March is Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate than to honor the female musicians and artists, from past to present, who have enriched our lives and inspired us. Here in Los Angeles, online and via alternative media, there are several opportunities to further explore and learn about how women, across generations, have cultivated their art, made strides in the industry and how they’ve come to hold a special place in our hearts and our ears.
Words: Emily Saex
1. Go to the Viva La Muxer! Art and Music Festival
Head over to Long Beach for the Viva La Muxer! Art and Music Festival this Saturday, March 7th. This badass event is a celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8th) and doubles as a benefit for the non-profit Las Fotos Project, which aims to empower girls through photography, mentorship and self-expression. In addition to featuring some fabulous artists, photographers and pop up shops, all female musical performances by Go Betty Go (recently featured on LA Weekly for their mighty return!), Maluca, and Irene Diaz will be taking center stage.
2. Pick Up a Copy of She Shreds Magazine
She Shreds Magazine is a top notch reader dedicated to showcasing female guitarists and bassists – placing them in the limelight they often deserve to be in but don’t always get in the mainstream media. Their most recent Issue #6 zeros in on 50 Influential Guitarists of the 90s who likely paved the way for contemporary buzzworthy favorites such as Burger-A-Go-Go, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and Shannon Shaw (of Shannon and The Clams), also featured. Read, engage and enjoy!
3. Visit the The Queen of Disco
The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live Downtown features a number of outstanding exhibits year round, which upon a visit, will surely increase your popular music knowledge a thousand fold. Through Spring 2015, you have the opportunity to check out the unique Donna Summer: Four Seasons of Love exhibit which will let you in behind the scenes, of the iconic, five-time Grammy Award winning “Queen of Disco.” View handwritten lyrics and notes, set design sketches and costumes designed by Summer, never before seen photographs and more. Hot stuff indeed!
4. For The SXSW Bound: Attend a Screening!
We know a lot of you music junkies and industry folks will be SXSW bound this March. For all of you headed down to Austin, be sure to add these film screenings to your itinerary. Mavis! directed by Jessica Edwards makes its world premiere, taking viewers on a journey through the life and times of soul/r&b singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples of The Staple Singers, who has spent the last 60 years performing and spreading messages of love and equality through music.
Gloria, based on the true story of the rise and fall of international pop star Gloria Trevi aka the “Mexican Madonna” will also be screening at SXSW where it makes it’s U.S. premiere.
5. For Those Stuck at Home: Watch a Documentary!
Can’t make it to SXSW? Don’t fret! There are still plenty of opportunities to learn about women in music through film from the comfort of your own home. Highly recommended is the heart-wrenching 2014 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Feature, 20 Feet From Stardom, which shines light on the rarely heard story of rock n’ roll’s greatest unsung heroes: backup singers.
Another must-see documentary The Girls in the Band tells the stories of women who persevered in the world of Jazz from the 1930’s onwards, despite sexism, racism and the curtailed opportunities they had. While currently only available for purchase via educational platforms (if you’re in school, lobby to host a screening!), the TGITB website has a killer recommendation section that includes a list of additional documentaries and books on women in jazz.
6. Go to the Library
No seriously, go to the library. The Los Angeles Central Library is hosting a special exhibit titled From Pop to the Pit: LAPL Photo Collection Celebrates the Los Angeles Music Scene, 1978-1989, open now through late June. While not 100% female centric, the exhibit does include historic photos of influential rock/pop bands such as The Bangles, The Runaways and The Go-Gos. Bonus: it’s free.
7. Read a damn book!
Speaking of the library, while you’re there read a damn book. Delve deeper into the herstory of admired female artists through music biographies and memoirs. Try Alice Bag’s Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage: a Chicana Punk Story, Patti Smith’s Just Kids or Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band for starters. There’s no telling what amazing stories you may discover, it’s a Reading Rainbow out there!
8. Pay Tribute
Los Angeles should be considered lucky that it is home to some extremely impressive, all or primarily female classic rock / metal tribute bands, who go above and beyond straight covers to truly embodying the divine rock n’ roll spirit of the musicians they are emulating on stage. If you have not yet seen Black Sabbitch (Black Sabbath), The Iron Maidens (Iron Maiden), Hammer of the Broads (Led Zeppelin) or DIA (DIO) you are truly missing out. Get your arse out to one of their upcoming shows at El Cid, Santa Fe Springs swap meet, Paladino’s or other local haunt and let loose!
9. Rock Out Live!
The world of music is experiencing rapid changes and shifts in these modern times. Many female artists are rising, with increased legitimacy and acclaim within the industry but when it comes to brass tacks, audience support is still key in any musician’s survival. As the listener you are an active participant but when you go to concerts and build a connection and genuine interaction with artists in a live setting you are truly engaged in being a part of music history in the making. Rock out and rock on mujeres!