(Editor's Note: The logical stepsister to the all-women Lilith Tour, the Suffragette
Sessions was a 12-date, women-centric outing that kicked off with an Aug. 19 date in
Portland, Maine. The tour wound its way through the Northeast and Midwest until early
September. One of the featured performers on the bill, ex-Breeders bassist Josephine
Wiggs, took notes on the road and chronicled the trials and travails of the outing, which
was organized by the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls' Amy Ray (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and
Emily Saliers (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals). The Suffragette Sessions also featured
female funk-pop act Luscious Jackson's Kate Schellenbach (drums, percussion);
violinist/singer Lisa Germano (keyboards, violin, mandolin, accordion); folk singer Jane
Siberry (keyboard, accordion, guitar, vocals); Gail Anne Dorsey (bass, guitar, drums,
vocals); Lourdes Perez (guitar, percussion, vocals); Jean Smith (slide guitar, vocals) of
Mecca Normal; and Come's Thalia Zedek (guitar, clarinet, vocals). The tour was loosely
based on folk legend Bob Dylan's '70s Rolling Thunder Revue, with each artist sitting in
on each other's sets and songs. In her second report, Wiggs explores the perils and
pleasures of all-night driving, the mysterious disappearance of a tour member, a bit of
fear and loathing in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how not to
introduce the band onstage. The Suffragette tour was slated to end on Thursday at the
Roseland Ballroom in New York.)
We arrive in Burlington, Vt., at 4 a.m., having driven there after the Portland, Ore., show.
The theory behind this is that you get the whole day in the next town (instead of spending
it driving on the bus). The reality, pour moi at least, is that you crawl into your hotel
room just as the dawn is on the horizon, and sleep fitfully until check-out time, which is
also generally time for soundcheck.
So much for the day.
I can only think that the several members of our party who are seen in the hotel lobby
each morning returning from the gym belong to that category of people who thrive on
about five hours of sleep. I myself need the old eight between the sheets if I am to
function at all.
Having left the hotel for soundcheck, someone noticed that Thalia [Zedek] was not on the
bus. This seemed a "Twilight Zone"-like disappearance, since she had been smoking a
cigarette right next to the bus just seconds before everyone got on. Being left behind is
something one always fears (especially when there are 10 people and your absence
could be overlooked), but the real danger is usually in the middle of the night at a truck
Someone suggests we institute a "buddy" system, and Kate [Schellenbach] says, "But
what if both of you get off the bus?" At the gig, a "runner" who is being dispatched to buy
rice cakes is also instructed to retrieve Thalia from the hotel.
The show goes well, though the feeling is that the audience in Burlington is always a bit
on the reserved side. Lord knows what they made of Buffalo Daughter (the support act),
who are, as usual, incredibly loud and deliciously inscrutable. Watching them tonight it
occurs to me that SuGar [Yoshinaga] and Yumiko [Ohno] have similar hair coloring to
Amy [Ray] and Emily [Saliers], and henceforth we think of them as the Amy and Emily of
alternative electronic rock.
It's a long overnight drive to Cleveland (650 miles), and when we get on the bus at
midnight, Dave, our esteemed tour manager, pours himself a little Makers Mark on the
rocks. This seems a pretty good idea, and Thalia and I, Emily, Lourdes [Perez] and Jean
[Smith] all pour out a glass. By the time everyone is ready for a refill, there seems to be a
general and warm feeling that the Makers Mark was a jolly good idea after all. By the
time the bottle is all but empty at about 2:30 a.m., someone quips that we may not feel
that way tomorrow morning.
We have a day off, after a 14-hour drive from Burlington. A contingent of the tour visits the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where Mark (one of our crew) gets thrown out for touching
the Elvis exhibit, which, he remarks sullenly, is "not very rock 'n' roll." While Kate and I
are examining the Queen exhibit, and specifically the excessive height of Roger Taylor's
cymbals, we notice that the Breeders' "Cannonball" is playing on the video wall.
In the evening, Emily organizes a bowling expedition to an ancient bowling alley where
a beer is $1.70. Gail [Dorsey] tries to buy (vintage) bowling shoes (excellent stagewear),
offering the guy $40. He says no, he can't do it, but the girls chide him en masse
until he relents and says, strangely, "OK, you can have 'em for seven bucks."
At the show the following night, the crowd is wildly enthusiastic: there is much cheering
and spontaneous singing while they wait for Buffalo Daughter to take the stage. It seems
that BD are averaging about 10 minutes a song, which means they only play about three
songs in their set.
Cleveland to Detroit
In the back lounge of the bus, Amy, Emily, Kate and I work out the parts to "Cannonball"
and assign Amy and Thalia to sing the choruses and do the "moose call," as Thalia calls
it, at the beginning. (Jane, being from Canada, and therefore presumably knowing about
these things, takes issue with this description, but it sticks.) Lisa [Germano] and Emily will
sing the verses. Jane is to sing "I'm the last splash," and during subsequent shows, she
gives the timing of this line her own special interpretation.
We have a day off in Ann Arbor, and Kate and I share a cab into town with Amy and
Thalia. Amy is going to work out at the gym and we are going to drink coffee. Thalia, who
usually carries nothing but a pack of Camels and a lighter, is carrying a large-ish
shoulder bag. Intrigued, I ask what she's got in it and she says, "Two packets of
cigarettes and my inhaler." We go to the Herb David guitar store, where Lisa is trying out
an electric ukulele. Thalia plugs in a guitar and starts playing [Led Zeppelin's] "Stairway
to Heaven." We rendezvous with Amy at a vintage clothing store, where she buys a shirt
printed with a nut motif.
Jane is the host for the Detroit show, which means that she writes the set list and
introduces everybody onstage. Unfortunately, she introduces Thalia as "Thalia Zedek
from the Breeders." Everybody in the audience cheers loudly. Everybody onstage
hisses: "No! It's COME!" And then she says, "Thalia Zedek from Crumb."
She goes on to introduce Kate as "Kate Schellenbach, from Tennessee" (we don't know
if this is a joke, or if she thinks it is true), and me as "Josephine Web from ... er ..." We
wonder where she has been for the last week.