Women Who Rock

Gail Greenwood (Photo by Renee L’Abbe)

It was the ’90s and I loved being in clubs. It was common to be among folks who had made it while I was seeing and playing shows. The Big Three (“The Godmothers” as I like to call them) were at their height — signed to major record labels, touring the country, playing on the radio and on MTV. They played the local scene and then they got out, something probably everyone in a band strives for. 

The Godmothers are Gail Greenwood, Tanya Donelly, and Kristin Hersh


Hersh fronted Throwing Muses, who were Rhode Island Music Hall Of Fame 2017 inductees, and now has a successful solo career. I used to see her walking down Thayer Street back in the ’90s and thought it was so cool that someone I just saw on 120 Minutes was right there, hanging out, being a normal person. The closest I got to meeting Donelly was when I stepped on her foot at a Lemonheads show at Lupo’s. I was just a teenager and I remember thinking: Of course I would step on the foot of the singer from Belly! So embarrassing. Greenwood was like legendary folklore. I never saw her. She was in Boneyard and Belly with Donelly, and for a short time in L7. I only heard about her and was told for years I had to meet her. I finally did when her latest band, Benny Sizzler, played a show with my band around 2010 at the Ocean Mist

Other memorable local bands with female members from that time were Whisper A Threat, Ashley Von Hurter and The Haters, Small Factory, Lungmustard, and Victim. Jump on YouTube or go flip through the local crates at a record shop. Look for these bands, and you’ll find a treasure. 

Much has changed with how we experience music, but two things have remained the same: You can catch live original music seven days a week and RI musicians  are still kicking ass. Who’s out there today?

Let’s start with Jamiee Danger & the Dynamite. Their description on Bandcamp really says it all: “A blend of high-energy punk with elements of hardcore & pop, blurring the lines between melodic and aggressive punk music. Jaimee may have taken notes from Joan Jett, Brody Dalle, and Gwen Stefani, but she belts out spine-tingling vocal melodies all her own. Set over fast and catchy riffs with simple Screeching Weasel-like leads, JDD are an exciting breath of fresh air.” 

I asked Danger for her perspective on her place in the music scene. She said, “The best thing about being in a band? For me it is being the example for young girls that I never had. I grew up in a very small town in CA and I never saw women who looked like me, who felt like I did, and certainly never any women who were in touring bands who yelled and screamed and thrashed about. I want the girls to know that THIS is an option! Not only being in a band… But being angry! Angry for change in behaviors, angry for change globally, politically, angry for MORE. I also want them to know that an angry woman in a band can also be someone who is nice as fuck and very very silly.

“It’s also very rewarding when people talk to you after the show. I had one guy in his 30s say he had his 70 year old dad with him and they both loved JDD! How great is that?!”

“We’re working on recording our second album, due to be released in spring 2024. This record is fun, full of catchy songs and it has been a blast to write and to play. We plan to play everywhere possible, so look out for us and come dance!”

Follow Thru just released an EP of melodic punk/ska bangers titled Ghosts. Holding down the low-end on that album is bassist Kelsey Rouine. I asked Rouine how she feels in a predominantly male scene. She said, “I’d like to start with some of the things that are positive: I’m lucky to be able to play music with the guys I call family, as well as my long term partner…I’m also fortunate enough that I don’t feel like “the girl” with them and that I am an equal member (although I am still the bass player, lol). I’m also fortunate that the RI scene has been accepting of me and that we’ve played with some truly incredible people along the way that have been supportive of me and the projects I have been in. 

“One of the major things I struggle with is people who might feel awkward approaching me because I’m a woman. We can play sets and a lot of the other members of my band are approached after the set by strangers and other bands to comment on our set, and I can be bypassed. It’s easy to mess with your confidence in those instances. I have to remind myself of my abilities and that I believe in my band and the music we play, and that is enough for me.” 

“I can also think of an instance that stands out to me that happened years ago while playing at the Met. After my band’s set, I was approached by another band’s member to talk about the set. He said, ‘You played good but you should consider what you wear on stage…ya know, your band could go further if you played up your role and wore something more revealing.’ I was fortunate to get support from some of the members of the scene and my band to reiterate that my gender does not matter, the music does.”

Now, let’s revisit the shining example that is Gail Greenwood of Benny Sizzler. I spoke with Greenwood about what it was like coming up in the scene and what she’s up to these days. It was one of those conversations that could have gone on forever. She expressed how much she loves playing with Benny Sizzler, how it’s her tie to the RI music scene. Her day job keeps her busy as a graphic designer and illustrator, and in May, Belly has plans to record a new album and go on tour this fall. 

We talked about how things were in the earlier days of her music career. She started out like everyone else — playing in a band outnumbered by guys; however, it was a different experience for her than what a lot of women face. We connected on how it was never really an issue. We stood our ground many times, our opinions mattered, and we were accepted. Was it good timing? Self-esteem and self-marketing? Probably a combination of it all. Love and passion for the music was the bright light that shined in the eyes of the audience. “It was easy back then,” Greenwood said about getting booked at local clubs. “We didn’t have to work hard,” she laughed. “There was a community and the club owners and promoters would reach out to us personally. They asked the locals to play as support for national bands coming through Providence. Bands passing through didn’t usually have a tour package. Locals got to be equals and meet these bands that were breaking through on radio and MTV. We made connections and kept in touch…It was a level playing field.”

As a musician in 2024, you sort of have to be a Swiss Army knife. You have to write the songs, play the shows, be a content creator, a video editor, a social media manager… There’s so much that goes into it today. When asked what she would do if she was just coming up in the music scene now, Greenwood said, “I’d take the bull by the horns, call those promoters, get in touch with them, and get my band on the shows.” Meaning: Don’t play with the same bands all the time; don’t play the same places all the time — take a chance and play in front of new people. “But in the end, you still have to craft a good song.” That’s what stays the same. 

Jenn Lombari is the singer and guitarist for Stubborn Hearts and Sourpunch.