In the heady days of the ’90s, the NW was the source of a wellspring of female musical talent. Groups like Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, The Gits, and 7 Year Bitch took the traditional forms of rock and punk and truly made them their own.
This sort of spirit has never left the NW, and in the last few years has seen a reemergence in pure rock form. One group that is leading the charge is an ever-evolving collective known as The Happening.
Led by cultural polymath Em Brownlowe, The Happening is fueled by the influence of the aforementioned groups, as well as the rich history of girl-led rock and pop groups from around the world.
To that end, the sound of The Happening has transitioned greatly since Brownlowe started using the name in 2001. At the time, the project was a brash one-woman electro-punk explosion. A decade plus later, The Happening now brings in elements of garage pop, vintage grunge, and a ’90s pop-punk swagger into a bracing whole.
True to the nature of the band, the lineup has changed along with its musical exploration. For the group’s debut release, the 2011 cassette-only Piranha (released on local imprint Cassingle and Loving It), Brownlowe was joined by the cracking rhythm section of bassist Shannon Wade and drummer Adrianne Sharrock.
These days Brownlowe is collaborating with drummer Brookes Regenhardt and Allyn Gilbert-Mcnamara. The three have elevated the sound to more expansive heights with Regenhardt providing urgent backup vocals and added rhythmic swing.
In fall of 2012, the band entered John Wagner’s Supergiant Studios in the wooded outskirts of Portland. There they recorded part one of a full length album, due on Cassingle and Loving It Records in 2013.
It’s all happening right now and The Happening doesn’t want you to miss out on a minute of the action.
“90s-vintage indie rock with flecks of folk, grunge, riot grrrl, and plenty of old-fashioned guitar crunch for good measure.” – Portland Mercury
“What struck me right off the bat with [The Happening] is that glorious feeling I got when I first fell in love with the indie scene in the early ’90s. That point when bands like 7 Year Bitch, Team Dresch, and The Gits were on the scene. It doesn’t feel terribly nostalgic in that way, that’s not what I mean. It feels as URGENT as those bands did during that time. It has the same power and energy and fire.” - Bob Ham
“Hooky brew of flannel, fuzz, and fierceness” - Just Out
“Riot girls, chain-smoking twin sisters, floppy flannel sleeves, lotsa fuzz pedals, lotsa growling, howling, dirty rock screaming.” – Colleen Nielson
“The newest incarnation of The Happening embraces the sound of ’90s indie pop and rock with a light-hearted garage twist. Taking a minimalist approach to songwriting, Brownlowe and current drummer Brookes Regenhardt manage to create a full sound through layered vocal harmonies, dynamic guitar layouts, and smartly arranged drums. Think early Liz Phair and post-Blake Babies Juliana Hatfield. Think fellow Portland bands Heatmiser, Hazel, and Quasi. Or think current girl icons like Cat Power, Agent Ribbons, and PJ Harvey. The Happening is no mere throwback band, however. There’s an urgency and intensity that pours out of Brownlowe’s scratchy guitar chords, and the harmonies that she and Regenhardt weave through every song are scintillating and timeless.” – Bob Ham