Music » QC Inferno

First FemmeFest will highlight female-led acts

Sisterhood sparks new festival

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After the third or fourth time locals The Near Misses learned they would not be the support on an out-of-towners' bill because of a rider in the headliners' contract precluding female-led openers, they decided to do something about it -- particularly because those acts were also females.

Their answer is the inaugural Charlotte FemmeFest: Women in Music, Art & Literature, a one-night, three-venue festival in the Elizabeth area on May 31, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Incorporating more than 20 artists from all over the region including The Moaners, Gigi Dover, Volatile Baby, Danielle Howle, Erika Blatnik and The Near Misses, FemmeFest will also feature visual artists and spoken word pieces at SK Net Café, the Double Door Inn and the Visulite Theatre.

"We need to support each other, not keep each other down like that -- men don't ever specify, 'oh, you can't have a male act open for me,'" says The Near Misses' Lea "Etta Lea" Kuhlmann, who also books shows for the Evening Muse, which she co-owns. "It was just a bummer, it wasn't 'men aren't giving us the chance,' it was other women."

Kuhlmann, who is one of the organizers of the event, is quick to point out that FemmeFest is not exclusionary; several bands feature men, and the works of male visual artists will also be on display.

"We're not always doing girl power-type stuff," she says, citing her band's recent gig at a pro-Barack Obama fundraiser. "We're not feminists in some crazy, militant sense, but we do recognize that if you're in some type of group that you believe in, you want to look out for each other. It isn't our mission to bring women up in the world or anything like that, but women are still making less money."

So. FemmeFest was a natural reaction to gender-specific bills and if people want to make the logical leap to the Lilith Fair tours of the mid-'90s, that's fine by Kuhlmann. (In 1996, Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan became frustrated with concert promoters and radio stations that refused to feature two female musicians in a row.)

"The time just seemed right," she says, citing other recent FemmeFests in New York and Miami. "I think it'd be pretty cool at some point, if our festival is successful, if we could trade resources and help empower each other -- that's our attitude, so I would think that's some of the motives behind what they're thinking too."

Whatever the case, a portion of the proceeds -- tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day of show -- will go to Shelter Health Services, who provide health care for any person who is homeless in Mecklenburg County, with a concentration on women and children.

Extra Sweet: Out-of-towners aren't usually the purview of this local column, but this is one we can't pass up pimping, so get yer calendars ready! On June 9, the Milestone will host Thrill Jockey artists Extra Golden, a band comprised of Kenyan and American musicians that make a unique hybrid of rich intercontinental grooves; this ain't Putumayo-approved world music pap, this is rock 'n' roll, Kenyan- and American-indie style. What makes this more intriguing is that the Kenyans are only here because the next President of the United States, Barack Obama, intervened on their behalf to get them the required American visas the jackasses at Homeland Security refused them on their last tour. Rooted in the fecund benga tradition, the band's most recent release was last fall's Hera Ma Nono, which was recorded during their first American tour in fall of 2006, the Kenyan members' first trip outside of east Africa. Their debut was 2006's Ok-Oyot System, recorded mostly at a Nairobi nightclub. Ok-oyot, by the by, is Luo for "It's not easy," Luo being the ethnic group of Extra Golden's Kenyan members and Obama. For the record, locals Black Congo NC will bring their own benga- and afro-beat accented madness to the party as well.

Mas Midwood: Pura Vida, which some may know as a cool place to get imported gifts, has their Sunday afternoon live music series in full swing. These free live music shows include local, regional and international acoustic performers from a variety of countries and genres. All performances are smoke- and alcohol-free, and begin at 2 p.m. Upcoming shows include: Michael Williams & Adam Snow (June 1); Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets (June 8); Mike Strauss (June 22), and Nick Foltz (June 29) ...

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