In the 25 years since she last recorded music and fronted a band, Cindy Lawson would firmly shake her head anytime a friend or peer encouraged her to start singing and writing songs again.
"I truly thought I was never going back," she said. "That person you saw up on stage then seemed like a totally different person to me."
Turns out, that person — the frontwoman for the pop-punky '80s/'90s Twin Cities bands the Clams and Whoops Kitty — was still there. It took the calamity of the past few years to draw it out of her, along with the calm of growing older.
Or as she so eloquently put it, "I have zero [expletives] to give at my age."
What was supposed to be Lawson's 60th birthday bash at the Minneapolis Eagles Club on Saturday has turned into a showcase for her new EP — coyly titled "New Tricks" — and her new band, which has already played several well-received gigs.
Saturday's show is also doubling as a benefit concert for Afghan women and refugee services via the International Institute of Minnesota. Plus it will feature a reunion of Lawson with other women who were pioneers in the local punk/indie-rock scene in the 1980s and '90s.
She's teaming with members of Zuzu's Petals, the Blue Up?, Morticia, Smut and other Clams as a new all-star all-female ensemble dubbed Les Detachables. The name is a play on Wanda Sykes' comedy bit about "detachable vaginas," but Lawson said it more seriously refers to "all the ways women have been removed from the table in arts, politics, everything."
"Women over the age of 40 or 50 are seen as invisible in so many ways," she said, "but the truth is I feel more powerful, more bulletproof than I ever have.
"Menopause is like my superpower. I'm ready to dress up in fishnets and go-go boots and go have some fun playing rock music again."
You can hear that spirit of fun and self-confidence on "New Tricks." The choppy opening song "You've Got Quality" playfully mocks Trump- and Kardashian-era wealth and vanity. The Ronettes-flavored "Dream Baby" has a sweetly classic vibe that landed it on Los Angeles radio legend Rodney Bingenheimer's Sirius XM show last weekend.
There are serious undertones to the music, too. The sonic bruiser "I'm Loaded" channels the anger that permeated Minneapolis last year after George Floyd's murder. And in the Pretenders-y teeth gnasher "I'm Not the Only One," Lawson lashes back at the sexism and abuse she endured from men in the music industry decades ago.
"You took her by the hand," she sings. "Well she'd be so pretty if she smiled / Nothing left to do but defile."
Like the Go-Go's in the same era, the Stones- and Bowie-inspired Clams endured ample harassment and undue criticism as an all-female band in the mid-'80s Twin Cities scene. Things got even worse for Lawson after the Clams disbanded and she moved to New York to pursue a recording career there.
In the early stages of the MeToo movement, Lawson wrote a bravely trailblazing Facebook post about damage she suffered decades ago. It was her way of supporting younger women in the business now. Her words were so well received that in a roundabout way it endeared her to the music scene again.
"For as many women that have become successful in the entertainment industry, I guarantee you there are just as many women who left because they decided it's just not worth it," she said.
"Being older now, where culture doesn't pay attention to me the way it fetishizes younger women, I'm just so glad to be past that now. But I still want to confront it."
After quitting music, Lawson settled into family life (ex-husband Steve McClellan was First Ave's longtime manager), raised three kids and took an administrative job at the University of Minnesota. She and current husband Chuck Avery are now empty nesters, another reason she said she was ready to rock again.
"We have the time and energy to go out and see bands all the time now, and it's like we're enjoying a second adolescence," she said, showing a level of enthusiasm for rock 'n' roll that musicians a third her age should emulate.
"After the pandemic and Trump and all the chaos we've been through, everything seems so fragile and uncertain now. It reminded us we need to live our lives to the fullest, and to me, playing music again is doing exactly that."
Benefit for Afghan Women & Families
With: Cindy Lawson, Mighty Mofos, Hypstrz, Kinda Kinky, Les Detachables.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sat.
Where: Eagles Club #34, 2507 E. 25th St., Mpls.
Tickets: $25, eventbrite.com.