Music Festivals’ Leading Ladies

Happy Coachella! As the exemplary summer music festival and kickstarting the flower-crowned season, today marks the first of the dual-weekend fest. But there’s a problem- the number of female musicians playing.

Image courtesy of Karen Cox @ SheKnows.

Image courtesy of Karen Cox @ SheKnows.

A women’s lifestyle blog, SheKnows, took cue from a picture that had been floating around the internet featuring the Reading/Leeds lineup with all the male-only acts removed, and put together a whole post analyzing the more popular festivals in the same manner and allotting percentages of female acts present at each. The results were highly disturbing. See the full article here.

Coachella scored a whopping 13.5% composition of female acts. Yikes. The other fests didn’t fare much better- Lollapalooza scored 25%, Bonnaroo 23%, and Governer’s Ball coming out on top with 30%.

The problem is, this isn’t news. This has become commonplace in many music festivals throughout the nation, even the world. That’s not to say the acts who are chosen, be they predominantly male or not, aren’t deserving of a slot. No, the issue lies in ensuring these festivals are fostering the kind of inclusion and diversity the music community is so apt to promote.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back in 1997 (hello two-year-old me), Sarah McLachlan- yes, the sad puppy commercial woman- along with the help of Dan Fraser and Terry McBridge, put together Lillith Fair, a musical festival just for solo female acts or predominantly female bands. And it went on from ’97 through 1999, with a hiatus before its revival in 2010. Unfortunately, the fest is now defunct, but it gained quite a following in its time, even earning a documentary.

And Lillith Fair stands as proof that not only is a music festival with heavier female presence possible, it’s also just as attractive as a typical festival. While an entirely female festival would be a stellar thing to bring back, I believe it would be enough to start with simply being more inclusive in pre-existing festivals. With more women earning bigger names in the music industry, from pop to indie rock, it wouldn’t be hard to scout out some more acts with two X chromosomes.

girls_of_2014s_ultra_music_festival_640_44

And it doesn’t stop with the musicians. I joke, you joke, we all joke about the stereotypical music festival goer, particularly the crop-topped and sunkissed girls. But we’re narrowly missing the point- it’s a form of self-expression, an embracing of it at that. Sure, you’ll find your fair share of scantily clad women at almost any summer music festival- but you’ll find your fair share of guys running around shirtless, as well. It’s in the very definition of a summer music festival: outdoors, massive crowds, summer heat on top of all that. So while us ladies can’t necessarily rock with our tops off, a good, airy crop top or even bikini top is as close as we can get. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

There is something wrong with shaming them for that, which is something that happens sadly all too often. But seeing more feminine faces in the crowd gives those girls a sense of support, whether they need it or not.

The crowds at Lillith Fair were predominantly female. You do the math. More female acts = more female attendees = more security in the fact that it’s okay to be a girl and like music, and moreover, to celebrate that as much as male musicians and festival goers do. Party on, girls.

Year in Review: Most Overlooked Album – UMO II

As part of the ‘Year in Review’ series, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sophomore album II has been chosen as 2013’s most overlooked album.

Unknown-Mortal-Orchestra-II

In 2010, it was the track Ffunny Ffriends that made known the psych rock three piece that is Unknown Mortal Orchestra. On their much-anticipated second release, we hear a return of the guitar and vocal melody driven, reverb saturated hazy sound – with a few new styles creeping into the bands repertoire.

A delicate guitar lick draws the curtain on the sun drenched opening track, which ironically talks about getting away ‘From the Sun.’ The warmth lead singer Ruban Nielson emanates is comparable to early, muddled recordings of a teenage John Lennon. It provides the most obvious backdrop to ease into the catchy hooks that are to follow.

The soft snare driven first release of the album ‘Swim and Sleep Like a Shark’ was a prefect introduction to the direction that this album has taken. As the guitar plays a funk inspired riff, a soulful tinge is heard through the crackling of Rubens falsetto that he implements to perfect imperfection.

‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ is the highlight track for me. It is definitely a grower; I didn’t think too much of it at first but had it on repeat after the third listen. A cleaner sound reveals how far Nielson has come with his song writing. He effortlessly talks of a girl who ‘was so good at being in trouble’ but ‘so bad at being in love.’ Simple chords play under his infectious chorus, proving that less is more where his soulful melodies are concerned.

We hear a return to the hard-hitting experience of their first self-titled debut album on the short ‘One at a Time.’

On ‘The Opposite of Afternoon,’ the drummer introduces a feel akin to the Tower of Power, laying down a fat funk groove to brilliant high harmonies put through a phaser.

If there is one album filler song, for me it was ‘No Need for a Leader’. This is quickly elapsed, however, as the next two songs open up with raunchy pedal effected guitar solos that feature on the seven minute ‘Monki’ followed by the one minute long instrumental interlude, ‘Dawn.’

The mood is picked up in the following track ‘Faded in the Morning’ where we hear a return of something that UMO pull off so well – the melody line played on the lead guitar and sung completely balanced in the mix.

Finally, Nielson demonstrates his triumph of infectious melodies as he ‘Na-Na’s’ his way through the closing track ‘Secret Xtians.’

UMO soaked this record in the sun before they pressed it.

It’s a warm record that  will have you humming along to melodies that will stay in your mind. The band have introduced aspects of soul recently unheard of in their sound and flawlessly pushed the boundaries on the amount of delicate funk you can mix with psychedelic rock.

It might be winter where you are right now, or it might be summer. Whatever the weather, this will warm you up or help you enjoy the sun. Turn this record up but just make sure your I-Tunes isn’t sorted alphabetically as Usher might come along, as he did to me, and put a dampener on the party.