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The day I met Teresa Suarez, a.k.a. Le Butcherettes singer Teri Gender Bender, I was a bit nervous. I love Le Butcherettes' spirited music and admire her thoughtful comments on the state of Latin rock, gender politics and ethnic identity in Mexico. But I only knew her as a superb, aggressive performer, and wondered what she'd be like off stage and in person.
When Teri Gender Bender came to perform a Tiny Desk Concert, I was happy to discover a curious and engaging young woman whose dedication to her art is instantly apparent. It's amazing to see her transform from a soft-spoken and insightful person into a rock 'n' roll beast on a dime. As she howls and bangs on her guitar and stares directly into the eyes of individual crowd members — and the cameras — she quickly establishes herself as one of the most haunting and spectacular performers I've seen behind the Tiny Desk.
Although Teri only recently started listening to PJ Harvey, she's often compared to the iconic songwriter, and it's easy to see why. Le Butcherettes' seething rocker "I'm Getting Sick of You" reminds me a lot of PJ Harvey's "50 Ft. Queenie." Both are sung in a powerful, almost masculine voice; both are sexually frank and never passive.
After her performance, Teri and I talked about a bit of everything, including the fact that she's been working on some Spanish-language songs for her next album, which I'm beyond excited to hear. As I've often mentioned on Alt.Latino, Latin rock desperately needs an injection of creativity and spirit, as heard from bands like Venezuela's La Vida Boheme and Puerto Rico's Davila 666. But anyone who tunes in to mainstream Latin media will find themselves bombarded with images and concepts of Latin women that are sexist, plastic and constricting. Women have been chipping away at this since long before Teri and I were born, whether it's activists like Dolores Huerta or entertainers like Paquita La Del Barrio and Julieta Venegas. But it's still exciting to see and hear a young woman this creative, independent and confrontational. It helps that, beyond the politics, she makes killer music.
Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Cristina Fletes/NPR