Andrea Jablonski, the doom-metal bassist 

'My first show, I totally sucked the biggest I-don't-know-what and was terrified out of my mind'

Jablonski, 40, is the bassist and front woman for Rabid Rabbit, a bartender at the Hideout, a commercial painter, and a visual artist.

I was born in Warsaw, but I grew up in a smaller town on the Ukrainian border in southeast Poland called Przemysl. My parents had come here before me, so I was raised by my grandparents. My parents were part of the large immigration to Chicago in the 70s when there was a lot of work here—and it was, you know, the 70s. To come from communist Europe to freedom and love was so amazing—and I'm never going to let my mom read this article—that they were like, "Whoa! We're in our early 20s! We're gonna do drugs, party, and work." And then they were like, "Wait a minute, I think we have a kid somewhere. Aw, shit."

They were very good parents. They just wanted to set up their life before I joined them. They were like, "OK, we want her to go to school here." I came here basically to go to first grade.

I started playing bass in 1998. I ended up working and living with Giorgio [Cappellaro], the bass player for a band called the Drapes. I met Kevin [McDonough] and at that time their drummer, Tim [Krause]. Kevin was the lead singer. His brother Danny played in the Blacks.

It was this small little community. I was already, like, 27, I think. I'd picked up the bass to play in general, and three months later Giorgio decided that he was going to move back to Italy, and in the meantime I had married him so he could stay here in America. He decided he wanted to go back—and I didn't blame him. He's just like, "Here, here is my bass. You can have it, you can play." And I'm like, "OK."

So Kevin's like, dude, we have a show in a couple of weeks, you better learn these songs or else. I was completely terrified. My first show was at Lounge Ax, which is pretty awesome, and I totally sucked the biggest I-don't-know-what and was terrified out of my mind.

Kevin and I played together. First we were a couple and then we actually broke up, which was awesome because we're still good friends. We were in a band together until 2004, and then the Camaro Rouge sort of happened.

The Drapes broke up, and the Dishes broke up, and Sarah [Staskauskas of the Dishes] and I had been talking about playing in a band together for a long time. We met working at the Hideout, and that was just like the funnest fun ever had by two women, I think.

Poor Arman [Mabry], he used to sit behind that! My favorite line by Arman is, "Do these girls make me look fat?" He yelled that onstage once, from behind his drums, and I thought it was really a summary of how goofy that band was. It was just silly, girly punk rock, which I think everybody needed after being in long-term projects and touring constantly.

I got married on Halloween 2004 in Las Vegas. Most of the Empty Bottle employees showed up, then the Hideout people showed up. They were in costumes, so we didn't even know who some of the people were. It was just hilarious. This is why I'm still married to Mike [Tsoulos]. He's got a good sense of humor. I think we get along well. I was the Bride and Mike was Frankenstein.

Rabid Rabbit was pretty much because Mike and I would be at home having a few beers, and we had this fuckin' basement full of gear, so we'd be like, "Screw this, let's jam!" It started as the two of us, and I think we played our first show at Cal's Fest in 2005. Then we didn't play for a while. It went slowly for the first couple of years. Arman came on as second bassist, and Dan Sullivan joined two years ago on guitar.

I never felt discriminated against as a woman, but I think that's my personality. I don't look at myself—and maybe I should—as a woman in a metal scene. But I've sort of started to lately. More and more women come up to me at shows, and it makes me feel like I need to represent.

I can see why the Ladyfests and all the girl festivals are important—and why they're empowering. But I never felt that women should be segregated into their own festivals or their own genre of music or whatever.

For a long time I was commercially painting—like restaurants and residences. And so having music was a creative outlet because after painting walls for eight hours, I didn't necessarily want to come home and work on something three-dimensional or visual. So that's when I really got into being more serious about music, and that being more of my creative outlet than painting.

I have luckily been able to make a living as a commercial painter. Hopefully that will continue. So I do that, and then I subsidize that with my Wednesday nights at the Hideout and an occasional dance party. I love the Chances Dances dance parties.

[I've worked at the Hideout for] ten years. I'm a lifer. I'll be working Wednesdays there when I'm 60. It's one of those venues where you have country, you have bluegrass, you have jazz. You have gay dance parties. You have heavy metal shows. I can't really think of another venue that is so, I don't know, schizophrenic about their music. But it works.

Mike, my husband, worked at the jazz shows at the Empty Bottle for years. And then when it moved to the Hideout, I had already been working Wednesdays, and it was like, Ken Vandermark and Kent Kessler and Dave Rempis, they were all hanging out, and Mike comes in and they're all like, "Hey, we thought we'd never see you again! What are you doing here?" And he's like, "I'm here to pick up my wife from work." And they're all like, "Aw, shit!" It was sort of like it stayed in the family. It was cute. —As told to Philip Montoro

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