Undoubtedly, women face an uphill battle in the entertainment industry. From beauty ideals to rules of conduct, the strict standards that women are expected to meet are undeniably disproportionate to those of their male counterparts.
An obvious discrepancy exists in stage disposition. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, for example, has made quite the name for himself as a destructive performer with virtually no repercussion. However, earlier this week, we learned that a woman demonstrating similar (albeit even more restrained) behavior is just displaying “childish stage drama…” Thanks for the lesson, David Crosby.
No surprise, though, there are a number of fierce femme performers out there who are hell-bent on pushing back. Read on for 10 women who smashed up their guitars and looked notably badass while doing it.
Nancy Wilson (Heart)
Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson has been exuding rock ‘n’ roll vibes since the band’s inception. So, it’s hardly a surprise that she’s made a bold move or two over the course of her tenure. In 2011, she laid into her custom-made Hard Knocks guitar while closing out the band’s run with Def Leppard. The broken instrument later sold for nearly $1,000.
Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics)
Granted, just about everything Wendy O. Williams ever did looked remarkably badass. The Plasmatics vocalist had quite the flair for incredibly entertaining, destructive stage displays. In fact, compared to detonating cars and busting out sledgehammers, guitar smashing was among her more mild moves. To amp up the aggression, the punker occasionally brought out chainsaws to mutilate her instruments.
Ke$ha used her 2010 American Music Awards performance as an opportunity to send a valuable (and totally appropriate) lesson. As the pop star finished out her hit “We R Who We R,” she held up her guitar to reveal the word “hate” scrawled out by red lines on the back. In her signature chaotic fashion, she went on to smash the guitar to pieces in just two swoops.
If there’s any artist we’d expect to smash up a guitar, it’s Courtney Love. Believe it or not, though, she doesn’t often channel that specific energy of her late husband and legendary guitar smasher, Kurt Cobain. The most iconic instance of her putting forth such a display actually occurred before they were even married. Love reportedly demolished her instrument in 1991 while opening for the Smashing Pumpkins. Unfortunately, no video documentation of the incident is readily available.
King Princess was so (rightfully) unashamed of her onstage guitar smashing that she included it at the end of her music video for “Ohio.” In case throwing her instrument down wasn’t brazen enough, she went on to stomp on it multiple times before smashing it through the drumset. Talk about punk-level aggression…
As it turns out, guitar smashing isn’t limited to rock ‘n’ roll queens. Country star Margo Price proved this fact in 2018. During an extended live rendition of “Paper Cowboy,” the singer and multi-instrumentalist threw her guitar repeatedly against the ground before hopping on drums for nearly five minutes.
Emily Armstrong (Dead Sara)
Dead Sara have been dishing out some seriously thrashy post-harcore energy since the early 2000s. Frontwoman Emily Armstrong doesn’t hold back with her aggressive performances, wildly exploring the stage and jumping straight into her crowds. No surprise, guitar smashing is a regular part of their live experiences.
It doesn’t seem like there would be much room for guitar destroying in a synth-pop performance, but leave it to Poppy to prove us wrong. In fact, she did it multiple times during her Am I A Girl? tour. The singer-songwriter closed out “X” with an epic display that involved decimating an acoustic guitar.
Ritzy Bryan (The Joy Formidable)
Don’t let her pleasant demeanor and cute, vintage aesthetic fool you. The Joy Formidable’s Ritzy Bryan is just as capable of demolishing a guitar as she is shredding on it. She really drove this point home in 2010 when she opened their Reading Festival act with the display. Thankfully, there was another on hand for her to play for the rest of the set.
We’d be remiss in not including Phoebe Bridgers after her wild ride this past week. In case you missed it, the indie-rock musician stirred up some serious controversy with her Feb. 6 Saturday Night Live performance. After smashing her electric guitar during the closing track, “I Know The End,” she received a backlash of criticism for the destructive move. Of course, many were quick to point out that the response was disproportionate, presumably due to the fact that she’s a woman. Fortunately, artists as iconic as Dave Grohl were defended the action as totally in line with rock ‘n’ roll.
What are some of your favorite onstage displays of female empowerment? Let us know in the comments below!