This weekend in Nashville, TN, a circle of female rockers and their friends and allies present the third annual Bitchfest. The DIY fest highlights female-empowered bands from Tennessee and Kentucky. Lauren Gilbert, who fronts Thelma & the Sleaze is one of the head organizers. She's been playing in Nashville for over a decade and, inspired by the early nineties riot grrrl scenes of the Northwest, she started Bitchfest as a showcase for bands like hers. While the bands range in genre from metal to garage to indie dance, they all have at least one female member pulling her weight in the band.
I asked Gilbert if Nashville has many opportunities for female musicians who don't play country, bluegrass, or Americana, and she said, "I guess it depends on what the personal goals are. Personally, I think any showcase will certainly help drive interest and success. But my goals are to play loud rock and roll and not give any fucks about people's comfort zones or stifling scenes in conjunction with my ability to perform in a way I choose. So I'm constantly winning. I think the other weekend's performers concur."
Shows take place Friday and Saturday night at The End and Saturday afternoon at the Owl Farm. An afterparty on Sunday night at Mustang's on Dickerson Pike features dancing and a drag king karaoke contest. The full lineup is on the Bitchfest event page.
THELMA & THE SLEAZE
Badass, sludgy rock, stars and bars bikinis, torn fishnets: these are all the trappings of Thelma & the Sleaze. In anticipation of a new EP this fall, they recently released the single "Summer Fun." The DIY music video features characters participating in behavior that usually doesn't come recommended, like applying makeup while smoking, cleaning your handgun in your bathrobe, and drinking and diving, but hey, who wants to have a boring summer? The vid is probably NSFW, depending on where you punch the clock. Their Pillage EP is a good introduction to the band's sound, but videos for songs like "Too Tough" and this cover of Aaliyah's "Are you that Somebody" will give you a better sense of their aesthetic. Sat., 8/31 at The End
Jasmin Kaset and Makenzie Green form Birdcloud, an acoustic duo. They're cute, could be sisters, and lyrically gifted, but that formula doesn't always produce the results you might expect. The two were once enemies from afar who came together one night to improvise a song about oral sex, and the two have been writing dirty ditties with a full on twang ever since. In at town full of pretty singer-songwriter hopefuls, Nashville Scene called Birdcloud "a blast of refreshingly vulgar air." The Southern satirists have the left-field sensibilities of Tenacious D soaked in classic country melodies, which are on in full display in this NSFW music video from last year. To our knowledge it's the first to turn a roadside sobriety test into a line dance. Check out more videos on their site. Sat, 8/31 at The End.
Loud and confrontational, Louisville, Kentucky's Catfight are an all-female quartet with a straightforward mid-nineties riot girl sound. They call out condescending d-bags in"Call me a Bitch" and reiterate the question that's been on people's minds all year, "who gives a fuck who I fuck?" in "W.G.A.F." Their self-titled EP comes out September 10th. Sat. 8/31 at the Owl Farm
BITCH WITH A PURPOSE
Representatives from local charities and female-centered organizations will be available throughout the weekend, and there will be art auctions and raffles to support them. There's Planned Parenthood, the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp in Murfreesboro, a week-long day camp that empowers young women with workshops on songwriting, recording, and music photography, and the Nashville Femme zine that focuses on feminist and women's health issues. After the day shows on Saturday at the Owl Farm, musicians and festival-goers alike will ride in a Critical Mass to the Tennessee Marriage Equality Day, a rally in support of LGBT groups that will take place in protest of the Tennessee State Legislature's decision this year to make August 31st "Traditional Marriage Day."
JACKALOPE & BITCHSTRAPS
Jackalope Brewing Company is a craft brewery started by two women in Nashville with a taproom in the Gulch neighborhood. They brew Thunder Ann, a citrusy, sweet ale with a wallop named after Davy Crockett's alligator-wrestling wife of legend. They'll be serving free beer at the Owl Farm on Saturday. Bitchstraps is a company that makes leather and metal guitar straps and drumstick holsters by hand in Nashville. They're donating merch for Bitchfest's raffle.