Sound Scene Express

Ladyfest Returns to Pittsburgh, Bringing Female Talent to the Forefront


Banner by Jesse Flati

The local festival scene is kicking into full gear as summer descends upon the Steel City. But you won’t have to wait until Deutschtown in July to get a jam-packed weekend of quality tunes. Ladyfest Pittsburgh is returning for its fourth year this week, on June 23rd, 24th, and 25th. And it won’t disappoint. With shows taking place in venues across Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, and Polish Hill, and forty female-centric acts that represent a staggering range of genres, there’s plenty to be excited about.

This is the festival’s fourth year running, with co-organizers Stephanie Flati and Jen Sabol at the helm once again. (The first iteration, Vulvapalooza, got its start in the early 2000’s. It was resurrected in 2014, and rebranded to the more inclusive “Ladyfest” in 2015.) “This year, for us, seemed less stressful than the first,” says Sabol, who will also be playing the festival as part of Brazilian Wax. “I guess we have our bearings and we have a good system in order. We also focused on booking more local bands this year, as opposed to last year.”

Its goal, however, has remained consistent. In the words of Sabol, the event aims to “help showcase underrepresented populations in music.” Obviously this includes women, but musicians of other minority groups, such as POC and the LGBTQ+ community, are also highlighted. Sabol continues, “The [festival] is super important, and will help promote the change we want to see in the music community.”

In addition, a portion of the proceeds from Ladyfest will be donated to the Women’s Shelter and Center of Greater Pittsburgh. Last year, over $2,200 was raised for the center, which assists women and children who have been victims of domestic violence with a broad range of emergency and longer-term services. This is one of many examples of Pittsburgh musicians and event organizers dedicating their time and talents to raise money for charity. (Just this year alone, fundraising concerts have been put on to benefit the ACLU, the Standing Rock Sioux, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and more.) So no matter what you’re into—be it heavy alt-rock, soulful pop, hard-hitting rap, experimental electronic, singer-songwriter fare, or something else entirely—chances are you’ll find it at Ladyfest, and have a great time while supporting a great cause.

This festival aims to make both tangible and abstract impacts. The Pittsburgh scene, undoubtedly, is supportive, friendly, and community-oriented. But you don’t have to look too closely to see which demographic makes up the majority of prominent acts: often straight, often white, men. It’s a small iteration of a much larger pattern. Musicians outside of these categories tend to have a harder time being taken as seriously and gaining similar traction. Sarah Halter, solo artist and frontwoman of performing prog-metal band Blue Clutch, observes, “There are many acts in which women and other minorities play dominant roles that are active in Pittsburgh, many of which are doing and working towards great things. However, often they might only be able to get smaller gigs and perform mostly underground due to a limited fan reach, lack of funding and support, or a myriad of other barriers. That needs to change.” She continues, “I’m happy that there are outlets like Ladyfest in the Pittsburgh music scene that feature women musicians.”

“In my brief history with the local band scene, I have absolutely noticed what a sausage festival it is,” says Addi Twigg, lead singer of pop/soul/funk band The Telephone Line, who will be playing the festival for the second time on Saturday night. She elaborates, “The majority of the folks I’ve encountered have been kind, supportive, and well-intentioned. I know, however, that this may not be the experience of all women, and that’s why we need events like Ladyfest. We ALL can do better (including me!) in supporting women artists.”

This event’s focus on lesser-heard voices serves multiple purposes. Not only does it bring these talented, musically diverse acts to the attention of more potential fans, but it provides representation that can be crucial to aspiring artists. If no one in your desired field looks anything like you, it’s easy to get discouraged, and give up on trying to be the ‘first’ to break through that apparent barrier. Lack of visibility can lead to a limited idea of what’s even possible. So seeing the potential of women, POC, and LGBTQ+ artists to rock just as hard (and just as well) as their more numerous male counterparts is empowering. And it can only be a step in the right direction on the path to an even more inclusive scene in the future.

With the exception of the acoustic performers, who are scheduled for a Sunday brunch set at Hambone’s, the stages themselves will offer a wide variety of acts as well. “We wanted to keep the shows as diverse as possible,” says Sabol. This provides attendees a sampler platter of sorts, showing just how much the women of the Pittsburgh music scene have to offer. Saturday night’s setlist is a prime example. Funky art rockers Working Breed are in the lineup alongside (among others) synth-punk act The Lopez; the dark electronic of Sound Elevator; and the powerful, socially conscious rap of Blak Rapp Madusa, who Sabol describes as a “personal favorite.” (Blue Clutch and The Telephone Line will also be playing that night—see the full list below.)

But no matter which day you get out (and hopefully, it’s more than one), you’re guaranteed to find a heaping helping of talent, some of which will likely be new to you. You might even come away with a new favorite—and all while supporting both the women onstage and in your community. Sabol sums it up: “We hope that we did our best to build a positive space that allows people to feel safe and promotes creativity. We are grateful for everyone involved—the musicians, volunteers, and attendees!”

Make sure you’re one of them this weekend. Find the info on schedules, venues, and ticket prices below. You can also purchase tickets in advance at the link. And check out the event page on Facebook for more details and band links.

Friday, June 23rd
The Shop – 4314 Main Street
Doors: 6:30 PM
$5, All Ages

– WolfBlud
– Mani Pedi
– Lorenzo’s Oil
– Vytia
– late.
– Trash Bag

Gooski’s – 3117 Brereton Street
Doors: 10:00 PM
$5, 21+

– Old Game
– Love Dumpster
– Reign Check
– Spinster
– Soft Gondola

Saturday, June 24th
Cattivo – 146 44th Street
Doors: 10:00 PM
$10, 21+

– Samm Bones
– Working Breed
– The Telephone Line
– OTHER GIRLS
– Garter Shake
– Iris Creamer
– Brazilian Wax
– Blak Rapp Madusa
– Murder for Girls
– The Lopez
– Blue Clutch
– Swampwalk
– Sound Elevator

Sunday, June 25th
Hambone’s – Butler Street
Doors: 10:00 AM
Free, All Ages

– Brittney Chantele
– Molly Alphabet
– Liss Victory
– Tai Chirovsky
– f i g
– Fat Ida
– Jenny Morgan
– Dori Cameron
– AllegrA
– Midge Crickett

Spirit – 242 51st Street
Doors: 3:00 PM
$7, All Ages (Entry fee also includes a ticket for one slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza)

– The Rents
– Bitter Whiskers
– Sun Hound
– Tina Panic Noise
– Rue
– Dinosoul


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About The Author

Melanie Stangl

Melanie, 27, is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and has been contributing both articles and photos to Sound Scene Express since April 2016. Her work has previously been published on Huffington Post Women, feminspire.com, and in the New York University textbook Mercer Street. Her goals include diving deeper into music journalism, traveling the world, and eventually being financially stable enough to own two dogs.

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