Girl Trouble: A "Strictly Sacred" fiercely Tacoma gallery and movie house crusade

By Christian Carvajal on September 8, 2014

"I live in Tacoma, and I'm proud to say it's my hometown!" Quick, can you name the band who sang that? Chances are, the answer is no; and that, my friends, is a crying shame. Would your angsty curiosity be aroused further if we told you that song, "My Hometown," includes the lyric, "Don't get off the bus, 'cause there ain't nothin' for ya here?" No, it ain't Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, it's the Gritty City foursome known (to the unfairly narrow extent they are known, that is) as Girl Trouble.

If that moniker doesn't match the mental real estate you've allotted to such artists as Neko Case or the Sonics, it may be because Girl Trouble resisted the advances of major labels. They've recorded with K Records, PopLllama and Sub Pop but stubbornly avoided dissolution into the mainstream. That's no mere pose. The band's resolutely independent, crafting all their own album covers and promotional materials, even their own zine, since their inception three decades ago. Their sound, a dance-friendly variant of surf punk, evokes beach-blanket bacchanalias while retaining its own insistent pulse. If any local outfit is years overdue for a wave of adoration, this be them. It appears their day of glory has arrived at long last.

Isaac Olsen, the acclaimed Tacoma filmmaker who gave us Quiet Shoes (2010) and Ich Hunger (2013), is related to the quartet by blood. He's also the guy our readers named Best Filmmaker in 2014. His new documentary, Strictly Sacred, delves into Girl Trouble's archive of historical treasures. "Girl Trouble is a vastly creative band," Olsen explains, "who have brought all their artistic talents to the fore in the pursuit of pure entertainment experience. They were early pioneers of DIY. ... The other unique aspect of Girl Trouble is that they were avid chroniclers of their own story. ... It's almost as if Girl Trouble has been generating biographical material for the express purposes of a comprehensive film." Strictly Sacred opens Friday at The Grand Cinema (voted Best Movie House every year) for a week's run.

>>> Colored pencil drawing by Bon Henderson, on display at Fulcrum Gallery Sept. 11-14.

Oh, but that's not all; Olsen and Girl Trouble also collaborated on a gallery exhibition to accompany the film. Continuing a theme, your pick for Best Gallery, Fulcrum, hosts the exhibit, with an opening-night gala Thursday from 6 to 10. It highlights T-shirt art by guitarist "Kahuna" Henderson, paintings by drummer Bon Von Wheelie, a dress worn by octogenarian dancer and Girl Trouble superfan Granny Go-Go, and a massive store of art and arcana from a band that's still happily banging away.

The movie's soundtrack album packs 39 tracks into 79 minutes of booty-shaking mayhem. "My Hometown" made the cut, along with "Neko Loves Rock and Roll" (Ms. Case, a former Girl Trouble go-go dancer, identified the band as one of her three greatest influences), "A Brand New Tacoma" and "Viva Tacoma." So start that attraction! For more deets, check out Girl Trouble's DIY website,

"STRICTLY SACRED: THE ART OF GIRL TROUBLE," Sept. 11-14, opening night reception 6-10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11 ($5), Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520

STRICTLY SACRED, 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12-Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14-Monday Sept. 15; 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17; 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18; The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $5-$9.50, 253.593.4474