Being a Black, female music journalist, I have to admit that I've only written and published one article about a Black female musician in my entire career. Being an American journalist in general, it's very hard to be able to cover Black musicians that are not huge pop stars like Rihanna and Beyonce. I don't want to write about Rihanna and Beyonce! I want to write about women who paved the way for today's biggest African American female musicians.
Earlier this month, Vancouver, BC hosted the first (and fingers crossed, annual) Shout Back! — an all-ages, queer, radical, D.I.Y., anarcha-feminist music festival. Nearly 50 bands played over the hectic span of 2.5 days. From cabaret to punk, twee pop to noise, this BitchTapes is devoted to a few (yes, 15 is a few) of the bands and solo musicians from the Shout Back! 2012 bill.
This weekend in Portland, Oregon, a house off East Burnside will be packed with folks coming out for two nights of amazing music brought to you by FOC Fest. Featuring women of color musicians from the Pacific Northwest, FOC Fest (short for Females of Color) started last year and was a total blast. As their 2011 zine stated, "we hope to bring FOC musicians together and recognize the awesome contribution they make to our respective music communities so that we can all support each other....It don't matter what you look like, smell like, sex like, or dress like. FOC Fest holds a mission to recognize difference and feel empowered in this recognition." This inclusive, all-ages show is local, DIY music organizing at its finest, and you're invited!
This year means a whole new lineup of acts, from the post-punk of Old Wars, to the genre-bending mariachi of Edna Vasquez, to the experimental sampling solo work of Amenta Abioto (and yes, a compilation album will be available at the festival!).
I spoke with Katherine Paul, one of the organizers and founders (and a member of Forest Park) about why FOC Fest is important, how she feels a year after the first one, and more. Read on for the Q&A and the full lineup of this year's festival.
"If you're looking for quiet, soothing music that will lull you to sleep, put a record on your phonograph and spend the evening at home. But if you want to hear singing that will make the blood pound in your pulse, listen to the brown bomber of sophisticated song at Mona's Club 440. Her name is Gladys Bentley and she's as gifted with the piano keys as with her vocal cords."
I spent my weekend hanging out at FOC (Females of Color) FEST, a new Portland-based festival celebrating musicians of color from the West Coast. Two nights of bands in an empty bike shop may sound meager for a music festival, but by the time 2am rolled around on Saturday night I was completely exhausted (in a great way) from the weekend of awesome music.
Ever wonder how singles are chosen? All of these female or female-led artists have found success... but not, strangely, with these songs. This week on BitchTapes, listen to the hits that should have been.
Track list and space for your own faves after the jump!
As much as I adore music videos at dance parties, watching choreographed dance moves on a giant screen in public typically does one of two things to me: infuses my limbs with rhythmic possibilities (rare), or yanks the slippery beat from under my dance shoes (less rare). Sometimes if I'm not in a dancing mood (or able to shake it in my current location) watching someone else dance provides a kind of psychic fulfillment. I hope Austra and CocknBullKid's new singles give you just that! Directly after sits a sedentary vogue-free video by Planningtorock. Apart from inviting you to a video dance, this B-Sides provides hope for the swarms of PTR fans who, like myself, have been chewing their nails impatiently for five years on the edge of the dance floor waiting for her sophomore release!
Best Friends Forever is a Minneapolis-based band comprised of, you guessed it, best friends. Jessica Lee Seamans and Briana Jennifer Smith met when they were in fifth grade and have been playing in bands together for over a decade. They started out with a Smashing Pumpkins cover band, experimented with instrumental math rock, and then formed Best Friends Forever in 2003.
While my love for female-based rock music is well-documented and longstanding, even a fangirl like me can easily admit that riot grrrl and the punk scene more generally have long been a largely homogeneous affair, with a lack of racial diversity and inclusion among its iconic musicians and those who loved them. Partially inspired by Black History Month and partially by Beyonce's rendition of Alanis Morissette's classic at the most recent Grammy's (skip to 3:10 in the video), I wanted to showcase some women who defied narrow expectations and produced amazing music.
You see, if I was a guy, and I was sitting here with a cigarette in my hand, grabbing my crotch and talking about how I make music 'cause I love fast cars and fucking girls, you'd call me a rock star. But when I do it in my music and in my videos, because I'm a female, because I make pop music, you're judgmental, and you say that it is distracting. I'm just a rock star.
Are you also a feminist?
I'm not a feminist - I, I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars...