A new Australian music festival aims to shine a spotlight on women and transgender musicians. Named Earopund, the event will debut in Sydney in January 2016. “[It’s] reversing the trend we often see at gigs and at festivals, where it’s pretty common to see around 80% of performers are male,” said director Astrid Zeman. “We want to promote female and LGBTQIA+ musicians in the scene and raise awareness of gender equality.”
Zeman, a Sydney-based singer-songwriter, came up with the concept after attending “loads of gigs” where “women – let alone transgender musicians – are just not well represented in line-ups.”
She said, “I’ll sometimes see a few bands in a row, maybe 15 musicians, and there won’t be a single woman on stage. Male bands will sometimes be singing about how hot a chick is, or how they enjoy relaxing with their girlfriends on the weekend, or about doing guy stuff with their mates … and I just find it hard to relate to this material.
“Seeing performances that are repeatedly male-dominated makes me feel frustrated and disempowered. I want to see women shredding it on guitar in the front row, belting into the microphone and lashing out on drum skins. There are plenty of talented women out there who can do all these things… why aren’t they at the front of the stage?”
She adds that being a part of LISTEN Records Compilation One was also influential.
“LISTEN is a fantastic collective that exists to promote female and LGBTQIA+ musos. These wonderful humans put on loads of gigs and conferences to promote gender equality in the music scene. I was at the record launch in Melbourne last October … [which] was incredibly inspiring and was definitely a catalyst for initiating the women’s festival!”
Earopund will happen over two days, in two venues. The first is scheduled for the Newtown Social Club on Saturday 23 January. “[It] will showcase a strong lineup of electronic, ambient and rock acts, including Astrix Little, Chunyin, Fabels, Imperial Broads and Bree van Reyk (Synergy Percussion, School of Rock for Girls). Between acts we will showcase some spoken word and encourage conversation on ways to encourage girls, women and trans musos in the scene.”
The second will be held at Newtown’s Alpha House on Saturday 30 January. Zeman described this day “as discussion-focused and much more intimate, with acoustic, classical and experimental acts.” Among the headliners is Gail Priest, organiser of Pretty Gritty Gigs and founder of the Audible Women directory, which promotes women who work in experimental music.
“Our aim is to showcase a real mixed bag of genres to demonstrate that women play music well across a large range of styles,” Zeman said. “We also wanted to give special attention to some of the women who have been instrumental in fostering gender equality in the community and who have helped to empower young and disadvantaged ladies. Phenomenal drummer Bree van Reyk recently founded the School of Rock for Girls, creating a band that included 70 female musicians, which culminated in a performance at Campbelltown Arts Centre. Spoken word artists, like Sara Saleh, have been especially active in supporting female refugees and giving them a voice and a means to express themselves.”
Tickets for Earopund Part One are available online.