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14 Badass Female Musicians at SXSW Weigh in on the Good and the Ugly of Festival Season

By / Published on Sunday, 13 Mar 2016 13:11 PM / No Comments / 354 views

Get your fanny packs out, stretch your braiding fingers, amass your neon ninja bands, wring the tie-dye: Festival season is upon us! And with a year of great lineups—here’s looking at you Governors Ball, Firefly, and Panorama (Coachella’s new New York sister)—there is certainly a lot to look forward to and a lot of romping around this great country of ours to be done. This year also brings a progressive step in gender representation: Coachella upped its average 16% female acts to 27% in 2016. Even better, Sasquatch! (which a lot of the ladies below are excited about, as you’ll soon find out) is up to nearly 40% women on stage. Applause for that.

To celebrate the season—as South By Southwest unofficially kicks it off—we spoke to some of the most badass female musicians playing in Austin this week (which for Sara Hartman, has been a “nerd dream for years”) about their thoughts on summer mayhem, who they’re looking forward to seeing or sharing a stage with, and how to keep the lady momentum going strong. As Crista Ru of POWERS puts it, “If you’re bothered by the sausage fests, I’d like to encourage you to help change it!” Jessica Louise Dye of High Waisted might just have a way to start. Read on!

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Aluna Francis of AlunaGeorge
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: SXSW is one of the festivals known for showing new bands, and I’m always interested in new music because we started out not so long ago. I’m curious to see what people are making these days. I’d also love to go to the Michelle Obama keynote! We have to hold on to the Obamas as long as we can. I love going to playing at festivals because everyone’s in that mindset of discovery, and I think the best place to be in your head.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: I’m hoping to see Kelela and Kehlani. I really like what they’re doing at the moment. Also Tokimonsta, she’s a great producer, and she’s really coming into her own right now.
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: Girls at festivals are what really bring the festival vibe. It’s the girls who dress up, and they bring an experimental side to festivals. So it’s weird not to see girls on the stage doing the same thing—we should rectify that! I think people get used to male-dominated visuals, so you’re going to see Coachella headlines this year like, “loads of women all arrive at Coachella,” just because there are a few more. I remember one year in the UK La Roux and Little Boots came out, and people were saying, “The industry is saturated with females!” The same happens with DJs. People love to go on about how there are too many girls as soon as there is anywhere near an equal representation.
On what gives her confidence on stage: Getting the chance to go into the festival itself, I need to know the vibe before I go on stage. Each festival is so unique, you know if you’re going to Sasquatch or Lightning in a Bottle, those are going to be very different than hard festivals. I like to know what mindset people are in.
On her dream festival lineup: I’d like to see Foals, Laura Marling, Kelela, Kendrick Lamar, and Etta James.

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Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: We tour so much that we don’t often get to see bands we are excited about when they come to our hometowns, so festivals are a great opportunity for us to catch those acts. And hopefully we’ll discover some new music too!
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: I’m excited to see the new Grimes show on a big festival stage, as well as Alvvays, Wolf Alice, and Courtney Barnett.
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: It’s great that the media is talking about this lack of representation, but this isn’t a new thing. Festival bills reflect the industry at large, so any kind of change needs to come from the top down. But there are so many talented female musicians working now that hopefully one day things will be more balanced.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: It’s always all about the boots and the “war paint” eye makeup to create a character that’s tougher than your real self.
On her dream festival lineup: Beastie Boys, The Cure, Paramore, Radiohead (and CHVRCHES).

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Rebecca Zeller of Ra Ra Riot
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: This is my sixth visit to SXSX! It’s hectic for a performer, and it lands right in the middle of an eight-week tour. I just like to go with the flow and see where the chaos takes me. I always look forward to the excitement of walking into a random venue or party and discovering new music. I’m looking forward to streaming Guns N Roses at Coachella this year and making the trek to Sasquatch! I had the opportunity to go last year as a spectator, and it’s such an amazing festival—seeing bands in the Columbia Gorge is heavenly.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: I can’t wait to see Christine and the Queens. Her album is great. Ibeyi’s music is amazing, the video for “River” is so simple, beautiful, and unsettling. I’m also a big fan of Grimes and Andra Day too.
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: Women’s representation at festivals is growing with artists like St. Vincent, Florence and the Machine, Sleater-Kinney, Haim, Grimes, and others coming in as headliners. To me, Coachella gets the term Brochella not because of a lack of female performers but the demographic that is drawn to the festival. It’s the spring break of music, and you can’t blame Coachella for that. When it comes to women’s roles in music, we have to address the misconception that’s rooted in sexism that in certain professions women could not conceivably be as good or skilled as men are. It happens in business, sports, and music. Take Jessica Mendoza, for example, the first female analyst for Major League Baseball who commented on her attackers’ lack of substance—not coming after her for a specific analysis, just the fact that she was female. While her comment doesn’t apply directly to women in music, it highlights an ignorance combined with a lack of acknowledgment that things change over time and the stereotypes humans posses about the opposing gender. The most common stereotype I encounter is people’s shock that I’m a founding member who started the band in her basement at Syracuse 10 years ago and am also a songwriter, composer, and oversee many of the financial and business aspects of our band. Unfortunately, I think our society really struggles to get over these types of stigmas. For whatever reason, we’ve let ourselves be shocked by what women can do or in some cases what men can do that might not fit the stereotype of their gender.

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Låpsley
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I’m looking forward to eating tacos at SXSW and traveling and meeting new people the rest of the summer.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: Empress Of
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: I’d like to think people are being booked by their merits and not by their gender.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: Posh knickers.
On her dream festival lineup: Arthur Russell, David Bowie, The Prodigy, Drexciya, Foals, Tame Impala, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Rihanna, Kanye West, Sade, Ella Fitzgerald.

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Ana Perrote, Carlotta Cosials, Ade Martin, and Amber Grimbergen of Hinds
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: SXSW is a dream for bands. When you live on the road, you meet a lot of band friends, but you don’t know when you are going to see them again. So this Texan festival, reuniting all the bands in the world for five days is a dream.
On the female musicians they can’t wait to see this summer: Shura, Grimes, Wolf Alice, Courtney Barnett, and Bleached!
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: If women musicians are a minority, even less of them get to play festival because of not being taken seriously enough. For example, everytime we’re on a plane and carry our guitars with us, people ask us stuff like “do know how to play the instrument?” They just can’t think that a woman can work as a musician, they think we are some hippy kids or that we are just carrying our boyfriend’s instruments!
On the getup that gives them confidence on stage: Lipstick and beer.
On their dream festival lineup: Black Lips, Mac DeMarco, Courtey Barnett, Mark Ronson, Rihanna, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Justice, Ratatat, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, and Bob Dylan.

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Camille Poliquin and Laurence Lafond-Beaulne of Milk & Bone
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: We played at SXSW last year, so we kind of know what to expect this time. We’re very excited to play for the second time and about the fact that we’ll be staying longer—more time to explore and see other artists! As soon we’re done with SXSW, we’re hopping on tour throughout America to 11 different cities, which is very exciting! For the rest of the summer, we’ll be touring a little more in Canada. We plan on going to Osheaga that’s for sure and try to catch a few rays on a beanbag somewhere.
On the female musicians they can’t wait to see this summer: One lineup we’re really excited about though is Osheaga in Montreal. We really can’t wait to see MØ, Daughter, Grimes, and Haim. But the one show we are the most excited about is Lana Del Rey!
On the getup that gives them confidence on stage: We like to wear very comfortable outfits. Since we play instruments, we can’t wear heels. That would not work with our sustain effect pedals. We like to look good and tend to bring a few outfits to our shows, so we can choose a few moments before we go on! The fact that we feel comfortable gives us confidence because we can concentrate on performing and sounding great!
On the craziest thing that’s ever happened to them on stage:
There’s only two of us on stage, so we have a lot of responsibility toward what happens in our show. This one time, one of us forgot their chords. Let me tell you, that’s the kind of thing that doesn’t go unnoticed! We looked at each other and decided to keep going even though what we were playing did not fit at all together. But hey! The show must go on!
On their dream festival lineup:
TLC, Destiny’s Child, Backstreet Boys, Christina Milian, My Chemical Romance, Billy Talent, Ciara, Missy Elliott, Kelis, Ne-Yo, Ja Rule, Christine Aguilera, Beyonce, and, of course, Britney. But seriously, Jamie XX, Caribou, Christine and the Queens, FKA twigs, Arca, Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Jeremih, Justin Bieber, Grimes, Drake, Tinashe, MØ, Carly Rae Jepsen, Erykah Badu, Charli XCX, Louis the Child, Mac DeMarco, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Sky Ferreira, Tame Impala, Sufjan Stevens, and The Weeknd. That would be a bomb lineup!

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Crista Ru of POWERS
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: Aside from getting to adventure around all these beautiful cities, I’m really looking forward to discovering some new artists and being totally immersed in all the craziness that these festivals bring. It’s going to be a whirlwind of adrenaline, alcohol-fueled long nights, spontaneity, and some great songs are going to come out of it. Every time I’ve gone to a festival, my brain starts overflowing with ideas. And as a creative person, being able to feel inspired like that is like having real heaven on earth. It’s everything.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: Definitely Florence and The Machine, Haim, and Alabama Shakes. I’ve been a big fan, so I’m thrilled to get a chance to see them play finally!
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: I’m so used to the band and DJ world being predominantly men. When looking at the lineups, I’ve just been looking to see if there are artists that I like. But in regards to the male to female ratio, I was delighted to see that Governors Ball is gonna have a whole bunch fantastic females playing. There are a lot of different factors that weigh in on how festivals get their lineups though. For the most part, they’re just trying to get whoever is available that will help draw a crowd. At the end of the day, if you are truly bothered by the sausage fests, I’d like to encourage you to help change it. Whether it be booking, promoting, or on the artist side of things, the more girls that get involved the better the chances of evening it out!
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: I have a pair of these awesome four-inch tall Buffalo platform boots that I fell in love with. I’m super petite and always want to be tall, so finding a pair of shoes that I can dance in and wear all day long is like finding gold. I put them on and feel like I can take on the world.
On the craziest thing that’s ever happened to her on stage: One time, an extremely intoxicated fan decided to throw her panties on stage, which isn’t too crazy… But shortly after she must’ve decided she needed them back because she kept pointing at them and trying to get on stage, pulling cables out in the process.
On her dream festival lineup: In an alternate universe, my Dream Fest 2016 would be us, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Nirvana, Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, Billy Joel, Daft Punk, Miike Snow, Talking Heads, Parliament Funkadelic, the Beastie Boys, The Kinks, Röyksopp, and Lauryn Hill.

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AJ Haynes of Seratones
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I’m looking forward to seeing some of my favorite artists! I’m a summertime creature, so soaking up lots of sunshine is enough to make me quite happy. I’m also looking forward to water balloon/water gun fights with my band.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: We’re playing a SXSW showcase with Sunflower Bean and hope we play more festivals with them. Also, Mothers is righteous. At Bonnaroo: Mavis Staples and Lizzo. Mavis Staples is legendary. I always listen to the Staple Singers on road trips to visit family in Columbia, Louisiana, so she has a special place in my heart. Lizzo’s such a powerful force! I can’t wait to see her slay. At Forecastle: Alabama Shakes, Brandi Carlile, Bully, and Liz Vice. I have the utmost respect for Brittany Howard; she’s a total badass. Brandi Carlile is one of the few singers who can make me cry uncontrollably. Bully reminds me of Bikini Kill’s spitfire “I do what I want” attitude, and I bet they put on an awesome show. Liz Vice’s voice takes me back home, so of course I absolutely must see her.
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: You can’t be what you can’t see. Irma Thomas was one of the first female performers I saw on a major stage. I recall that immediate surge of validation from the soles of my feet, up through my spine—absolutely invigorating. I remember thinking, “I want to be that! I want that stage, that power.” Think of how Irma inspired artists like Mick Jagger! I think there’s something to harnessing that feminine energy. It’s a force. It’s valuable. We need to create more moments like that for women—and for the future Mick Jaggers out there. We also need to ensure that festivals are a safe space for women, both as artists and attendees. Given the disproportionate ratio of male to female artists, the subtextual message put forth by major festival curators is that women are not as valuable—that women don’t deserve that same space. Consider the damage of those terrible implications.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: I’m a fan of totemic jewelry, each piece I wear is very special to me. I love scented oils. I can shimmy, shake, and sweat to hell and back and still smell like jasmine and sandalwood. I also love to wear anything that shows off my legs. I’m proud of them. They are strong. They’ve carried me this far, and I hopefully have many more miles to go.
On her dream festival lineup:
Nina Simone (yes, I know she’s no longer with us. Emphasis on “dream”), Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo, Wu Tang (WITH ODB), whatever incarnation Ty Segall has manifest, Boogarins with a guest appearance by Gilberto Gil, Big Freedia, Sunflower Bean, M.I.A., Queens of the Stone Age, Fiona Apple, LCD Soundsystem, and all of the bands I hope to fall in love with over this next year that I’ve yet to find. For me, music festivals are all about discovering my new favorite band crushes.

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Grace Mitchell
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I look forward to being amongst other artists and hopefully getting free stuff.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: Hopefully Grimes does something!
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: Suits mainly. Recently I’ve been a pair of black overalls and a blazer.
On the craziest thing that’s ever happened to her on stage: There are a lot of crazy annoying things that have happened. Once I had to improv for about 15 minutes while our computer and all of our midi keyboards were down. I talked to the audience about the importance of voting, and it was a major snooze. Besides that, one time I chewed a live bat’s head off on stage (just kidding).
On her dream festival lineup: Fiona Apple, Tech N9ne, Sufjan Stevens, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Bernie Sanders.

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Lissie
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I love the city of Austin, and I love the energy and chaos of SXSW! So much good food! I’ll be playing the luck reunion at Willie Nelson’s ranch as well, which will be epic.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: I’m not entirely sure who I’ll catch this summer, but I’ve always wanted to see Cat Power in concert and Lykke Li! I also think Kacey Musgraves is a cool—her live show looks like it’d be a fun one to see!
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals:
May the best (wo)man win! THAT being said, I think there’s still a lot of work to be done on the perception and inclusion of ladies in music.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage:
My confidence comes from my mind and attitude! I like being comfy and simple!
On her dream festival lineup:
Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Dolly Parton, Fred Armisen in some capacity, and my new English buds The Travelling Band.

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Bosco
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I’m looking forward to connecting with my fans and supporters throughout the years. I love discovering new bands and musicians. It’s almost like searching for obscure vinyls. You find a gem, and now you’ve met your new favorite artist. Coachella was tight last summer. I performed on the Heineken stage and it would be pretty cool to do it again.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer:
Kilo Kish, SZA, Anna Wise, Santigold, Bibi Bourelly
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: This has been an reoccurring issue for quiet sometime now, but I will say that over the past year I’ve seen some improvements. Right now, more than ever, our feminine energy has demanded that space by showing our work ethic and determination for change. I think it’s unfair and narrow minded to assume we can’t pull our “weight” at major festivals. It’s one thing to complain about it, but I encourage my fellow female artists to challenge these talent agents and promoters. Once we as a female community come together and realize there’s enough room for everyone to have their own unique and individual voice, we can make a louder and stronger impact. We have to fight for one another and put each other on. Like Beyonce said, “always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper”.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: I love wearing shorts or one-piece body suits for flexibility. I really like my legs, so anything to show them off works for me.
On her dream festival lineup:
St. Vincent, Sneaker Pimps, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Dornik, Beach House, Moses Sumney, Rochelle Jordan, Tokimonsta, Santigold, MIA, Radiohead, Pomo

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Phebe Starr
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I am so excited for this summer. I am from Australia, so the experiences I have in the states are always exciting. It’s hard to explain, but the smells are different, the energy is new. I try to absorb everything about the summer music scene.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: There are so many amazing performers that I’d love to see: Tkay Maidza, Christine and the Queens, Robyn, Meg Mac, Aurora, Elliphant, Lauren Mayberry from Chvches.
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: We need more women and more diversity in all aspects of the music industry, not just the festivals!
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: Having confidence on stage isn’t really about what I wear. If I’m confident and authentic in my everyday, then I’m comfortable on stage. What I wear is just an outward expression of my confidence.
On her dream festival lineup: Bjork, Sufjan stevens, Jonny Cash, Carol King, Beyonce, Joni Mitchell, Robyn, The Beastie Boys, Son Lux, Kanye West, The Cure, 1975, Alabama Shakes, Prince, Mariah Carey, Mavin Gaye, Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra.

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Sara Hartman
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: I discovered a lot of music when I was 14 or 15 from the SXSW compilations I found on the Internet and in magazines. So to be honest, I am just beyond happy to be a part of such a festival. It’s been one of my nerd dreams to be able to play SXSW for years. The lineups are amazing!
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: I was recently introduced to Christine and the Queens, and I think it’s just musically and visually fascinating. I have been obsessed with Courtney Barnett since the first time I heard “Avant Gardener,” so she is really exciting as well.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: I have a pair of sparkly black boots that make the absolute best sound when I stomp. I wore them at almost every show in Europe when I was opening Ellie Goulding, and they gave me the confidence to stand in front of so many people and sing my songs. They are elegant yet still have a bit of badass in them, which I love.
On the craziest thing that’s ever happened to her on stage: I was about 15 performing at a bar in Montauk solo acoustic to make some pocket money. It was a late and kind of rowdy bar crowd (so not so inviting for little me with my acoustic). Finally got set up, and as soon as I started, five to 10 scantily-clad young ladies walked in with free shots for everybody. Of course, the people at the bar loved it. So I was the soundtrack to a Montauk Jager girl party which is a bit of a strange fit. But I got a Jagermeister T-shirt and my first ever shot of Jager out of it, so I it ended up being alright.
On her dream festival lineup: I really wish I was around for Woodstock. That to me is the festival of all festivals. So really, I just need a time machine.

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Jessica Louise Dye of High Waisted
On SXSW and the rest of festival season: SXSW is like summer camp for bands, and it’s my favorite week of the year. I get to see my friends that play music from all over the world reunite in Austin. But I’m most excited to meet new friends. Every year I’ve gone, I have met the most amazing people, mostly wonderful women working in music of whom I am still close with. And I can’t wait to find new bands to fall in love with. Oh and burritos, I can’t wait to eat my weight in good Tex Mex! My second favorite festival is NYC’s Governors Ball. It’s basically in my backyard, and the lineup is always so diverse from The Strokes to Kanye. It’s set at the beginning of summer, so it’s perfect to chill on a blanket with the Manhattan Skyline just behind the main stage and enjoy music all day.
On the female musicians she can’t wait to see this summer: I love a confident girl on stage as well as being able to dance and sing along. I especially am drawn to babes who can shred their instrument! Sunflower Bean, Angel Olsen, Chvrches, Courtney Barnett, St. Vincent, Alvvays, Santigold, Charli XCX.
On the lack of female musicians represented at festivals: It’s disheartening because our current culture still sidelines, fetishizes, and dismisses female artists. There are hundreds of strong female acts that could play any festival right now and dominate. But I think this climate is going to change. There are many wonderful programs for young girls that I didn’t have access to growing up, such as Girl’s Rock. It’s about fostering young female musicians now by giving them access to instruments, classes, and the support and encouragement needed to grow their confidence. If girls are invited to join in, they will. We can change the male-dominated nature of the music business by acknowledging that this disparity is an issue and making the necessary efforts for equal treatment and inclusion of female acts. The more we encourage female youths to be a part of music, the more amazing talent we’ll have in the future.
On the getup that gives her confidence on stage: I think feeling comfortable and sexy is key. I always go for short dresses, knee socks, and covered tops. I like wild prints, feathers, leather…anything that feels like a costume helps me get into a glam rock ‘n’ roll state of mind.
On her dream festival lineup: Link Wray, The Runaways, The Doors, Selena, Jefferson Airplane, Bikini Kill, Sonny and Cher, Fugazi, Janis Joplin, B-52s, Lou Reed.

Photos: Courtesy

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