Just back from an amazing set of gigs on the Saturday night of Ladyfest London. The highlight for me was Matt and Kim - their energentic synth-pop is lots of fun but made so much more amazing by their stage presence, which is nothing short of ecstatic. Muchos dancing.
Before them I was pretty definite that the highlight of the night was definitely Comanechi. They really ripped the place up with a sound that was kind of like early heavy Nirvana but with Japanese female vocals, and from that description you probably love them already yes?
Also there were Gertrude. I've seen their name bandied around here and there but I didn't realise they were good.
Vile Vile Creatures rocked the place too. I kind of feel privileged to have seen such a quantity of bands that rocked so thoroughly but in their own separate way, all in one night. Something like Ladyfest seems to be the ideal way to make this happen.
(Disclaimer: my mobile-phone photos are awful, I know. Make your eyes go fuzzy and you might get a better impression.)
We've just published a load of really good radio programmes on our radio station, including our Ladyfest report. The music at Ladyfest Brighton was fantastic so it's great to be able to bring it to a wider audience. Have a listen.
The brilliant thing about Ladyfest is that it's full of ideas as well as music. It's in danger of making all other indie events (the ones I know, at least) look vacuous and irrelevant. It was a bit of a shame that the workshop venues were so spread out across Brighton, because so many of the workshops looked so interesting, it would have been nice to go to more of them.
The most packed-out one had a film "Don't Need You" which documented the US Riot Grrrl phenomenon fantastically, followed by a panel discussion featuring Alison from Bratmobile and Tobi from Bikini Kill. It was an amazing chance to hear from them about the scene's US origins, although to be honest I'd have loved to have heard more from the UK scenesters about the UK legacy, since I don't know much about it myself.
The "fat activism" workshop was good - I definitely want to read the workshop leader's book Fat And Proud, and I want to do more to work against those weird ideas that seem to be embedded in the brain of pretty much every woman I know - those ideas which make them obsess about getting thinner, irrespective of how good they look right now or how healthy their body weight is right now.
"Start a Ladyfest" was a panel with organisers of UK Ladyfests past and present. It was really interesting to hear about all the ins and outs of organising it. I think that wherever the next one is, it shouldn't be in London, so I don't think I'll be directly involved in organisations; but I think some of the others may carry the torch to some other town...
Ladyfest Brighton was an excellent festival all round, but there's one unhappy event that's worth mentioning. During the final gig (held in a lesbian club called the Candy Club) one lass was dancing around with her top off; and being German, in a dyke club, at the end of a feminist festival, probably didn't think this was a mortal sin or would have any unusual consequences. Unfortunately the bouncers thought otherwise, asking her to put her top back on and announcing over the mic that any woman taking their top off would be asked to leave. This raised hackles and led to argument, a scuffle, and some graffiti, which led the club owners to end the night prematurely and kick us all out.
You have to acknowledge the club's problem, that they could be culpable for any illegal activity that went on in their venue - so they're conscious of that fact and quite used to making sure people don't take drugs or have sex in the club. But it really goes to show how the cause of feminism is still relevant today, when women's bodies are still regulated more tightly than men's bodies, and this regulation replicates itself through legal structures such as licensing laws. It seems utterly ludicrous that taking one's top off should be such a disruptive act, that a woman's chest is "obscene" in absolutely any circumstances (except breast-feeding, so I'm told). Something really needs to change.
In one workshop, earlier during the weekend, a Finnish woman suggested that the sauna traditional in Finland meant they grew up understanding more of the real variety of human bodies, and so they have less of a hangup about bodies/nakedness (a naked body isn't always sexualised). It seems relevant to what happened. Britain needs its head examined, institutionally. This kind of repressive/suppressive crap has gone on too long.
The thing that first got me into Ladyfest was the music. I first went to a Ladyfest gig in Manchester and was amazed to find that the gig came with a really cool commmunity attached, with zines and stalls and a feminist motive that I could believe in. I really hope more people make that discovery.
Now that I know Ladyfest, it's sort of the other way around: I know how brilliant the concept is, but I'm amazed at all the excellent bands that turn up to a Ladyfest!
Musical highlights of Ladyfest Brighton for me included Afrirampo (so much fun!), the Corey Orbisons (shy punk madness - with some really nice 10-second songs), and Con Mun Gos (really precisely-crafted hardcore tunes), among others.
Wet Dog were brilliant, and somehow all the better for having a stand-in bassist who had to be quickly shown the chord progression before every song. Bela Emerson's cello/electronics improv was gorgeous, even though we had to evacuate the building (fire alarm) half-way through. Smartypants were loads of Casio fun - we liked their song about Jimmy Carr a lot. Blood Red Shoes were good too. Just drums and guitar, really elemental like early Nirvana, and so loud in that tiny club that it was really dangerous.
That doesn't cover all the brill bands - but I'm running out of pithy sentences. We recorded some of the gigs and if the bands are OK with it we're going to be publishing them online, so you can judge for yourself. And you will judge them to be excellent.