I was really pleased to get the opportunity to go to Loud Women Fest on behalf of Joyzine. Once I was told about it, I wondered how I didn’t know about it already. After all, it’s now been going for six years, and has become the biggest UK based female-led festival. Being a feminist and a big fan of riot grrrl, and female-led bands, I could see this festival was right up my street.
The festival took place over two days, upstairs at The Amersham Arms in New Cross, London. It kicked off on Friday evening, and I had come alone, one of those media types, but with no fancy big camera to give me away. So I coyly found a spot at the front alongside the fancy camera people, with the camera on my phone ready, not knowing what to expect as I didn’t know any of the bands playing, so with open ears too.
The first band that took the stage were a band called ‘Muff’, an all female band from Brighton. I would describe their music as a more melodic form of riot grrrl style punk. It was the singer’s birthday and they certainly brought some fun into the set, with inflatable beach balls thrown into the audience with ‘Muff Have Balls’ emblazoned on them. They also played a few covers including the most delicious version of ‘Blurred Lines’ I have ever heard. They ended with their single ‘Feminine Dream’ which you can stream on Spotify.
Next up to the stage, was my personal favourite band of the Friday line up- ‘Queen Cult’ a female fronted band from Macclesfield. These guys were pure rock n roll and I fell in love with them almost immediately. Not only was their music brilliant, but the band performed with such enthusiastic energy and bounciness, it was catching. True rock stars in the making. Their new single ‘Better Believe it’ had just come out on the day, so go check it out here. A slight theme of the weekend’s performance started to emerge as they ended with a cover of ‘Left Outside Alone’ (Anastasia) with little samples of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name thrown in.
I’m not sure who was in charge of the djing that evening, but I have to give them credit, as between the bands they were playing all of the music I’ve always wanted to hear in a club- bands like Bikini Kill and Daisy Chainsaw for example. Seeing the amazing bands, hearing the fantastic music, I started to feel at home, like I had arrived at my musical spiritual home.
Loud Women Fest is about more than just the music, as talks from various campaign groups also took place. After Queen Cult, we heard from campaign group Alliance for Choice. A group campaigning for abortion rights in Ireland, a place where it is very much needed.
Unfortunately because I had to leave before the gig finished I only caught one more band (there were another two after I left), called Pink Suits. A non binary two piece from Margate, they started with the snarling ‘Welcome to Fake Great Britain’ Punk sounds and punk spirit filled their set, with songs covering both the political and personal. Vocals were divided equally, and passion oozed from both of them, both musically and vocally.
Before I left, I managed to catch the talk from campaign group Level Up. They spoke about their latest campaign, stopping pregnant women going to prison.
On Saturday, the music started in the afternoon as the day featured a bumper 21 bands. Due to work commitments, I didn’t arrive until around 5pm. When I got there, there was a bigger crowd, and a little second stage had also been set up. There were no clashes though, as the bands on the bill simply alternated between stages. Although I still came on my own, I felt a little less so as I met up briefly with the ladies from Deux Furieuses the moment I came in, and Paul Maps (the editor of Joyzine) I also finally met in person.
The first artist when I walked in was Charley Stone. I hadn’t really settled yet so I probably didn’t give her the full attention she deserved. However I did notice she was a hit with the audience, getting lots of laughs from her banter between the songs, and continuing the theme of covers- played a cover of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’
Being familiar with Deux Furieuses, I made sure I got myself a prime spot. Before them though there was another talk from a campaign group- ‘Safe Gigs for Women’. A random woman in the crowd came up before they started and said “I was at the very first “Girls to the Front” gig, what a shame we still have to do this” It seemed to me she was referencing a riot grrrl gig from the nineties perhaps as ‘girls to the front’ was a well known phrase at that time at riot grrrl concerts. I had to agree, it’s a shame we still need gigs to get women more seen.Research from the BBC released earlier this year, concluded that only 17 per cent of UK festival headliners are women, and if that’s not enough only 12 per cent are even mixed gender bands. Not to mention all the concerning women based issues being highlighted by the campaign groups at this event. ‘Safe Gigs for Women’ was yet another- a group with the aim of preventing harassment, groping etc at gigs. It’s awesome such a campaign group has been set up, but depressing that we still need to.
Up next music wise was Deux Furieuses, who were as energetic and passionate as ever. Filled with rock n roll swagger and full voltage power, they treated us to a set that was fire and fury in a musical form. The duo are about far more than the music alone, they touched on subjects lyrically including the government in ‘Bring Down the Government’ and violence to women in recent single ‘Know the Score’. Before playing ‘Know the Score’, they highlighted that according to Counting Dead Women, there have now been 68 women killed through male violence this year. Encouraging us to sing along with them in the ending refrain ‘say her name, say her name, say her name’, you could hear the solidarity in the room.
Back to the smaller stage, and Dinosaur Skull now stepped up. I had seen the singer among the audience earlier, and had noticed the Julie Ruin t-shirt she had been wearing (not worn on stage), so I wondered if the music would be riot grrrl inspired. Sure enough, I was right as singer Cil did indeed seem to be channelling Kathleen Hanna through her voice. However unlike many bands who seem to be more aligned with the punky side of Ms.Hanna, this time it was more akin to Le Tigre or indeed Julie Ruin, a more electronic sound.
Time to move again, to the bigger stage and to my surprise (and probably not to many others, as I’m sure many were Loud Women veterans by now) a few of the crew running Loud Women Fest were up on stage, now in full on sparkly attire including matching red aprons. I had never heard I Doris before, but before they even started, I was quite excited as it looked like it was going to be fun. They did not disappoint. Introducing themselves all as ‘Doris’ before launching into a fabulous set of fun music that you couldn’t help but dance to. The fun was not just in the music but in the inbetween banter, including introducing us (well me- probably) to the ‘I Doris’ pledge- stating some statements then inviting us to say ‘I Doris’ with one hand lifted up in a pledge saying ‘I Doris’ if we agreed to it. The biggest cheer came with the last part- “I will not vote Tory’. A few covers were played (of course, keeping in with the theme of the weekend) including ‘Up the Junction’ by Squeeze and they ended with the superb choice of a cover of ‘Rebel Girl’ by Bikini Kill which unsurprisingly the audience adored, possibly scoring one of the biggest cheers of the weekend.
By now, my energy was starting to fall, so I didn’t hear all of the Kate Nash-esque Ynes, but instead spotted a sign I hadn’t noticed, pointing towards a hidden bit upstairs with food. To my delight, I found vegan cake so happily refueled myself before returning to listen to the talk from Girls Against- highlighting the misogyny and sexual assault within the live music scene.
Hot Wax were the next act, and they were loud with big riffs, melodies and screams in equal measure. The complete opposite of the following act Lilith Ai who was acoustic and calm. The final act I was able to see was Fräulein, a duo, who had a great stage presence, commanding the crowd with their stunning alternative rock.
I had hoped to catch Shelf Lives, the other band on the line up I was familiar with, but I only managed to catch the first song of their set before I had to leave.
Overall, my first Loud Women fest definitely won’t be my last. I really felt that they achieved the remit of amplifying women’s voices, and the diversity of the acts also stood out. Musically, lots of different genres were covered, but also both white and black/mixed race, cis, trans and non binary were all represented. I think it also says a lot, that I hadn’t been to a gig alone for years, let alone a full festival and yet I had the best time. I felt comfortable and safe, and felt part of something truly special. I could see why this has been going for six years, and I have no doubt it will only continue to grow bigger and better.
My Personal Musical Highlights:
To keep up with all Loud Women are up to, visit their website
Review and photos by Hayley Foster da Silva
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