Roller Derby – Now THAT’s an Attitude

Sheri Zampelli Punk Rock GirlI grew up on punk rock and as such, I’m simply not the type of person who can sit still quietly for any length of time. When the “punk movement” was surging through Southern California in the 80’s and 90’s I attended many shows and engaged in many conversations about “what punk REALLY is.” A good number of people had the “punk is an attitude” philosophy but somehow I sensed this was mostly rhetoric and pontification versus the way people acted in real life.

Punk Rock BoyThe truth is, there were unwritten rules about what was “punk” and what was not “punk” and though they may have changed from person to person, they were there nonetheless. There was a dress code and a set of acceptable behaviors. Never once did I see a man in a three-piece suit at a gig, long hair and tans were definitely not “cool” and black was the color of conformity. Oh, and by the way, in many circles if you did anything that might make you money or cause you to be successful (even if it was having a punk band) you were a “sellout.” UGH.

It seems that most groups of people eventually fall into these traps with rigid roles, rules and restrictions, even when their starting premise is freedom of expression. I got disenchanted by the whole punk thing over time, it just didn’t seem vital anymore and I missed the “good old days” where it seemed fun and raw and fresh and creative.
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(Open The Wreck’s MySpace page in a new window and listen to Punk is an Attitude off of Not So Quiet on the Western Front while you read the rest of this blog. If you listen while you read it will really enhance the experience. If you like it, buy the single on iTunes.)
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Well, all my good feelings about punk and DIY culture and self-expression and hell, even the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, came back when I stepped foot into my first Derby Doll bout at Little Tokyo in April ’07. I fell in love instantly and began skating with Fresh Meat and doing volunteer work almost immediately.

There is so much I could tell you about this DIY operation. SOOO many behind-the-scenes stories just begging to be told but I think I’ll start it all off with a pictorial that captures a tiny bit of the Roller Derby Attitude.

It seems to me that the only people who are not welcome at a Derby Doll bout are those who are under the age of 21 (and I’m sure many of them WISH they could come). Other than that, this is truly an ecclectic, diverse, creative, energetic group of amazing people with almost unanimously great attitudes. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. And when you finish looking at the pictures and start reaching for your wallet to buy tickets for the next bout, go to this link and do it now. It is a life-changing event, trust me. (By the way, you can click on any of the photos below and see a larger version).

Crowd shot at the LA Derby Doll Bout, 5-31-08

Mila Minute fan displays support as crowd looks on. Man with camera documenting roller derby history. It’ll only go up from here.

Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and the Cookie Monster at LA Derby Dolls 5-31-08

Part of the reason it will grow is because of Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut of the movie Whip It! starring Ellen Page. The publicity machine is already on the scene and pictures of Drew at the Doll Factory have popped up in People Magazine and on People.com at least twice.

The cookie monster served as the Tough Cookie mascot for the evening. Look closely and you’ll see Drew Barrymore on the right, she is taking research photos and appears to be talking to Ellen Page. Whip it! is a movie about a young girl coming of age in roller derby world.

Los Angeles City Council Member Eric Garcetti sings the national anthem at the LA Derby Dolls 5-31-08

13th District Los Angeles City Councilmember, Eric Garcetti gets the party started by singing the national anthem to a sold out crowd at the Doll Factory.

Krissy Krash and family.  LA Derby Dolls.

Tough Cookie, Krissy Krash poses for a photo with Daddy and Gramma Krash. They come to every game and sit in the VIP section cheering Krissy on.

Girls get out for some LA Derby Doll action

And these women? They’re cheering everyone on. It’s girls night out and time for some roller derby fun.

Haute Wheels is heated

Here’s the type of energy and dedication the skaters have. Everyone in the building is pumped up.

Automatic Music Explosion singer, Jodie makes a sign at LA Derby Dolls

This beautiful young lady is Jodie. She’s the lead singer for the automatic music explosion. Even though she’s getting ready to play a gig, she still finds time to make a sign for her Derby Doll friend, Laura Palm-Her. If you listen to some of the songs on their MySpace page, you’ll get a feel for what it’s like the entire night at a derby bout. They even have a song titled Roller Derby.

Racy DC and Krissy Krash of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls

There is no size, weight or height requirement in roller derby. If you wanna kick ass on wheels and you’re over 21, come on down. You literally don’t even have to know how to skate to get started.

Varsity Brawlers of the LA Derby Dolls

Here’s a glimpse of the newest Derby Doll team, the Varsity Brawlers. They’ll compete in their first bout in October, 2008. If you’re smart, you’ll get tickets now, before it’s impossible to do so. Heck, the place only holds 1,700 spectators and it sells out quicker and quicker everytime.

the automatic music explosion

Max - Drummer from The Automatic Music ExplosionThis face demonstrates the excitement and carefree spirit of the automatic music explosion. I was working the guest list at last night’s Derby Doll bout so I met the drummer, Max earlier in the night. He and his wife were so kind and patient. Eventually, I suited him and his entire band/guest list with purple arm bands so they could use the “staff” bathroom behind the stage.

These guys travel in a pack and even have their own dancers who danced in the front of the group and later passed out buttons, stickers and tiny fliers listing upcoming gigs. Their flier also says: “We want to play at your high school.” I would highly recommend that you hire this band if you need someone for a high school event. They are high energy and seem to pull on the best aspects of rock and roll from the 70’s to current.

I think this is a band parents and kids alike can enjoy. In fact, I just realized, they have a Ramones feel. Look at how many parents and kids love The Ramones equally today. But there is something about seeing bands like this when they are young, fresh and full of vinegar that is unparalleled. I saw The Ramones in the 80’s and 90’s which is quite different from what you’d see if they were all alive and together today.

the automatic music explosion at the Doll Factory in Los AngelesGreat as they are, these pictures can’t even begin to convey the excitement this musical group extracted from the crowd. The audience for this band was by far the largest, most energetic and enthusiastic I’ve ever seen at an LA Derby Doll bout. The group commanded attention and the intesity eminating from the stage captivated the audience. The singer, Jodie thrusted large, poster-sized signs above her head and engaged the crowd in activities such as bobbing ballons to each other overhead and screaming the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the words, “fight, fight, fight” at the top of our lungs.

The show ended with the singer smashing her tamborine on the concrete floor. Anita Kill leaned over and yelled in my ear, “at least its cheaper than destroying a guitar.” “Yeah”, I screamed back. I was dancing the entire time. Laura Palm-her, who is evidently a friend of the band (and who I owe a kiss and a hug for hooking them up) was dancing on her skates with the singer. Several other Tough Cookies joined in the festivities.

Here’s a video of The Automatic Music Explosion at the Kiss or Kill show at Safari Sam’s in Hollywood.

Here are some of their song titles:
Law of Attraction
Roller Derby
A Girl Like U