By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
I freaking love this band, and there's not much more to say. Thank God for whatever it was that got Beth Ditto, Nathan Howdeshell and Kathy Mendonca out of Searcy, Arkansas. House shows with The Gossip are among the finer things in Olympia life, along with Oly stubbies and the amazing summers.
It's been three summers since Ditto, Howdeshell and Mendonca moved out of Mendonca's Evergreen dorm room and into the house on Percival Street that had formerly been inhabited by carnies. Soon after, they started practicing in the basement and playing at parties, and The Gossip was born. Two summers ago, Sleater-Kinney took the band on tour, and some weird fluke put their picture in Time magazine. In the winters between and the summer that followed, Howdeshell moved to Canada, then Portland, unsuccessfully tried to change his name to "Brace Pain," the band broke up a half-dozen times, grew exceedingly popular and the weather really sucked. This winter, the members formally decided to become a punk rock band again. They started practicing and playing shows in Ditto's living room, and Howdeshell moved back to Olympia.
I hope this summer will be equally amazing. The newly released Arkansas Heat is better than anything else the band has recorded, and live, the band is more together than it's ever been. They've practiced enough to sound like they might know what they're doing, but not so much as to ruin it all. Ditto has evolved into a punk-rock version of the Southern lady memoirist, and a fine one at that. She sings about Arkansas, sex, her mama and the revolution, and it's neither contrived nor repetitive.
In early May, the night before The Gossip left for tour, about 100 people crowded into Ditto's house for a going-away show. The cops came, and the show went on. The cops came again as the show was about to end, and the band played "(Take Back) The Revolution," Ditto dedicating it to her mother, back in Arkansas, who had just lost her health insurance. The house was wild at that point, and it would have been awesome if the cops had come in to see it. In the two years since I had left Dallas for Olympia, it had never felt more like home.