Suzi Quatro Coming to Austin

As keynote speaker for October’s female-focused MEOW Con

Suzi Quatro, left, with her sisters Arlene, Nancy, and Patti in the Sixties Detroit all-girl band the Pleasure Seekers
Suzi Quatro, left, with her sisters Arlene, Nancy, and Patti in the Sixties Detroit all-girl band the Pleasure Seekers

Our favorite rockrgrl local or otherwise, Carla DeSantis Black, returns with another conference for female musicians up her velvety sleeve. The first annual MEOW Con takes place Oct. 24-26 at the Renaissance Hotel, with keynote speaker SUZI QUATRO. I hoped that would get your attention.

Black’s no newbie in the conference world. In 2000, she spun her groundbreaking Rockrgrl magazine into the first Rockrgrl conference in Seattle, with Courtney Love as keynote speaker. Rockrgrl was the first publication dedicated to women in the music business. No makeup tips or fashion departments. No quizzes on orgasms or advice on Brazilians versus shaving. Just good, hard, straightforward music journalism that made sense to the sex that still earns .77 cents to a male dollar.

After relocating to Austin several years ago, Black organized Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women and began fueling the local feminist fires by putting Austin’s women musicians together onstage to discuss the business of being female in the music industry. I participated in one such seminar at Momo’s called “Do Music and Motherhood Mix,” with Elizabeth McQueen, Shelley King, and Sara Hickman, that entertained me as much as the audience, but I knew Black wanted to create another Rockrgrl-like conference here in Austin. She’s that kind of tough and tenacious.

This year’s panels and workshops focus on three tracts nicknamed ICE – Impact, Career, Equality, which pretty much says it all. MEOW Con is currently accepting proposals for panel and workshop ideas through April 15. May 1 is the deadline to apply to play at the conference, with applications through Sonic Bids, Paypal, or the Meow site.

I applaud the choice of Suzi Quatro as keynote speaker and winner of the Women of Valor award. Without ever hearing a note of her music, I bought my first Suzi Quatro record at age 20 at Austin’s Inner Sanctum because I’d read about her and thought she looked and sounded tough – a punk before it was named such. “48 Crash,” with its thundering bass and her fearless guitar, made me a fan.

Turns out Suzi Quatro hailed from a Detroit family of girl musicians, including sister Patti Quatro, who played in the all-girl Sixties act The Pleasure Seekers and later with Cradle and Fanny. Suzi parlayed her career all over the place, even doing a stint on Happy Days in the Seventies before moving to England and selling 50 million records. No Suzi Quatro, no Joan Jett. No Suzi Quatro, no Chrissie Hynde. Well, that’s not true; Chrissie Hynde would’ve gotten there too, but you get the idea. And I craved Suzi’s hairstyle more than any other rocker until Debbie Harry came along.

If I have a critique, it’s that the lovely Renaissance Hotel doesn’t seem like the most accessible location for a conference that speaks to so many parts of Austin and can have so many socioeconomic implications for those who attend. One of the obvious benefits to South by Southwest remains the immediate access of walking out of a panel and downstairs to the day stage or around the block to a day party or showcase.

On the other hand, no one’s required to use the SXSW model to run a successful conference, particularly one as specialized as this. In fact. I think a panel on Pussy Riot is most appropriate for MEOW Con.

“Sharpen your claws and let the revolution begin,” Black pithily posts.

Nuff said.

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Carla DiSantis Black, MEOW Con, Suzi Quatro, Rockrgrl, Courtney Love, Elizabeth McQueen, Shelley King, Sara Hickman, Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, SXSW

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