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emcecil on 07/09/2012 at 03:00PM

Dress Up As Natives: "You Had to Be There"

DressUpAsNatives_frontreducedThey shared bills with contemporaries like the Five, Carsickness and the Cardboards, but unlike those bands, Pittsburgh's Dress Up As Natives sounded every bit a "lost" UK DIY act.  Boasting jumpy rhumba-bass, thorny guitar and flippant vox, it's hard to believe that this all-female quartet's sole 45 (Public Records, '82) originated in America's formative Rust Belt punk scene.

But, hey: It did.  This odd outfit actually began as the Non-Stops, a similarly wavey group with a co-ed roster.  "The Non-Stops were basically the original Natives with someone named Rebecca playing bass," said Gina Cotton Simpson, former keys player for DUAN.  "Rather than kick her out, they all quit on her and restarted the band to form Dress Up As Natives."

That was sometime in '81, and they'd already forged their own sound through shows at the now-legendary Electric Banana, gigs in Market Square, occasional road trips to Ohio and West Virginia -- and through frequent practices at the Krishna House, where Simpson once lived along with members of the Five and Carsickness. 

"It was between Carnegie-Mellon and Pittsburgh University, on the side of a hollow -- Panther Hollow," said Simpson during a recent phone interview.  "It was two floors and three sub-basements.  Any band that toured through Pittsburgh partied there.  I remember spaghetti coming through the drain of the shower."

DressUpAsNatives_backreducedSimpson also remembers original drummer David Crocker flipping through an issue of National Geographic, at which point he christened the band: Dress Up As Natives.  He would exit the fold shortly thereafter, and the Natives would replace him with a drummer known as Lynne.  She would render their roster an all-female affair and play on their 4-track recordings at Sound 7 Studio on October 25, 1981, in suburban Pittsburgh, and would later hand off percussion duties to another drummer, Shelly. 

They released 500 copies of their single through the Public Records Imprint.  As you'll note in the accompanying photo, the Natives hand-colored each -- or most -- copies of the 45.  "It was a fun project, to make the cover," comments Simpson.  "I see photos of some now, and I say, ‘Oh, yeah -- that was about three six packs in."

Sadly, it remains DUAN's only release, though you can hear some of their unearthed recordings at yinzer.net, which also features a fairly exhaustive array of recordings by many of Pittsburgh formative punk bands. Enjoy.

Thanks to Gina Cotton Simpson for her time and patience.  And thanks to Antonio Aguirre for the scan of his copy's sleeve.  You can visit he & his wife Valery's impressive vintage goods blog here.

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