A Weekend to Remember
Who run the world?
Who: Thunderpussy, the Wednesdays
When: 9pm Sat., May 11
Who: Joseph, Haley Johnsen
When: 9pm Fri., May 10
Where: Wild Buffalo, 208 W. Holly St.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
The first time Thunderpussy came to town, it was 2017, and the newish Trump administration and Planned Parenthood were involved in an epic faceoff that gripped the country and portended much of what has become President Trump’s sole policy position of stripping rights and dignity away from America’s most vulnerable people.
But back to 2017.
What was at stake in the showdown: $500 million dollars in federal funding to the nonprofit organization that provides critical health care to largely low-income populations.
After witnessing a Bellingham demonstration in support of Planned Parenthood, Wild Buffalo owner Craig Jewell reached out to Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood and found out that the problems facing the organization were neither just political nor theoretical, that if it were to lose federal funding, women who relied on the Bellingham clinic were likely to lose services.
And so Jewell mobilized, organizing a fundraiser he dubbed “Nasty Women,” and found the perfect band to headline it: Thunderpussy.
At the time, the electrifying rock band from Seattle comprised of Molly Sides, Whitney Petty, Leah Julius, and Ruby Dunphy, wanted the focus to be firmly on their music and not on their politics. Nonetheless, they were quick to sign on to the benefit, and when the band showed up, they let their burn-down-the-house live set do the talking for them. By the time the night was over, they’d helped to raise more than $11,000 for Planned Parenthood, an amount of money that stunned everyone, including Jewell, who has thrown dozens of benefit shows.
Fast-forward a couple of years and the band that wanted to stay out of the political swamp now finds itself neck deep in it.
To me, the name “Thunderpussy,” when coupled with the band’s hard-driving rock and, for lack of a more polite term, badassery, is a tongue-in-cheek term of empowerment, perfectly suited to the women it represents. To the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it is “scandalous.”
Who cares what the USPTO thinks?
Thunderpussy does, and for good reason. In order for the band to legally “own” their name, they must trademark it. So, in 2015, that’s what they attempted to do, only to have the USPTO clutch its collective pearls and deny the application based on the grounds that the name is “scandalous,” which apparently isn’t just a term that describes my behavior during most of my 20s, but is also a legal standard. To bolster their claim, the USPTO used a definition from the Urban Dictionary—and immediately upon reading that, my eyes spontaneously rolled so hard I was unable to finish the story and cannot relate what happened next.
After they were done rolling their eyes, Thunderpussy appealed, and because the wheels of justice turn very slowly, we must fast-forward again, to 2019.
Through a series of events that are surprisingly not very interesting given what the stakes have become, the fate of Thunderpussy now rests with the Supreme Court—and I don’t mean the Washington state Supreme Court. I’m talking about the hallowed hall of RBG and that guy who really loves beer: the United States Supreme Court.
Thunderpussy’s case will not be heard directly by the highest court in the land, rather the outcome of their appeal is tied to the result in another “scandalous” trademark case nearly identical to the band’s, that of Los Angeles clothing brand Fuct (sadly, the case is not called Fuct vs. the United States). Oral arguments were heard before the Supreme Court in April—with lawyers on both sides performing absurd linguistic gymnastics to avoid uttering the scandalous profanity at the heart of the case—and a decision in what has become a closely watched First Amendment issue is expected sometime in June.
As they await their legal fate, Thunderpussy continues to do that which has become every bit as much their trademark as their scandal-causing name: chiefly tour, play their guts out, kick ass and delight fans everywhere they go. That includes Bellingham, where they’ll play a Sat., May 11 show at the Wild Buffalo. The familiar faces of the Wednesdays will be on hand to open the show.
Before Thunderpussy and the Wednesdays show up, however, the Wild Buffalo will also be the site of another night in which all of the performers identify as female, making it the first weekend to boast an all-lady lineup in the history of the venue—which is a thing worth celebrating as well as a pretty stark commentary on the state and composition of the music industry.
There’s no escaping politics, I guess.
But if you’d like to try, going to see sisters Allison, Meegan, and Natalie Closner—otherwise known as Joseph—is as worthy a respite from the real world as any. The band was founded by Natalie, who was thought to be the only musical sister in the Closner family, after she had a musical crisis of faith and asked her twin sisters Meegan and Allison to sing with her. When they got over their initial surprise and agreed to give it a go, the trio found their sibling bond made for lovely, lively harmonizing—and they weren’t alone in that opinion. They’re no strangers to the Wild Buffalo, where they’ll return for a Fri., May 10 performance with Haley Johnsen. Indeed, the only strange thing about this show is that tickets are still available.
The same is true for Thunderpussy’s show, but that won’t be true for long. And this is one weekend you won’t want to miss. After all, it was more than a decade in the making.
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