In an Old City coffee shop, members of Permanent Wave Philly are warming up.
They spent the day marching through the city streets, alongside thousands of other activists, on the MLK Day of Action, Resistance and Empowerment.
Permanent Wave is a nationwide collective of feminist artists and activists who work to eliminate inequality across gender, race, sexuality and gender identity lines. MLK Day wasn’t the first time the organization’s members stood up for a cause.
The Philadelphia branch, Permanent Wave Philly, works with musicians, artists and activists in the city to make the music and arts scene a more inviting place for all people.
“Our concentration is mainly on finding what musical groups or people are women, trans folk, queer folk, or people of color,” Al San Valentin, member of Permanent Wave Philly, said. “We try to highlight them and give them opportunities to play shows. We also find spaces that support those kinds of musicians and that support audiences who are queer, trans, or of color, [so they] can feel safe enough to go to shows that we put together.”
Permanent Wave’s now-defunct original group formed in New York sometime between 2011-12. Member Rebecca Katherine Hirsch said New York’s group served as the spark for the creation of Philadelphia’s own Permanent Wave.
“I think of it as being more of a catalyst, because of philosophical, mythological and actual differences between the idea and reality of New York and Philadelphia,” Hirsch said. “I did a few things with Permanent Wave in New York, and I feel like it’s more art-based in Philadelphia.”
The group hosts shows, art events and collaborations with other organizations throughout the city, while fostering a sense of community and inclusion amongst musicians, artists and audience members.
On Jan. 31, the group will host a show featuring Hailey Wojcik, Dan Ex Machina, The Shondes and No Other at PhilaMOCA.
“We’ve worked with The Shondes before,” said Dot Goldbergerer, of Permanent Wave Philly. “We really like them. The Shondes are a really fantastic band with really great politics, in our opinion. They have queer members, and they have Jewish members and they speak out against the apartheid in Israel and Palestine.”
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, The Shondes have toured with Against Me! which is fronted by Laura Jane Grace, an activist for the transgender community in punk scenes across the country.
“We are always excited to connect with feminist communities everywhere we go on tour,” said Louisa Solomon, lead vocalist and bassist for The Shondes. “As someone who grew up with riot grrrl in the ‘90s, it’s super heartening to see this ongoing commitment to anti-oppression work in music scenes and meaningful connections between activism and art. We are lucky to be welcomed by the Permanent Wave community in Philly.”
While Permanent Wave Philly’s work is a step in the right direction of equality in the arts and music of Philadelphia, members Goldberger and San Valentin said there is a lot of work to be done.
“People are starting to talk,” San Valentin said. “They are having discussions. I find more people looking around them and saying, ‘Yeah this space isn’t inclusive. This band is not supportive of women.’”
“To us, that’s a good start,” San Valentin added. “We are trying to keep that dialogue going and create opportunities for discourse so we can talk about these problems that exist in the Philly scene. That by itself has also changed. The fact that people are choosing to not be silent and choosing not to ignore these problems.”
Permanent Wave Philly has worked with PhilaMOCA in the past due, in part, to their willingness to be an open, safe space for audience members.
“There are certain organizers who are more prolific in the scene who do ask these questions and that’s really great and important, but it’s still not enough sometimes,” Goldberger said. “There are so many more bands that are incredible and so many more people that don’t get the space that they deserve.”
The members of Permanent Wave Philly said they hope to continue working with other like-minded organizations in the city and inspire change in the music and arts scene in the area.
“There are various networks of feminists who want to do the same thing – who are working to make their scenes and cities better,” Goldberger said. “We are just a small group here. If people are inspired, disgruntled, or pumped about our work we want people to come out and create with us. We want people to come out and join us and tell us what they want to see in their scene.”
Tim Mulhern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org