The first annual Girl Fest Northwest (GFNW) music festival, of which PDX Magazine is a proud sponsor, was an intimate event that featured an eclectic array of music. The showcase, ranging from hip-hop to folk-infused techno to raw unadulterated punk, drew a crowd just as diverse as its musical lineup. Young and old, hipsters and slickers, gathered on Aug. 2 at Lola’s Room of the Crystal Ballroom to celebrate, promote, and embrace women in music.
For the event’s organizer Madison Sturdevant, the idea has been percolating as long as she’s been writing about the Northwest music scene. “While writing about music, I was consistently frustrated by the attitude toward female musicians in the scene,” explains Sturdevant, who currently writes for the Portland-based premiere Hip-Hop lifestyle magazine, We Out Here Magazine. “I saw hardly any female artists receiving the opportunities or recognition received by men they worked alongside. Also, there are many expectations put on female artists that aren’t put on men. You have to act a certain way, behave a certain way—definitely look a certain way. GFNW started off simply as a showcase for female artists, where they could perform and the focus would be 100 percent on their music” and that is precisely what the event did. The festival began with the R&B sounds of local newcomer Blossom, a soul-infused adaptation of clean jazz with a hint of DJ-altered house sounds. It was a refreshing and encouraging look into the next generations perspective of the blues and jazz scene in Portland.
Little Warrior took the stage next, playing songs from her latest album Fight with Your Heart. The local Portland favorite offered the audience a digitized photometric glimpse into the surreal and culturally driven heart of the youth with her soft, inflatable voice mixed with a demanding, often technically enthused electro-pop vibe. With her honest, edgy lyrics and deeply melodic instrumentals, Little Warrior perfectly encompasses the tragically fierce persona of teenage angst and struggle. Next, Bed. (pictured at top) hit the stage full of talent and vigor. Relatively unknown to Portlanders, it’s safe to say the local act made the biggest splash of the night with their hypno-melodic, free-rock-slash-mind-gazing sound. They quickly surpassed all expectations and won the hearts of the grab-bag crowd. Remember, you heard it here first: Look for Bed. to make a big impact on the Portland music scene.
The void left by Bed.’s departure from the stage was quickly filled by the hard core garage sounds of Daughters of the Dead Sea, an all-girl edgy rock band from Seattle. With raspy vocals like razor blades on asphalt, a 4/4 bag-full of badass drums, and adrenaline pumping bass, this three-piece powerhouse is a nostalgic reminder of when garage bands like The Sweaty Nipples packed smoke-sticky dive bars all over this valley. Waiting for Tuff Shet to take the stage was like the calm before a storm. Raw, passionate, and technically bare, this punk rock foursome from Seattle was loud, obnoxious, and utterly disdainful, in other words—perfect. If Courtney Love could sing, she’d sound like Tuff Shet, a band that came together just in time for this show, “A few of the bands actually contacted me asking if they could be involved when they heard about the event and fell in love with the message,” notes Sturdevant. “Tuff Shet was one of those bands.” The party-stained crew of oddballs lingered long after their set was over, and responded to other acts who complained about the stifling heat with shouts of “Tough Shit!” The sixth and final act, hip hop duo Neka + Kahlo, had a fairly combatant stage presence with seemingly nasty chips on their shoulders. As the bass line dropped, the beats shook the walls, the floor began to bounce, and the raging rhythmic rapping voice of Kahlo cut through the room. Her rhymes were tight, precise, and crisp as the melodically smooth singing of Neka filled in the chorus breaks in perfect timing. Although a relatively new name in Portland, Neka & Kahlo won’t be for long.
By the end of the night, it was clear that Sturdevant is made for events like this. She successfully organized a group of talented professional female musicians to produce a music festival with variety, great vibes, and a lot of happy people. Expect even more, on an even greater scale as Sturdevant continues to bring women to the forefront of music in the Northwest. “Nothing is set in stone, but I have a lot of unique ideas for Girl Fest 2015,” remarks Sturdevant. “No matter what, Girl Fest Northwest will remain dedicated to the same goal I developed from Day One: excellent female talent, great venue, and an enthusiastic and supportive audience.”
— Jef Krohn
Ed. Note: We apologize for the mediocre quality of the photos in this story. We had some… issues. Totally the Editor-in-chief’s fault. But we are open to crowd-sourcing content, so if you took some photos that turned out well, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post them here. Please make sure to include information on who is in the photo and who took the photograph.