[PUNK] From 1989 to 1992, Calamity Jane was the premier all-female punk band in Portland—led all the while by guitarist Gilly Ann Hanner and her iconic, drawling voice. Joining in were sister Megan Hanner on bass and the jazzy Lisa Koenig on drums. It was this lineup that supported and (in this writer’s opinion) blew away Fugazi on its 1990 Repeater tour. Four fantastic singles followed, and in 1991 the band recorded a landmark album of Northwest fuzz, Martha Jane Cannary. Though the band would later add Joanna Bolme (Quasi, the Jicks) and Marci Martinez (Team Dresch) to its ranks, the end came in 1992 after an ill-fated support slot with Nirvana. The street fair show this weekend—Gilly Ann Hanner runs Gilly’s Salon on Southeast Clinton Street, prompting her involvement—will be the band’s first in 18 years.
WW: How did this reunion come about?
Gilly Ann Hanner: It was kind of my sister’s doing. Last summer she started playing her bass again and I was like, “We should play.” Now [my sister is] not gonna play the show because she has a job and she lives down in Ashland.
You went on tour with Nirvana?
We played a couple shows with them. One was at the Portland International Raceway. And then the other one was in Argentina. We played a big festival with them. That was our last show.
I heard rumors of drama after that. What went down there?
We got [to Argentina] and everyone was treating us like rock stars. We got in the van to go somewhere and turned on the radio, and we were on the radio. It was really surreal. We played in this gigantic soccer stadium. And, basically, it didn’t go over very well. They were just throwing stuff at us and yelling and we were basically pelted with dirt clods, spit, ice cubes, whatever. Three songs into our set, we left the stage. Courtney [Love] came out and said, “No, no, no go back out there. They love you!” We’re like, “They do not love us, they think we suck!” We went back out and played one more song. It was too much. Dudes were getting up on each other’s shoulders and pulling out their penises and flipping us off. Yelling. We weren’t prepared. It sort of broke us. We were having a hard tour. And our van was breaking down a lot. People weren’t getting along that well, and then that happened. Everybody pretty much wanted to go home. And that was it. It was kind of like we all had nervous breakdowns. We were gonna be rock stars and we got booed off the stage. That sucks!
Any plans to continue Calamity Jane after the street fair?
I don’t know, but it sure has been really fun playing with those guys. They’re such good musicians and good friends. Love them. I’m really enjoying it so far.
So there’s a lot to be said about being able to approach this kind of music as a grownup, and with hindsight?
It’s different. The hardest thing to me is singing. Getting up the energy to produce that sound out of my body has been challenging. Wow, I was really mad! I was an angry young woman. I had a lot of energy. And it’s really all right there in those songs.
SEE IT: Calamity Jane plays the rock stage at the Division/Clinton Street Fair (Southeast 25th Avenue and Clinton Street) at 7:30 pm Saturday, July 24. Free. All ages.