“Where are the girls at?”
No it’s not a dirty frat boy talking, it’s what Philly DJ M.J. Fine was asking herself a year or two ago. Where the hell are all the real female musicians?
Performance spaces for unknown bands, especially female-fronted ones, aren’t always easy to find. Sara Sherr, a local journalist, decided to make a change.
January 11, 2001: Enter Sugartown, a monthly event dedicated to women in music.
For over a year now, the female bands and DJs featured at Sugartown have been (and still are) rocking the Trocadero’s Balcony Bar with a mix of indie, punk, garage and more. Local bands perform regularly, and acts from D.C. to Boston are also brought into the mix.
With a tight community of support, Sugartown is, as M.J. points out, a “low-pressure place” to debut a space for unknown female bands to show the city what they’ve got.
And Philadelphia likes it. The all-girl punk band the Minks played their Philly debut where? You guessed it Sugartown.
Between sets, DJs Maria Sciarrino, Sara and M.J. throw down all sorts of girl-made music, from Patsy Cline-esque country to swanky Nancy Sinatra, whose song “Sugartown” provided the event with its name. In it, Sinatra sings about leaving the rain behind and moving on to a better place.
Besides leaving bad weather behind, exactly what atmosphere does Sugartown capture? Simply, it’s an environment for women to support women, but it’s also damn good music.
Sure, a night of all-female bands will offer a second perspective, a different take on whatever style of music, but isn’t that what any good band or DJ set should be doing?
Regardless of what you think girl rock should sound like, the ladies of Sugartown are doing it right.
Their one-year anniversary show is set for this Saturday, March 30 at the Balcony.
For eight bucks, you’ll see Ken, a hot rock band that’s been a Philly item since November 1994, along with the indie-guitar sounds of The Dirty Triplets. Jenny Toomey will perform with a cellist, and Lisa Christ Superstar will round out the evening with a healthy dose of hard metal.
As always, DJs Sara Sherr, Maria Tessa Sciarrino and M.J. Fine will spin between sets.
Sara and M.J. were both humble, saying they “had no idea” Sugartown would be so well received.
With one year behind them and more to come, Sara’s “just hoping [the show] can expand to all-ages.” Currently, the Balcony Bar is 21+, but if Sugartown grows to include the Trocadero, upstairs and down, the show could draw a wider audience.
In the future, keep your eyes peeled for spoken word, performance art and burlesque-style drag shows. The Sugartown ladies have come up with these ideas in hopes of overcoming the often homogenized, straight-acting and white Philly rock crowd. Female music, however, will remain the focus.
Sugartown’s one-year anniversary featuring Jenny Toomey, Ken, the Dirty Triplets and Lisa Christ Superstar, will be at the balcony on Sat., March 30. Admission is $8.
Rachel Barbara can be reached at email@example.com