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Southern Girls Rock

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"This really is the future of rock and roll in Memphis," said Kelley Anderson (aka Kelly Darlin) of Murfreesboro, following the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp showcase on Saturday night. Standing in the lobby of Hutchison’s Weiner Theatre, watching as a swarm of pint-sized superstars interact with their first adoring audience "Somebody really should should track the progress of some of these girls over the next few years."

Anderson, of the harmonizing honky-tonk band Those Darlins founded the SGRRC in 2002 while she was still attending MTSU. And she's probably not exaggerating. On Saturday night at Hutchison, she introduced 14 new bands, each exactly five days old and comprised of girls between the ages of 10 and 18. It was an epic first gig in front of an enthusiastic crowd of moms, dads, friends, and curiosity seekers. The sounds roaring off the stage weren't always pretty, but that's just rock and roll.

On the previous Monday, following an amped up mid-day performance by Six Gun Lullaby, a Simpsons and Sleater Kinney-inspired punk band from Middle Tennessee, a handful of young women attending the Memphis edition of this summer's SGRC settled into a more traditional classroom environment to learn the history of women who rock.

"If you really want to impress your parents or your grandparents, start talking about the Shangri-La's," said "Herstory" instructor Alice Buchanan who sings and plays guitar for Memphis' ecclectic popsters Scandaliz Vandalistz. Buchanan's lesson plan for Monday was a crash course in '60s girl groups that began with a Shirelles video, grooved over to Martha Reeves, explored The Ronettes and Phil Specter's "wall of sound," and ended with a classroom full of girls who'd only met that morning singing all the harmony parts to the Shangri-La's "Walking in the Sand."

"On Friday we're going to write a blues song," Buchanan said. Later that afternoon, the girls from Herstory class joined up with other would-be rockers who'd spent their afternoon learning about photography, recording, self-publishing, songwriting, and everything it takes to be a superstar. That's when the 14 brand=new bands were formed, and 60-plus girls sat down to talk about "their sound" for the first time.

Saturday's showcase was the culmination of a week's worth of classes, practice, and taking in performances by girl-centric acts ranging from Memphis' The Ultracats to Austin’s Rockabilly filly, Rosie Flores. The musical styles represented ranged from Disney tunes to brooding British blues, with some Joan Jett and a handful of surprising originals shuffled into the mix. Throughout the evening drumsticks twirled, picks flew out into the audience. The Vegas Rundown’s show-losing number, a cover of Mayday Parade's "If You Wanted a Song" had the whole theater on its feet. But two members of the band Applecore best summed up the mood of the evening following their winningly disastrous cover of Helmet's "Unsung." "Thank you for being the best audience we've ever had," one guitar player said, waving to the crowd. "And the worst audience we've ever had too," another guitar player snarled into the mike. The night's festivities ended with all girls on stage for an energetic runthrough of "Let's Have a Party". Here's a clip The Vegas Rundown performing "If You Wanted a Song ..."

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