Lisa Martin is InStyle's Director of Photography. Follow her on Instagram.
The first time I saw Sonic Youth play was during the band's Goo tour in 1990 at the famous Minneapolis club, First Avenue. I had just graduated art school and my now-husband was handling the sound for Cows, a band that played before Sonic Youth. When Sonic Youth came on stage, they blew the crowd away. And my eyes were fixed on front woman Kim Gordon.
She was not the typical girl singing in a band propping up the boys. She was sexy in a strong, cool, tough-girl way. She had a certain contained energy in her white mini-dress and calf-high boots. Her long blond hair fell in her face, so you couldn’t really see her expression. Her bass guitar was loud. Her voice was rough and difficult to hear clearly, which made you want to concentrate on her even more. I don’t think I noticed the rest of the band that night because I was so tuned in to Kim.
When I read Kim’s new memoir, Girl In A Band ($28; harpercollins.com), the passages about her playing and her developing her own personal style really stood out. “When it was going well, it was almost an ecstatic experience," writes the now 61-year-old, "I wanted deliverance, the loss of myself, the capacity to be inside the music.” It can’t be easy to sing with a loud-noise band. However, Kim had a certain confidence and presence on stage I found inspiring. “It feels bodiless, too, all weightless grace with no effort required," she writes.
I also loved that she never expected to be recognized for her style. “In retrospect, it’s ridiculous that anyone saw me as a fashion icon, since all I was trying to do was dumb-down my middle-class look by messing with my hair," she says. "I was going for a punky look, without really feeling I owned it. Later my look evolved into tomboy mixed with a slightly sexy Francoise Hardy cool. Still, I’ve always believed—still do—that the radical is far more interesting when it looks benign and ordinary on the outside.”
To me, Kim is anything but ordinary. She is the epitome of cool-girl-turned-even-cooler woman who is still playing music and making art. While I’m excited for her next chapter, her memoir got me strolling down memory lane with a few of my favorite Kim Gordon style moments of all time:
1991 at Madison Square Garden
During the Crazy Horse Tour, Kim wore hip-hugging, green-and-white striped star pants with a wide white belt and a fuchsia sweater to play her white kick-ass bass.
1992 in New York City
Here, she wore Andy Warhol factory inspired sunglasses, a star necklace, and a red T-shirt with a black cat.
With Marc Jacobs in 2006
This was during a party for Olympus Fashion Week. Marc's oversize '80s-inspired glasses with her loose black tee were the epitome of cool.
2014 at MOCA
She hit the stage at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles in a star tee, which she paired with a black knee length skirt and wedge booties.