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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

LadyFest 2017

I get very anxious about festivals, so I miss LadyFest every year. This year, I was determined to go, just like every other year. I did actually go, though I only saw one of the shows, the very long Saturday show. I am very glad that I finally went.



I got to LadyFest a little late; the first act, Samm Bones, had already started. She is currently located in New Orleans but formerly from Pittsburgh. When I got in, she was playing a keyboard, later switching to banjo. Bones' set reminded me of seeing a pre-stardom version of Madonna or Lady Gaga, though it was much rougher and less poppy, perhaps more like Amy Winehouse. I thought it was a really cool set; I often dislike singer-songwriter-y things, but this was super strong.


We had to go down to the basement to see the next band, Working Breed. This alternation stayed true for the rest of the night. Usually an "art-rock quartet", according to their website, this was a stripped down, acoustic version of the band. I had never seen them before. The songs were a little too poppy for me, sort of Serge Gainsbourg at times (the first song was in French), but there were some cool instruments - the frontwoman played a trombone and a saw! I also loved her deadpan banter and the amazing lyrics, "if you love somebody yr... fucked". I'm interested in seeing the full band.


The Telephone Line was playing back up on the first floor. They were sort of like a more subdued Janis Joplin. Like Janis Joplin, the Telephone Line is rooted in funk and blues with some nice bass parts and keyboards. I wished the guitar was louder and more fuzzed out. I liked the songs "Queen of the City", "Back Off" (about harassment on public transport), and "Caving In" (which had a sort of easy-listening sound).


Other Girls was the weirdest act on the bill. Other Girls is Hannah Thompson in a body suit, morphing to some ambient drones. It was very cool and under time, which makes me feel better about huge shows that always give me a lot of stress/anxiety rushing back and forth. I had seen Other Girls before at a very tempestuous show I booked a few years ago. I got a clearer picture of the project here, the morphing folds as a statement on societal expectations of the body.


The fifth band was Garter Shake, a pop/garage band that sounds like something on Bufu Records. They were sort of like Bleached or a less psychedelic La Sera. Again, I feel like there were some level issues - the keyboard was cool, but the fuzzy guitar should have been louder. Since all the bands upstairs were using the same amps, it seems like this was a result of the quick setups between the bands. The last song they played was "Crimson Wave" by Tacocat. It was a cool set.


We went back down to the basement to see Iris Creamer. She is a rapper and producer from Providence, Rhode Island. I liked her stage presence; it was strong but loose and carefree, like a character in The Warriors. The dub breaks and somewhat minimal, non-dense production appealed to me; it was kinda post-punky. I wish that she had been turned up a bit by people running the sound. Iris Creamer is great!



Brazilian Wax was next, with a returning Mae on drums. Wow, this was an awesome set! I always miss their shows, though I have seen them before, and this was a good argument to not miss anymore. Athena is a powerful vocalist and the entire crowd went along with what the band was doing. Mae played bass for a second, and everybody cheered. Everything was fast and loud and strong.



Blak Rapp Madusa continued the powerful sets. She came in like a sledgehammer or a wrecking ball but for real (sorry Miley). I was stunned the whole time! Just like Brazilian Wax, she really lead the crowd with her powerful lyrics. The audience was so loud after each song, it hurt my ears! On some songs, Madusa was accompanied by a friend with more soulful vox, and they were amazing too - it was a great contrast. The last song she played was dedicated to another person who had recently passed away, and I was really touched, despite having never met that person. Madusa is an acronym meaning Making A Difference Using Skills and Activism, and she has a movie coming out soon that you should all check out.


The ninth band was Murder for Girls back upstairs. I saw Murder for Girls some time ago, opening for Shonen Knife, also at Cattivo. Their sound is like a darker 90s indie band, almost grunge. This was better than when I saw them with Shonen Knife. The guitars sounded warm and full with a Ramones buzzsaw attack and the bass has a post-punk tone. The vocal harmonies kinda wear me down over time though.


The Lopez played a great set as always, but this was one of the stronger ones in a while. As always, they were very energetic, dancey, and full of Ramones tones. There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said.


I went home to take a break for a second, missing the band Blue Clutch. I hope to catch them at a later date. When I came back, Swampwalk was already playing. I haven't seen Swampwalk for a while, but I always enjoy her sets a lot. She uses a Game Boy for electro chiptunes. This was so giggly and fun and honest, though don't mistake that for weakness - "my body is not yr commodity". I wonder if it was more intimate since there were not a ton of people left. It was getting late and the show had probably worn people down; I was exhausted. Despite this, I felt rejuvenated a bit from her joyfulness.




We took the Sound Elevator upstairs for the end of the night. That's a bad joke, but that is the last band's name. Sound Elevator almost played my Ramones tribute show last year, though they had to back out. They would have been a really good fit, and this was a good set. There were some colorful lights floating around to the post-punk/goth sounds of the band; I was so tired that I actually fell asleep, lulled into dreamlands. What I did hear was excellent; I really enjoyed the vocals and basslines especially. I hope to catch them again when I am not so tired.

I left LadyFest, ate some food, and fell asleep. As mentioned above, I was exhausted, since I was there for like the whole day. Festivals take a lot out of me; it's a lot to process. Regardless, it was a fun time, and I am glad that I went and got to see many new (to me) bands. There were two more shows the next day, but I skipped out on those. There were also two shows the day before. Clearly the people behind LadyFest put a lot of work into it. Despite there being some sound issues, in terms of levels, the Saturday show was excellent, showcased many female-fronted bands, and raised a lot of money for women's charities. Assuming I don't feel super anxious in 2018, I plan to go to one or more of the shows, and you should too.

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