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`Imagine ponies thrashing'

OK, L.A.'s Mika Miko is not a riot grrrl band. It's a new generation, after all. But it's still punk: Fast, loud, short and not especially sweet.

September 24, 2006|Susan Carpenter | Times Staff Writer

IT was a typical Friday night at Spaceland -- dimly lighted and heavily populated with the usual assortment of legginged, miniskirted women and men shaking the asymmetrical haircuts from their eyes.

It was amid this backdrop that the all-girl L.A. five-piece Mika Miko took the stage. Its debut full-length, "C.Y.S.L.A.B.F.," had been released just three days earlier, and the young band -- half of whom have yet to reach drinking age -- were all jokes and smiles. But it was just a few minutes after they began unleashing their fast and fun, riot grrrl-esque yell-singing on the crowd that it happened.

"Hurry up," a woman shouted, clearly impatient for headlining San Francisco vets the Avengers. "Get off!"

Singer Jenna Thornhill didn't skip a beat. She told the heckler in exactly two words what she could do with herself.

It was, to be sure, an authentically punk scene, but it was also a scene that never would have happened if Mika Miko's members were the riot grrrls many believe them to be. A dozen years ago, the feminist indie punk movement was predicated on women supporting one another as they picked up guitars to combat the male-dominant music scene.

But Mika Miko's members are not feminists, despite being signed to Kill Rock Stars -- the Olympia, Wash.-based record label that was ground zero for the early '90s girls and guitars movement. Nor are they riot grrrls, despite their sound. Most of Mika Miko's members were in elementary school when Kathleen Hanna and her clan rose to fame; one member of the band still hasn't heard Hanna's legendary group, Bikini Kill.

"People who were involved with the original riot grrrl movement, their intentions were to show that women could be in a musical environment," said Thornhill. "I can't even speak for them, because I wasn't there. I was in Northridge and there was an earthquake, and that's all I know at that time, but the whole point is that we don't all have to be in one genre of music just because we're girls playing music."

Mika Miko prefers the term "pony thrash," though what that means is unclear.

"It's a cult," Thornhill offered recently on the road somewhere in Alabama.

"Just imagine ponies thrashing, and that's what we imagine," said drummer Kate Hall, 19.

It sort of makes sense. During their Spaceland gig, Thornhill, 20, and fellow singer Jennifer Clavin, 22, traded unintelligible lyrics, bouncing across the stage and whipping their heads around as Hall, dressed in a '50s-style house dress, whaled on her drum kit.

Bass player Jessica Clavin, 20, and guitarist Michelle Suarez, 21, held it all together, but they were difficult to see, blocked, as they were, by their pony thrashing bandmates.

Throughout the band's understandably short set -- their songs average about 90 seconds -- Clavin and Thornhill took turns singing into a corded red telephone handset that had been rigged with a microphone. On their present tour, they've given a second microphone a version of the same treatment, wiring it into a hair dryer.

So they're not feminists, but they are, with all due respect, a bit girly.

And young. Four out of the five still live with their parents. They're the same four who first formed the group in 2002, when they were students at Granada Hills High School. Hall joined the group in 2005 after the elder Clavin sent her a text message, asking, "Hey, girl, wanna drum for us?"

The group is driving around the country in Mrs. Clavin's 1993 Nissan Quest minivan, touring in support of "C.Y.S.L.A.B.F." Next month, it'll join the Gossip and Erase Errata for another four weeks on the road.

Hecklers beware.

When Mika Miko were heading into the final number of its Spaceland show, Thornhill announced it as the last song. The group pony thrashed for 90 more seconds before Thornhill changed her mind.

"We're going to play one more," she said, "for that person."

*

susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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