Liz Phair, Proving that There isn’t an Age Cutoff for Wearing Miniskirts

Age shaming is a hot topic these days, mostly affecting women. There’s age discrimination in the workplace, in the arts and onstage. Collette McLafferty, author of Confessions of a Bad Ugly Singer, documented this experience succinctly, having spent every year since her 25th birthday being told she was too old to make it big in music.

[RELATED: Collette McLafferty Finds Her Most Powerful Voice in Wake of $10 Million Lawsuit]

One of the most insulting ways age discrimination manifests is through fashion. There are tons of videos on “what not to wear” when you’ve hit a certain milestone, like your 30th or 40th birthday. This Oprah magazine video, in which stylist Adam Glassman — #Adamsays — tries to convince a 48-year-old mom to swap her cute miniskirt for a pretty-but-boring turquoise sheath dress, encapsulates this attitude. You might look great and feel great in a miniskirt, but don’t you dare put one on unless you’re “a cougar” trying to attract young men. 

[RELATED: East Village Rocker Mama ReW Takes On ‘Mainstream’ Fashion in TLC Show]

But in an era when 40-year-old Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine can tear off his shirt during the Super Bowl and flaunt his perfect abs, I call BS on this double standard — and (probably) so does my rockmommy friend Rew, who was told on TLC’s “Love, Lust or Run” to drop her signature goth-dress-and-chunky-boot look for a more streamlined, body-hugging green dress that was supposedly more age appropriate.

And instead, I’d like to draw attention to the bold and badass Liz Phair, who recently told The Washington Post, “They’ll bury me in a miniskirt.” She was 51 at the time of the interview.

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Liz Phair

Seeing Liz Phair perform is inspiring. Exile in Guyville is one of the greatest records I’ve ever owned, and it pretty much captured all of my angsty, lusty, complicated emotions. I spent hours singing along to the CD in my car (as well as all follow-ups, including whitechocolatespaceegg and the self-titled Liz Phair). I’ve only seen Liz twice, but she commands her set like a pro. And she also does it while looking fantastic in a miniskirt! If she enjoys wearing one, why shouldn’t she? Why should some fashion “guru” create the rules of what we can and can’t wear?

Because Liz is a mom, she probably gets twice as much backlash. But again, motherhood should not dictate how a woman dresses, except that a mom should feel as comfortable and supported as possible when rearing young children. Motherhood does not mean a woman should stop wearing bikinis, miniskirts or whatever else makes her happy. 

So I’d like to raise a glass (of coffee) to Liz Phair, my idol in music and in fashion, an inspiring rocker and rock mama. Keep strutting your stuff, girl. Redefine what it means to be a fifty-something gal. All of us thirty- and forty-somethings are looking up to you. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Nashville Pop-Rock Dad Zach Vinson on New Record and Being a ‘Better Man’

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Anyone who’s spent more than a day in Nashville knows that a musician’s struggle to keep up with the scene is real. Nashville-based pop-rock singer, songwriter and dad Zach Vinson can relate. Finding new inspiration is tough, and his latest record And Yet doesn’t fit neatly into any of the more popular album themes (e.g., love, breakup, politics).

What it does cover, however, is far grittier and more interesting. Songs like “Better Man” address the challenge of stability, staying steady, embracing the mundane of day-to-day life and not throwing in the towel when life gets tough. It’s also a record influenced by parenting and life with his toddler son.

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Zach Vinson, Nashville pop-rocker, papa and husband

Rockmommy recently caught up with Vinson to talk about all of this (his album drops in April).

Rockmommy: I love the concept of your album — the idea of adjusting to life and staying in love. How did the idea to make this kind of record come about?

Zach Vinson: It wasn’t me sitting down and thinking, ‘Oh, I should write an album about this.’ It was just a matter of writing what I was living. My wife and I have been married almost 10 years now, and the last few have been a journey of realizing a lot of hard things — the baggage we’ve accumulated over our lifetime, the ways we don’t fit together well, the unhealthy rhythms we’ve fallen into over the years, etc. — and having to decide if we were up for the pain and mess and crazy hard work of moving forward together rather than throwing in the towel.

Rockmommy: Your son is adorable in the Instagram pics. When did you become a parent (not sure if you have other kids)? How did that change your outlook?

Zach Vinson: We just have one son, and he’s about two and a half. He’s something else. In terms of our marriage, it definitely provided great motivation for us to work things out. But it’s also easy to fall into a trap of ‘oh, we have a kid, so we need to stay together for their sake.’ I don’t think that’s a helpful mindset. You have to actually do the work to make your home a healthy environment, which I think we’re very much still in the process of doing.

Rockmommy: How did that influence your music?

Zach Vinson: Hmm, that’s a good question. I think having a kid gives some urgency and accountability to my efforts as a musician. In other words, if I’m going to take time away from my family to pursue music, I better be as excellent as I can be. Full-ass, not half-ass (mom, if you’re reading this, sorry for the cussing!). This record is as “all-in” as I’ve been, and I’m really proud of how it turned out, so maybe I have him to thank for that in a roundabout way.

Rockmommy: Is it challenging to balance a creative profession with the rigors of parenthood?

Zach Vinson: Yes and no. The hard parts are traveling, having a less-steady paycheck, and never feeling like I’m “done” with work. And those things add some extra weight to my wife’s shoulders, too, which I don’t take lightly. But on the other hand, my flexible schedule has allowed me to be present for my family in ways that other people with more traditional jobs aren’t able to be, and I love that. As with all of life, there are trade-offs, and I just try to be intentional with the trade-offs I’m choosing.

Rockmommy: What are your favorite kinds of songs to play?

Zach Vinson: It’s so dependent on the audience and the venue. There are songs I love playing in certain contexts that are completely lousy in other situations. But I don’t think you can beat playing a good slow song for a pin-drop-quiet room.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other rocker dads/piano dads like yourself who may be struggling with the business of their personal lives in an ever-changing, ever challenging world?

Zach Vinson: It’s a lot to juggle, for sure. You can’t get so focused on music that you take the stability of your family for granted. But I also think it’s important for my son to see me taking my passions seriously and making time/space for things that are life-giving to me.

Rockmommy: I see just three tour dates — any shows this summer in the books?

Zach Vinson: There are a few things in the work. Some festival dates I can’t announce yet, a week in Germany where I’ll be playing keys for another artist, a month-long residency at a camp, and probably a few more solo and full band dates as well. But I realized a few years ago that I didn’t want to be on a trajectory of playing 150 to 200 dates a year with having a family, so I pick and choose my spots to tour a little more carefully.

Listen to Zach Vinson’s singles “Better Man” & “Hold My Son” on Spotify.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

How Meeting Dick Dale, my Favorite Guitarist of All Time, Changed my Life

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

In 2002, I met Dick Dale in kind of a weird way – at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas. I had just begun my post-college journalism career and had the distinct advantage of being one of the few young women who wrote about technology. Someone mentioned he’d been hired to perform a few songs, so I decided to swing by the sponsoring company’s booth.

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Me and Dick Dale, his bassist, and some other girl (2002)

As I watched him perform, he noticed me right away – my eyes transfixed, my whole being completely spellbound by his masterful skills. I’d never heard of Dale before that day, but like anyone who’s seen and heard Dale shred, I was immediately taken with his insane, wild guitar-playing style that made me feel like I was on the craziest road trip in California. He played his big hit “Miserlou” – which I recognized not only from “Pulp Fiction,” but from a belly dancing class I’d taken in Washington, D.C.

I approached him after the performance and told him as much. I also mentioned that I played guitar, but he was more interested in my side gig as a belly dancer.

“You coming to dance at my next show?” He asked, as we strolled along one of the corridors at the Venetian.

“Sure,” I said. “I’d love that.”

I opted to skip the party at the Luxor his bassist invited me to that night, but I made a point to email Dale a day or two later. He responded right away – I still have that email in the recesses of my Yahoo! Account – with his phone number and told me to call him the next time he had a show on the East Coast.

That’s how I became a Dick Dale groupie. He answered all my calls, and I followed him from show to show. He put me on every guest list I asked to be on, but after a while I stopped asking (because I wanted to support him). I belly danced here and there – a deal is a deal — but he didn’t care. He was more excited to see the look on my face – and the faces of his other devotees – when he launched into “Let’s Go Trippin.’”

I think I saw Dale play something like 10 or 12 times in my twenties, between Vegas and Baltimore and a few beaches along the Mid Atlantic. I became a better and more inspired guitarist simply by listening to him, my Surf Guitar God. Absolutely no one put on a better live music show.

And no one played the guitar like Dick Dale, either — not even the highly schooled, beloved guitar teachers who mentored me when I eventually moved to New York City and started teaching guitar. Who could keep pace with his absurdly fast tremolo picking? Very few. Dale wielded his Fender Stratocaster in unreal ways – upside down, hand sliding up and down necks. I wasn’t shocked when I heard that he would actually burn through multiple picks during shows.

His capabilities transcended traditional surf rock. One of my favorite moments of every show was when he launched into his rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” his deep, dark voice giving the Animals classic a sinister spin, with his signature “heavy machine gun staccato” picking style working the upside-down fretboard.

I also loved it when he’d bring his young son onstage to play along with him. Those were the moments I felt like I had really glimpsed into his heart.

But as I settled into New York City life after graduate school, I let myself lose touch with Dale. I got sucked into the hustle of working and playing shows, of punk rock nights and deadline days. I wish I hadn’t forgotten the feeling I’d gotten when I met him, and I first saw him perform. I wish I had made the time to see a few more shows.

I heard he stumbled on hard times. He developed cancer at one point, and was continuing to tour to afford health insurance, playing shows like his life depended it. Because it did. But Dale didn’t let cancer or age stop him. He played every show as if it were his last.

Rest in peace, my surf guitar king.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

NYC Rockmommy Rew Starr and Filmmaker Daughter Harlee Ludwig on Making the Perfect ‘Imperfect Girl’ Video

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

ReW STaRR, one of New York City’s most beloved local singer-songwriters and off-Broadway actors, knows all about trying to be perfect. Whether she’s trying to adjust her wardrobe for TLC or meet songwriting deadlines, the pressure of achieving a certain standard is real for Rew. And her daughter Harlee Ludwig, a budding filmmaker, can identify, having come of age in the era of #metoo.

The twosome recently embarked on a fun, grueling and timely project – making the ‘Imperfect Girl’ video – which is exactly what the world needed on International Women’s Day. We recently caught up with Rew and Harlee to talk about the video’s significance. For those of you who couldn’t make the debut show at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn tonight, check out the video and Q&A.

Rockmommy: How did Imperfect Girl come about — the song & video and execution?  

Rew: I was actually asked to write a song called ‘Jewish girls.’ I literally couldn’t do it and ‘Imperfect girl’ was born… I don’t believe in organized religion just spirit but that explains some of the references in the song like ‘Jesus’ and ‘religion.’ Harlee heard the song one day on her Spotify and said “mom I know what song I want to make a video to … I think ‘imperfect girl’ has caught up to the time or the time has caught up to ‘imperfect girl.’

Harlee: The song was recorded years ago to a very almost chill and luau-type vibe definitely well produced. [For] the video we took a really low-fi approach because we wanted to really grasp the feeling that is sometimes achieved in Jim Jarmusch films where the focus isn’t supposed to be on some huge pay off or result, but more so the documentation of everyday occurrences that get taken for granted. This video specifically is set to show how much women go through every day without a necessary “pay off” or “appreciation” for it. But they do it all anyways because they have to.

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Rockmommy: Why do you think the song is so timely? 

Rew:Harlee thought with #metoo and all the significance to the women’s marching and movements happening these days this song is meant to finally to be heard.

Harlee:I think in the age of movements like #metoo, black feminism, gender fluidity, women fighting for equal pay and treatment, there is really no time like now for this song. So many of these movements have helped to show that women should not be held to this standard of “perfection” or whatever that means in a patriarchal society. We are all imperfect and for that reason we are all perfect. We do not need to be perfect to be respected. We just need to be people.

Rockmommy:What’s it like working together, mama and daughter?

Rew:Best best best… we got to spend so much time together filming all the inspirational people and I feel like being able to have this opportunity it was just the most beautiful thing in the world!!!

Harlee:It’s a fun experience because we can share the responsibilities. Since we both have different approaches to interacting with people and different tastes of what is powerful it left the door open for us taking and experimenting with various scenes and actions for all the beautiful actors and volunteers. It was also easy for us to almost telepathically communicate when anyone was running too long or if we had to stay on schedule with more shootings helping the entire thing go much more smoothly.

Rockmommy:Any challenges in making the video?

Rew:The challenges were mostly people wanting to be in it and too many conflicts with time. Other than that, none except for [an experience with an] Uber driver [on] one day — but I’m not sharing that skeleton!!!

Harlee:SCHEDULING!! When people are helping you on a volunteer bases it can become extremely difficult making a schedule and getting everyone to stick to it!

Rockmommy:What message or feeling do you hope people will get after seeing/experiencing “Imperfect Girl?”

Rew:That everyone is passionate and perfectly imperfect!!! Harlee really loves the idea of people being absolutely amazing just doing what they love to do … not the BIG GRANDIOSE things but the actual thing you do that gives you purpose and joy. That is the message I hope people will get … real is beautiful!

Harlee:I hope to find out 🙂 But in general I hope people realize how many little things they get done a day and how when you isolate those little moments you realize that even the days you feel you are wasting and not doing anything necessarily productive, you really are doing so much by just existing as an imperfect girl.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Gearing up for 2019 International Women’s Day

By Francesca Farruggio

OUR DAY HAS COME. The annual celebration in respect to theforce that womanhood is today couldn’t have come at a better time. As the repercussions of the “Me Too Movement” currently dominate the media world, women of all ages, races and socio-economic backgrounds have shown how powerful we can be when we join together as one.

For those of you who need some background, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year as a focal point in the movement for women’s rights (thank you Wikipedia) After the Socialist Party of Americaorganized a Women’s Day on February 28, 1909, in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conferencesuggested a Women’s Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8th became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

We are now fortunate enough to live in a society that prioritizes women’s rights. Whether politically, professionally, or socially, there are women AND men out there who make it their mission to work each day towards a more gender-balanced world. Today is a time to recognize these people and spread the idea that women of all culture, race, and religion are worth fighting for.

From the beginning, women have always been second best to men. We were never the breadwinners or the decisionmakers. We cared for our children and kept a commendable environment for our husbands to come home to.

The past decades have brought nothing but victory for those fighting for women’s rights so we could show that yes, we can do BOTH – women can do it all! It’s the small, but inspiring victories that women achieve each day that will continue to build a world where we are not superior, but equal to men. I think the main thing we should focus on this year is acknowledging the power that women have as a unit.

No matter how little your victory might seem, it counts! Your husband is completely capable of making the cookies for the bake sale if you need the night off, just like YOU are equipped to manage a hedge fund if that is your dream. #TheFutureIsFemale

Woman– you are just as smart, purposeful, and competent as any man. Say it to yourself twenty times if that’s what you need to believe it. Hell – scream it as you shred your most empowering chords on the guitar.

Just make sure you acknowledge that this day is to celebrate YOUR force in this crazy world, and no person can ever take that away from you.

#RockOnLikeMadonnaMomma

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

Making the Parent Band Work

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Since becoming a homeowner, I’ve fallen in love with my guitar all over again. My favorite nights are those where I’m sitting on my back porch in the summertime, strumming my guitar underneath the stars.

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Me, playing solo in Brooklyn 

But over the last year or two, I’ve also felt a little lonely, sitting on the porch by myself. I missed the camaraderie of playing music in a band — the collaborative songwriting process, the laughter, and the sonic thrill of electric guitar, drums and bass rattling a rehearsal space.

[RELATED: Playing a Rock Gig While Pregnant: Advice From Mamas Who’ve Done it]

In September, I decided I needed to do something about these feelings. I needed to start a new band. Not just to play covers — Connecticut has enough cover bands — but originals too. And I wanted other adults who understood exactly how I felt, balancing work, personal commitments, family and free time. 

I wanted a parent band. 

The problem was, I didn’t have a network of friends ready to jam — those friends lived in the city. In Connecticut, most of the parents I’m friends with aren’t in bands and don’t play instruments. There isn’t a bassist or a drummer around every corner.

Still, I stayed focused on my goal. I’m too old to settle for something that doesn’t make me happy, especially when time is involved. Everything I do, from updating Rockmommy to working to working out takes time away from my precious kids.

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Me and my Gibson SG, rocking out at rehearsal

So I put an ad on Craigslist, which led me to meet Doug, a bassist and guitarist who happened to be a dad of two young boys — close in age to mine. And then I posted a call for a drummer on Facebook. Little did I know that my college bestie Jason’s brother Nick, a dad of four, played drums. I recruited my guitarist friend Anna, whom I’d jammed with a bit in 2017 and 2018. 

Two months later, we’re a band with a name (unveiled soon) and a set list of 11 or 12 songs (a combination of originals and covers). I don’t know what’s going to happen next week, or whether we’ll still be playing this time next year. But I’m grateful I made the decision to follow my heart and not settle. 

It’s not always easy. Yesterday morning, schools closed because of the snow, which, coupled with my insomnia, made me cranky and exhausted. When I remembered I had band practice that night, I thought about calling in sick. I also didn’t want to part with $20/hour for a babysitter. 

But I’m so glad I persevered. 

While so many things are harder when you’re a parent — from brushing your teeth in the morning to making a band work — it’s important to follow your heart. While I still love playing solo, having a parent band is amazing. I’m so grateful for this moment in time, and everyone —from my sitters to my husband — who has helped me make it work. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Bohemian Rhapsody: The Rockstar Movie That Caught Me By Surprise

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Bohemian Rhapsody — the biopic about Freddie Mercury, which celebrates Queen’s music — was not what I expected it to be. It was better. 

But I almost didn’t see it. With so much Oscar buzz around Lady Gaga and A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody was not at the top of my “must view” list. 

I love Queen’s songs: “We will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Are the Champions” are regulars on my iTunes playlists. But time is limited when you’re a parent of young children. Going to the movies typically means seeing a cartoon with a Disney princess, angry bird or Lego ninja. 

Also, I already knew the story of Freddie Mercury — or at least I thought I knew it. I’d heard the songs, and read articles from time to time about the lead singer of Queen who wrote epic rock n’ roll anthems and eventually died because of AIDS-related complications. But as it turned out, what I knew barely scratched the surface of who Mercury was, or his profound legacy. Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie, digs much deeper. 

Fortunately, life often has a way of giving me what I need. And last week, as I settled into my seat for a flight to Orlando, there it was, in the Delta movie queue. Ready to watch. 

I was hooked on the sweet, charismatic Mercury (Rami Malek) within the first few opening scenes, watching him slinging suitcases onto a truck at Heathrow and bicker with his dad before heading out to the local club to see an up-and-coming band. 

Malek did a tremendous job portraying Mercury in his transformation into the person he was “meant to be”: from the lonely, sweet, shy, conflicted 20 something,  into the dazzling performer with the multidimensional voice who wielded his microphone stand like a scepter. The portrayal was far from “boring” — Mercury’s favorite term for anything that didn’t push, or challenge, artistic boundaries. Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy, who played band members Brian May and Roger Taylor, respectively, also delivered spectacular performances, as did Lucy Boynton as Freddie’s love — and best friend — Mary Austin. It definitely helped that the real-life May and Taylor served as creative consultants for the movie. 

At 2+ hours, the movie is a longer one (I was cut off as my plane landed, so I ended up watching it again on the return flight). But it’s worth watching, start to finish, again and again. While Rhapsody has endured criticism for a few supposed historical inaccuracies, anyone who plays music in band should not miss this gem of a movie.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.