This year, 2017, is the 5th year of Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, a summer camp for 8-to-18-year-old girls who want to learn about and play musick. Every year, they have a showcase for the bands that were formed that year; I have been to most of them. This year's showcase was on August 12th and at the Winchester Thurston Lower School.
I got to the showcase when it was just starting. There were various tables of merch, both band merch, created by the girls who attended the summer camp, and Girls Rock! merchandise. There were shirts, zines, pins, and some CDs from the previous years. When we got in, many people were seated, both people from the music scene and more "normal" families. I was impressed with the size and design of the auditorium; I liked the colors and the shape.
This year, nine bands were formed at the summer camp. These bands included (in performance order): Freak Show, Dark Butterfly, Dangerous Dragons, Copyright, Pac-selated Girls, Picking Petals, The Wicked 5, Total Blackout, and Girls of Rock. All of the bands were interesting, and they had very unique song structures, these coming from, often, young children with little musical training and done in only one week. A lot of the songs were kind of dark, but I also could not make out the lyrics that well. I really liked the sound of Freak Show; I would be surprised if the singer did not continue doing music as she gets older. Their song, "We Are the Freaks", had charm and powerful energy that made me think of Big Brother and the Holding Co. with their R Crumb album cover. Freak Show seemed to have some of the older members, and I was surprised at how young some of the participants were, Girls of Rock seeming very young especially. Two of the bands all fell down after their sets. I wonder if this trend is related to protest die-ins being re-contextualized by young children?
During the performances, the sound was good, though the guitars seemed quiet. In previous years, I have found the sound to be kinda screechy with too much feedback. I'm sure that was partially due to the sound systems used and the spaces that were rented out, such as the church-shaped Union Project. I think it's probably also a little harder to mic young people who might not always be projecting their voices. Anyway, this one was pretty good. The only other minor criticism I have is that the lighting changed oddly at times, sometimes going pretty dark.
As always, the band logos were projected behind the bands. Some of these were very whimsical, such as the Pac-selated Girls logo, with the members drawn as the monsters and heroes of Ms. Pacman. I really liked the Blackout logo, so I bought their pin. The Girls of Rock logo had a strange amorphous quality to it, kind of spooky, which was really cool to me. The Copyright logo reminded me of the performance the Dead Kennedys did where they wore shirts with the letter "S" on them and then brought a necktie from behind their back to make a dollar sign.
I hope Girls Rock! Pittsburgh continues for a long time and is able to teach many young women about empowerment through musick. Some of the participants have attended the summer camp for multiple years, and it is interesting to see how some of them have aged out of it and gone on to do musick and art in "the real world" (read the last three words in a scary voice for maximum effect). If you have a child who might be interested in attending in 2018, or you want to get involved in some way (instrument donation, funding, volunteering), check out the Girls Rock! Pittsburgh website at girlsrockpittsburgh.org. Organizations like these can only exist with support from the community; if nothing else, maybe I will see you at next year's showcase.