lot of fun to see live.
While there are plenty of band war stories here, it wasn’t always fighting the man and loading the van. As with any band on the road, there were conflicts. Michelle, Xicana and raised working class, came to the Bay Area punk rock scene with a very different life story from many in the then mostly white, mostly middle class, scene. This led to scores of painful moments, many of which rang all too familiar to me. Michelle faced everything from the casual erasure of her identity to blatant racism and classism. It is at times hard to reconcile the political aspirations of the punk rock scene with the treatment Michelle endured.
But those are the facts, and we need to face them.
Michelle treats all of this, the good and the bad, with real grace. She calls out the many instances in which the class differences in the punk scene were glossed over, and the scores of times her identity was erased. She does so with a compassion, honesty, thoughtfulness, I find inspiring.
This is a powerful story, which captures a time and place in the punk rock world which few others have documented. I’m so glad I was privileged enough to know Michelle, and the other Spitboy women, and I’m so glad she wrote this book.