Reflections on LadyfestGR 2016

Reflections on LadyfestGR 2016

The headlining show for LadyfestGR 2016 began with DC and Yolonda Lavender, tag teaming a shared set. Yolonda’s R&B vocals paired with DC’s tight rhymes for their first song, a rendition of “America, the Beautiful.” The juxtaposition of Yolonda’s emotional delivery of the beloved patriotic anthem with DC’s searing social critique was absolutely powerful. 

Yolonda Lavender. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

Yolonda Lavender. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

I was as mesmerized by their talent as I was by Yolonda’s technicolor dream blazer, which, depending on the lighting, was either a vibrant royal blue or bright jade (we later discovered that in natural light it is more of an aqua. Truly a magical blazer).

Moving Panoramas, an “all-gal dream gaze trio” from Austin, Texas, was next. Leslie Sisson and Rozie Castoe created golden harmonies while Karen Skloss provided the beats to dance to. They were great.

And then there was Teen. Teen was so cool. They were tight as heck. Their style was on point. And lead singer Teeny Lieberson had the sassiest hand movements and eye makeup and omg I wanted to be them.

Teen. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

Teen. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

When I watch a band I love play, I usually walk away feeling inspired—whether they are female fronted or otherwise. But there was something really unique about the feeling I had after watching a whole bunch of kickass lady bands perform consecutively. It went beyond inspiration. I felt empowered.

Having a platform for the unapologetic representation of female artists is so important to prove to women and girls that not only can they make beautiful things, but that the beautiful things they make matter and deserve to be showcased. Because anyone can be moved to make after an inspiring performance. But achieving the confidence to expose your creations to others happens a lot easier when you can see people like you not only doing it, but fricking slaying at it.

DC. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

DC. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

LadyFestGR delivered that on Saturday, and all of the event’s proceeds went to a summer camp that takes that sentiment to the next level for young girls in the area.

Girls Rock! Grand Rapids is an organization that hosts a week-long summer camp for girls ages 8-16. Over the course of that week, girls participate in instrument lessons, workshops, band forming, songwriting and even logo and album art creation. And they get to interact with lady musicians and watch performances.  At the end of the week, they get to perform and record.

The idea is to empower young girls through music, encouraging them to engage with their creativity and DIY skills and along the way bolstering self-esteem and confidence. So in the future, when they want to start a band—or do anything involving embracing vulnerability, as creative work so often demands—nothing can hold them back.

Moving Panoramas. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

Moving Panoramas. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

I can’t think of a more perfect marriage of event and organization than the one between LadyfestGR and Girls Rock! Grand Rapids. An inspiring and diverse showcase of local female talent just being so unapologetically cool and confident supporting the opportunity for young girls to experience just that.

In addition to feeling just euphorically inspired after attending LadyfestGR 2016, I felt really proud. Proud that my $10 wristband directly benefited a great organization, proud to donate an additional $15 in exchange for a GR!GR t-shirt, proud of all the amazing ladies who put this festival together, and proud of my community for supporting this lady-centric event in all the different ways they do.

I walked out of LadyfestGR 2016 wanting to make things. And I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be around women and girls from near and far who are gleaming examples of what happens when ladies create.

Teen. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

Teen. Image: Steven Michael Holmes.

For more photos from the headlining show, check out Steven’s Flickr.