by Jeff Hahne
May 21, 2011
The Deal: The fourth annual installment of the festival hit NoDa with plenty of talent and variety.
The Good: Started in 2008 by Joe and Lea Kuhlmann, FemmeFest offers a look at women in music from all different angles. Whether it's a solo performance with an acoustic guitar, a female-fronted rock band or spontaneous collaborations, there's just about a little of everything when you go from venue to venue.
The day got started around 6 p.m. with StellaRising at the Neighborhood Theatre. The female-fronted rock band gave a solid performance though I felt something was lacking from the overall vibe. While being the day's openers is a tough spot to be in, I later found out that two members of the band were stand-ins and not the usual lineup.
Charlotte Parrott continues to develop as a singer and songwriter and the maturity grows with each performance.
Rebecca Pronsky brought a bit of honkytonk style to the Evening Muse for their first performance of the day. Pronsky used acoustic guitar and was backed by an electric as her songs tended to focus on her vocals and lyrics.
Chasing Pedestrians was next at the Neighborhood Theatre and was the biggest surprise of the day for me. While I noticed the band members were young, I was quickly impressed by their talents and songwriting. Many times in younger bands you find the one standout amongst the mediocre, but every one of the seven or so band members here held their ground firmly. A horn section added some interesting spice to the mix, as well. Keep an eye on this band.
Karla Davis impressed a packed house at the Muse with her style of folk and unique take on mash-ups, mixing up a Zac Brown Band song with Journey. She brought humor along with the talent.
Melissa Reaves tore into her set using looping techniques and conjuring up the spirit of Janis Joplin. Her flame-painted guitar helped her to set the speakers on fire and she even invited over Donna Duncan to help her out on a tune.
Duncan, followed Reaves at the Neighborhood Theatre with her own brand of blues, finding time to pay tribute to Robin Rogers in the process.
I unfortunately missed a good bit of Opposite Life's set, but hope to hear more from them in the future. The band features Wavy Space guitarist Arrie Bozeman.
Jennifer Knapp drew a large crowd to the Neighborhood Theatre with her acoustic style. She returned for a few encores and I'm sure the crowd would have loved more she returned to the Evening Muse at the end of the night for a closing set in front of only a handful of people.
Natalie Royal hit the stage at the Muse, this time with a few more band members in tow giving her music a depth and helping to spotlight her soothing vocal style. Her set hit a somber and emotional high note when she paid tribute to the father she lost earlier this year. The moving song left a few audience members with tears rolling down. Royal is a singer, like Parrott, that matured quickly and gracefully in songwriting style over the years and has a successful road ahead of her.
HuDost brought their eclectic mix of world music to the Neighborhood Theatre, giving listeners a tour around the world through style, lyrics and language. While not as full of a sound as was present at the Muse a few weeks ago, the band showcased another side of itself with the trio they had this time around.
Mieka Pauley brought her northern attitude and strong songwriting to the Muse stage. It's a shame that the only time Pauley gets to Charlotte is for FemmeFest, but hers is always a set to be seen during the festival. Not everyone can perform a song a capella with a single drum and make it sound so full.
Elizabeth and the Catapult wrapped up the main stage at the Neighborhood Theatre with a set of pop rock that sounded polished and fresh. The upfront use of keyboards brought a new dimension to the usual guitar-focused rock style.
Grown Up Avenger Stuff wrapped up the Other Side of the Neighborhood Theatre with a set of rock driven by female vocals. The band's new bassist is fitting into place well. Singer Dierdre Kroener has grown more comfortable on stage and offers a more playful vibe with the audience helping to draw listeners in.
The night was scheduled to end with the blues style of Jill Dineen Band at the Evening Muse and she brought the house down with her vocal power and a few covers including Grace Potters "Paris" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."
After Dineen, Knapp returned to the stage to perform a 30-minute set that ended well after 2 a.m. for a sparse crowd that just couldn't get enough...
The Bad: That I missed seeing Shana Blake and Reeve Coobs... Having seen both perform a handful of times before, I had to check out some of the others I hadn't seen previously, but know that I surely missed some strong performances. I heard glowing remarks about both in the streets between bands.
The Neighborhood Theatre stages got off to a late start and never fully recovered after a few sound problems and an extended set by Knapp. With multiple stages, it's hard to follow who is on stage and I found myself going back and forth between venues much more often than necessary and missing out on some quality music.
Dolce Vita was a late addition with scheduled performances by The Mann Sisters and Sy Arden, but when I went by, there was no sign of any music. Maybe I missed it?
The Verdict: Four years and going strong...