Ladyfest is an international movement and community-based NFP organisation that is run by, and for, women. Planting its roots in Washington USA in the year 2000, the organisation has since spread around the world, and is now becoming a part of our very own city. Recently the Beetle Bar hosted the official LadyFest Brisbane Launch, which will be the first of many music nights, workshops and events to take place over the next six months. Below is a review I wrote of the night, which highlights just what LadyFest is doing for our music and social community.
Taking place at the quirky Beetle Bar in Brisbane where red and black ladybugs blend into the concrete floors, and beetle-themed rugs adorn the cracked brick walls, the LadyFest Launch was a sea of young men and women looking to satiate their thirst for live music. During the night we were treated to 5 wonderful and unique local acts: Emma Bosworth, Tiny Spiders, Ambriosa Salad, Love Like Hate and The Boys.
Bosworth, who kicked off the night with some beautiful and thought provoking songs, is a fun and laid back female artist from Brisbane who spends most of her set joking with the crowd and telling stories; sharing the stage with her friends ‘Paddy’ and ‘Tylea’ who join her for several songs. Each of her songs is a heartfelt story which explores universal themes of love, relationships and friendships; all of which are evident not only in her songs but also in her ability to share with the audience on a personal level. At times she speaks one-on-one with people in the crowd; creating a dialogue that is raw and honest.
One song which I felt was particularly indicative of Bosworth’ style, was the sensitive and thoughtful ‘Louise’, a song which was written as a dedication to a friend who moved far away. Shortly after this came another wonderful song named ‘Brighter side’, full of beautiful harmonies which Bosworth admits she wrote as a cheap wedding present for a friend because she was too poor to buy anything else.
Her music is as much a testament to her friends as it is to the beauty of friendship in general. Bosworth, who like many of us admits she often struggles with self-doubt, revealed that it was her good friend Tylea who often encouraged her to keep pursuing her dreams. At this point, the one-and-only Tylea calls out lovingly, ‘You’re doing so well!” to which Bosworth laughs and cheers back,“LADDYYFESTTT!” It was lovely to see such a positive and encouraging vibe, and it was one which carried on late into the night.
After the laid-back vibe of Emma Bosworth, the two-piece follow up act Tiny Spiders were certainly a shock to the system! The indie punk/rock duo who have often been compared to Deerhoof and Polvo, quickly drew a crowd as they took to the stage with nothing more than a drum set and an electric guitar. Vocalist and drummer Cameron Smith was an unusual character; sweat dripping from his bearded face as he screamed and beat down so furiously on the drums that he often hit his head on the mic hanging overhead. Meanwhile, in the shadows to his right stood the other half of Tiny Spiders, Innez Tulloch. Dressed in a red and white blossom top paired with a grungy black skirt and sheer tights, she played along on her red-sequined guitar while Smith continued to lead at a furious pace. While the set can at best be described as mental, noisy punk rock, it did become a little more melodic as they progressed.
One thing that did disappoint me somewhat during Tiny Spiders however was that despite her obvious talent, Tulloch appeared to be constantly in the shadows, both figuratively and metaphorically. Both myself and several others noticed what appeared to be a bit of an imbalance between the duo, with Tulloch often playing along tentatively and looking at Smith as if to check for cues on what he might do next. At first I had considered that perhaps this may have been due to inexperience in playing together, however I have since heard that Tiny Spiders have been a duo since 2010, so I can only speculate on what the reasons for the above may be. Nevertheless the crowd certainly seemed to enjoy the duo, and I even saw a guy seated a few rows back holding a cup of beer by his teeth just so he could free his hands to clap!
As Love Like Hate began their set, the crowd filtered from the bar back towards the stage. The duo, which is formed by Heather Cheketri (vocals & guitar) and Sonja Ter Horst (keyboard), was again quite an unusual mix. While their sound has been described by some as rock, Cheketri’s vocals are deep and reminiscent of artists such as Wendy Matthews. Meanwhile Horst’s style is a stark comparison, with a dramatic and technical pianist style. The way her fingers rise dramatically above the keys before tapping down in a staccato-like fashion reminds me of the days I practiced piano as a child, and my teacher would say, ‘Lift your hands up higher! Don’t let your wrists slacken’.
At times Horst’s fingers delicately swing along the keys as if she is caressing them, before she launches into another chorus – almost like a baker kneading bread. I found it interesting to see the musical differences between the two women as they played; something which is again a testament to the beauty of artists. No two are the same.
During the break between Love Like Hate and the final act The Boys, I noticed there was a 5 minute act scheduled under the name Ambriosa Salad. I thought it seemed a little strange to have an act appear for only a few minutes, but what a surprise I was in for! As we were all busily sipping away on our drinks and socialising, a tall slender woman walked quietly onto the stage.
Dressed in a red robe and balancing a mixing bowl on her head, she stepped forward and stood before us in silence, her hand resting suggestively on the opening of her robe. One by one our eyes turned to her; the crowd becoming a small sea of curiosity as each of us stood wondering what was going on. Slowly she opened one side of her robe, revealing a strange assortment of vegetables on her body – and very little else! It was at this point that we began to realise, this was not likely to be a typical performance.
Dressed in beige underwear with pieces of tomato, carrots, lettuce and chives placed strategically over parts of her body, Ambriosa Salad began to move slowly about the stage in response to the music, using metaphors and her body language to interpret the song playing in the background. With the phrase, ‘You’re just an object to me…you’re just a piece of meat…” playing along behind her, Ambriosa Salad responded by taking a piece of ham (from where I have no idea!) and putting it between two slices of bread. As the performance progressed she began to add more to the sandwich, ripping the lettuce leaves from her breasts and pressing them into the bread along with pieces of tomato that were stuck to her shoulder; all the while smiling cheekily at the audience.
During the next few minutes her performance became increasingly more and more bizarre, Ambriosa grabbing a hula hoop and spinning it around her limbs whilst trying to hold onto the sandwich she has been creating. By the end of the track we see her twisting violently in and out of this hula hoop, moving faster and faster as she struggles to hold onto the hoop and the sandwich simultaneously, until finally the track comes to an end and she is released from this great ‘challenge’. It really was pretty hilarious, and it put the audience in a great mood; giving us all something to talk about for hours to come!
Finally it came to the point of the night many had been waiting for – the all-girl grunge act known as The Boys. Dressed in their universal band outfits of slick wet leggings, loose singlets and funky hairstyles, I found it fitting that the sounds of Joan Jett and The Runaways growled through the speakers as the girls set up for their show.
In her loose-fitting ‘Fuck You You Fucking Fuck’ singlet, lead singer Jordan Ayres exuded confidence and sex appeal from the moment she walked on stage – a cheeky smirk always imprinted across her lips. Ayres is joined by Sophia De Marco on drums, and the Pelser sisters – Rachel and Ariana – on lead guitar and bass; together creating an explosive, brutal and powerful mix of attitude, sweetness and grit.
Opening their set with ‘Blonde’, Ayers, De Marco and the Pelser girls get to work on winning the crowd over with sassy sweet vocals and punk pop riffs. Ayres comfortability onstage is evident, especially in her pre-song banter where she jokes with the crowd, sometimes telling ‘knock knock’ jokes and teasing them with what was to come.
“We wrote a special song…We think it’s gonna be top of the charts”, Ayres suggested cockily. “We haven’t got a name for it, but we want you to feel it. So here goes…” Listening intently, the audience was momentarily silent, before suddenly crumbling into laughter as they realised what this ‘amazing’ song was.
“It’s hard to look right, at you babbyy. So here’s my number, call me maybe!”
The Boys are a great mixture of fun, colour and attitude, and play the juxtaposition between androgyny and femininity well. Some songs were sweet and sassy, with power packed vocals that reminded me of ‘Zero Zero’ by Operator Please; whilst others made me reminisce my teen years and watching 90’s movies.
One of the things I most enjoyed about The Boys, was their ability to nail the concept of what it meant to ‘perform’. So often we see great musicians who focus on delivering faultless vocals, but forget the importance of drawing the crowd in on an emotional level. There are so many factors to focus on when performing and it’s not always easy to nail a gig vocally whilst also connecting with the audience intimately. It was impressive to see that these four petite women certainly lived up to their reputation for delivering an explosive, brutal and sexy performance.
On a whole, I feel the night was a great success, both in terms of bringing people together to enjoy music and also in its ability to celebrate women. The feeling was also reiterated by event organiser Marlin, who was thrilled to see so many people involved.
This was just a small taste of what is to come, as LadyFest prepare to deliver a feast of workshops, music and other treats throughout the year. Stay tuned to www.ladyfestbrisbane.com.au and www.facebook.com/ladyfestbrisbane to keep in the loop with what’s to come!