I am happy to announce to you Salt Lake City dwellers that a community of extraordinarily talented female musicians surrounds us. This years Lady Fest at the Free Speech Zone showcased an exciting variety of such local artists. What started in 2000 in Olympia has now become a tradition that continues to spread around the world by self-starters. Organized by local volunteers as a DIY fest, the point is to celebrate the empowerment and education of women artists. During this years’ Lady Fest, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many talented, brave and enthusiastic women participate. As a non-profit event, this year’s donations went to the Rape Recovery Center. This is the third year the festival has found a home in Salt Lake, and it was exciting to see so many people come out and support our local ladies despite the weather. Organizer Ingrid Michelson did an impressive job at finding groups from all genres to perform, giving the festival a variety of skilled artists who performed with contagious confidence.
The day got off to a lovely start with singer-songwriter Mary Tebbs, providing a good foundation for the rest of the ladies to follow. Playing solo, her songs celebrate love, especially for oneself. Her performance appropriately set the tone for a day that turned out to be about encouragement, gratitude and sharing talent. Following Tebbs came the duo Mouse and Mouse. As the two rolled up on their bikes with their equipment packed tightly into their baskets, they were very much akin to a traveling circus act in France. Dressed up with mustaches and switching between accordion, banjo, ukulele and a makeshift drum set, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them playing on the street or at a café somewhere with their creepy narratives and soft vocals.
Mixing it up with spoken word, poet Tami Porter-Jones graced the stage, joined by friends Rebecca Mae, Deanne Annette and Deb Rosenberg. All of these ladies performed impressive word plays, expressing angst-fueled emotions balanced with grace and composure. Despite the rain’s intensity during their presentation, these ladies still brought warmth with them, keeping the attention of the attendees as people huddled under tarps and umbrellas. Performing in national competitions, I’d make sure to catch these ladies at a slam-poetry event.
Up next was the multi-talented musician Lindsay Heath performing under the moniker DJ Dances With Wolves. While most DJs may rely on production during their performances including lasers or other theatric frills, Heath pounds the drums during her set with intensity that exuded an awesome energy. Her power-pop mix got people out of their chairs and jackets in order to move their bodies around, and even brought the neighbors from Jiffy Lube over to see what was happening. Following Heath was Garage Fire Band, reuniting the festival back to the sun with solid alternative rock and a powerful vocalist.
Heavy metal band Year of the Wolf took the stage next to fuel the dark side. Howling throughout and truly harnessing the energy of a wolf, these three women shared the stage equally by switching lead vocals and killing it on their instrument of choice. What I loved most was their ability to use rage and destruction not in an intimidating way, but rather playful and fun. Instead of scaring what might be hesitant listeners, the audience seemed to really dig their set. Continuing the festival were Renee Plant and Lynda Lee, bringing the Oregon rain with them and what seemed to be a majority of the crowd. This alt-country band was fun-loving and is the kind of band you’d probably want to see live in an intimate setting, whether that be at a dive bar or at an outdoor festival. Relaxed and easygoing, the musicians performed with a passion that would pair well with a cold beer and a group of close friends.
The transition to Bullets & Belles may have seen a lot of the audience leaving, yet this a cappella trio still performed their doo-wop guts out, leading the crowd to ask for encore after encore. With Ryan Cron and Noel Sandberg blending harmonies with vocalist Erin Haley-Cron at the center, upbeat and effortless tunes were shared comparable to the likes of a modern remix of a Motown hit blended with a barbershop quartet. As they played their final tune, Minx took the stage with lead singer Ischa Bee completely owning the stage. I was delighted to see how assertive she was with her confidence, and her performance was equally brave, sexy and fun. Her IDGAF-attitude reminded me of the same kind of grooves by Peaches, twisting clichés into positive beats and power-pop tunes. Leading to conclude the night, gypsy band Juana Ghani transformed the audience from sitting down and watching to full participation through dancing and celebration. Equipped with belly dancers and an orchestra of instruments, the 13 performers brought a magical liveliness to their production by bringing carnival vibes to the festival. Filled with imagination and a creative outlook on their performance was a fantastic addition to the fest, and certainly added a jovial intoxication to the souls of all who were there. Wrapping up with Juana Ghani’s flutist came Allison Martin and Friends. With the amount of energy she exerted during the gypsy fest, I was surprised to see how composed she remained to deliver her feelings over the keyboard.
If you made it to the fest, I’m sure you felt the welcoming energy that was created in the space at the Free Speech Zone. With frequent invitations between sets to speak whatever comes to your mind, it was more than just an event to showcase local female musicians. The organizers did a fantastic job at giving a space for people to shine and to share the things that propel them, empowering the female voice while fostering open minds in all. Cheers to Lady Fest!