Roller Ladies Rock St. Paul

By Colleen Good

When I went to the roller derby bout last Saturday, I’ll admit I went with certain expectations. I expected to see a lot of hipsters. I expected it to be crowded. I expected bad-ass girls in roller skates. I expected some rough housing. I expected to generally have a good time. The Minnesota Roller Girls definitely delivered.The bout started at around 7:30 p.m., so two of my friends and I headed over to the O’Gara’s parking lot for the 6:15 p.m. “Shamrock Shuttle.” The shuttle itself is an experience to be had. The Shamrock Shuttle is essentially a repainted school bus. They fill it with people until it is completely full. Our tiny seat had five people on it (three of whom were sitting on top of each other). And while the bus had its share of hipsters, you really can’t generalize when it comes to roller derby fans-we had parents and children, teenagers, sport fans, forty year olds going out with friends, and college kids of all kinds.

After a bouncy but uneventful ride, we pulled up to the side of the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. We walked inside past the already jam-packed ticket line to the venue. (We had already purchased tickets-definitely recommended if you want to make sure you have a seat.)

We passed the lobby, filled with Roller Girl memorabilia and a “black eye booth,” where you can get a “makeup shiner” or even get a team combo, including makeup, face paint, glitter, and temporary tattoos, and all of the proceeds go to a local charity. Instead of heading in the doors, we made our way up the stairs-we didn’t have the super-close, 18+, right-down-in-the-middle-of-the-action trackside seats, and needed to grab our general admission seats before the good ones were taken. Then we settled in for the bout.

Before the bout, there’s a pre-show performance, and this time we got to see some dances by Universal Dance Destiny. As soon as the performance ended, we got a crash course in roller derby rules from the Roller Girls with “Derby 101.” The MN Roller Girls (rightly) assume that not everyone in the auditorium has seen a roller derby match before. So they do one in slow-motion to get you started. Luckily, the different derby positions come with markers on their helmets, so even if you’re a first-timer you can follow the action (see the side box if you want the game play down-low).

Finally, after the tutorial, the first period of the bout start. In this bout, the Garda Belts were facing off against the Rockits, and the Dagger Dolls played against the Atomic Bombshells. As a non-sports person who didn’t even know the Super Bowl was happening until two days before, let me say that anyone can enjoy a roller derby bout. It’s action packed: girls knocking each other to the ground, whirling around the ellipse-shaped track like lightening, hip-bumping and pulling each other ahead of the other team.

The entire time the bout is going on, fast-paced, loud music is playing and lights are flashing, adding to the party atmosphere. Everyone is cheering and wincing for their chosen teams, eating food, chatting, knocking back a few drinks, and generally having an awesome time.

The game kept its fun-filled atmosphere at half-time, when everyone in attendance is invited to the main floor for a concert, this time by the band The Idle Hands.

Then the game starts again, as the first set of teams begin their second period.

This particular bout was the second-to-last before the championship bout April 3, so the stakes were high. The bout sold out, with over 4,700 people in attendance, and 300 turned away at the ticket counter. I would highly recommend buying tickets in advance at one of their many ticket outlets (plus, it’s two dollars cheaper than buying on game day).

The Rockets,in tight red and black, beat the Garda Belts, clad in green and black checkerboard skits, 118:43, while the Atomic Bombshells, in orange and black, ended up beating the Dagger Dolls, in pink and black, 63:38.

The next game is March 6. Don’t miss it.