Lina Xinos was tired of seeing look-alike boy bands play every show.
“It’s not that girls aren’t musicians, we’re just in this patriarchal system that’s trickled down to the music scene,” Xinos said.
In response, the Philly musician organized GRRRL Fest, a femme-focused benefit show held at the Overlook Hotel, a house-show venue in North Philadelphia, on Aug. 26. Ten women musicians performed, alongside 10 local artists who showcased and sold their work.
GRRRL Fest donated all $1,000 of its proceeds and items like deodorant, shampoo and linens to Women of Change. The shelter at the corner of Arch and 21st streets offers services like education and employment opportunities for women.
Xinos, who has been booking shows at Philly venues for a year and a half, said there is an under-representation of women artists in the city, pointing out how most of the shows she books and attends have all-white, male lineups.
Olivia Williams, a sophomore sculpture major, displayed her project, “I Crack My Knuckles (Part 2),” at the benefit show. Using linoleum print with mixed media, Williams reflected on her experiences with street harassment at DIY spaces over the past year and how she’s handled the ensuing anger.
“I wanted to have a piece to give ode to all the girls who deal with men whispering at them, calling them baby, everything we deal with just for leaving our homes,” Williams said. “The act of cracking your knuckles became such a violent part of this ritual I have with myself in processing my fears, and I really hope other girls can connect to that idea and take some power back for themselves.”
Although she’s lived in Philadelphia for a year, Williams said she has only attended one show featuring women musicians.
“I think it’s awesome to be able to have a safe space for girls,” Williams said. “As far as GRRRL Fest goes, I wish it had been taken more seriously.” Despite the event’s focus on empowering women and pushing for more inclusiveness in the DIY scene, Williams feels most attendees didn’t take to heart the point of the fest, which was “an opportunity for girls to fight back and get the recognition we deserve in our community,” she said.
Alongside helping female artists gain attention in the DIY scene, GRRRL Fest also addressed the lack of diversity in the scene by hosting artists who are women of color, including MAASK, Ganou, and Woven In. The event also featured transgender and queer musicians, stressing that such diverse acts need more recognition in the music community.
Rachel Levin opened GRRRL Fest with her fuzz-pop duo Fred Beans and recalls the difficulty of starting out in a male-dominated community as a queer musician, saying people perceived her band as “just two little queer kids.”
“I think less socially accepted groups of people have a hard time bringing themselves out in front of groups of people in general, let alone putting their art and self expression out there for lots of people to see,” Levin said.
Levin said the way GRRRL Fest “exploded” on social media was a sign of attitudes toward women acts shifting in the music scene.
“It’s really cool that everyone here is not just accepting but encouraging,” she added.
Xinos hopes that by putting on women-only shows like GRRRL Fest, the community will be encouraged to diversify and support more women artists and help transition them from a rarity at shows to a regular occurrence.
“When you have all boy bands in a line up you don’t call it boy fest, it’s just a show,” Xinos said.
Emily Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.