GIRLSCHOOL 2017 raises female voices

“Let’s start a revolution,” Shirley Manson said to a cheering crowd at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles on Friday night.

The Garbage front-woman chatted about challenges she faced as a woman in the music industry to kick off a three-day long event that’s all about celebrating female voices.

GIRLSCHOOL is the brainchild of Anna Bulbrook, a multi-instrumentalist for The Airborne Toxic Event and front-woman of her own band, The Bulls. She started the women’s collective 18 months ago in an effort to create a welcome space for female and female-identifying voices. A portion of the proceeds from the festival benefit the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, assisting the next generation of female musicians.

Although men and women alike attended the event, it was almost entirely run by women. A handful of young ladies manned the merchandise booths, a pair of badass chicks ran the soundboards and, of course, all of the performances were by female-led artists. While the 2016 event featured a predominantly white lineup, organizers took more care to include to create a diverse bill, with more female artists of color (KonaFrancisca Valenzuela, Madame Gandhi) and gender-nonconforming performers (Soto Voce).

Friday night went by in the blink of an eye, with the venue’s two stages alternating acts so that as soon as one woman thanked the crowd for their support, another started playing. There was nary a music-free moment.

Luna Shadows

As soon as Manson’s speech concluded, the music began. Kona, an R&B artist captured the crowd with tune ‘Working Woman.’ Dissonant guitar riffs juxtaposed pleasantly as Kona slid prettily into high notes. Next came budding electro-pop artist Luna Shadows, whose delicate voice got a bit lost amidst her harmonizer. But by the end of her set, Shadows found her groove, crescendoing into the chorus on song ‘Waves.’

vōx, clad in an all-white ensemble that made her look like a cross between an 18th century bride and horror-film spirit, offered a highly stylized performance steeped in harmonies and synths. Summer Twins brought touches of surf and garage rock for their 30 minutes set. The Regrettes delivered some serious rock ‘n’ roll, and proved that age is just a number (lead singer Lydia Night is just 15-years-old).

The night culminated with an hour-long set from indie pop outfit The Bird and The Bee, the duo of Greg Kurstin and Inara George. But the bee (Kurstin) was missing. Instead, George and three other women took the stage to play favorites like ‘Again and Again,’ ‘Love Letter to Japan,’ and Hall & Oates cover ‘I Can’t Go For That.’

For the final song of the evening, George stood on the stage alone for an acapella version of Bee Gees tune “How Deep Is Your Love.” George warned the crowd that typically she uses a recording of Kurstin playing the piano, but alas, technology was failing her. She began the song, but quickly realized she’d started in the wrong key and there was no way she could hit those high notes. But George tried again, and succeeded, rising high into the whispering notes and encouraging the audience to sing along. It felt like the perfect statement for GIRLSCHOOL: a woman forgoing help from her male partner and owning the stage all by herself.

The second day saw performances from Deap Vally, Francisca Valenzuela, Boyfriend, Pearl Charles, The Wild Reeds, Winter, and Liphemra. The third day featured sets from Chelsea Wolfe, Rituals of Mine, Ex Sage, Caroline Smith, Kid Wave, Starcrawler, and Soto Voce.


Written by Samantha Cowan
Photos courtesy of Silver DeStouet