By Elyse Louise and Melanie Stangl
The Pittsburgh- and New-York-based female-fronted funk band, Ladies Night, will be hitting the road for the first time this week. Following successful events in Pittsburgh, they continue with a three city mini tour of New York, NY (at Arlene’s Grocery), Pittsburgh, PA (at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy), and Indiana, PA (at the Brown Hotel.) Hopefully, this tour will be the first of many.
The band consists of Lessie Vonner on trumpet, Elyse Louise on saxophone, Natalie Cressman on trombone, Spencer Geer on guitar, Brett Williams on keys, Beni Rossman on bass, Manny Guevara on drums, and last but not least, Kiki Brown on vocals. They blend precise rhythms with skilled, soulful riffs, and as many musicians as there are on stage, the sound is never cluttered or confusing—just fun. If you have any funk, jazz, or soul leanings, you’ll find plenty to love in this group’s jams.
After years of being the only girl in various bands, band leader Elyse Louise formed Ladies Night a year ago, as a way to promote female musicians and diversity in music. (She also plays saxophone in local sensation The Commonheart, which has a pretty gender-balanced lineup.) “All of the bands I looked up to while I was studying music in college, including Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, and Lettuce, had no women in them,” Louise remarks. “But why?”
According to Huffington Post’s analysis of festival lineups, women represent just 12% of onstage acts in music festivals, despite making up half of the attendees. The non-profit organization Women’s Audio Mission also reports that less than 5% of music producers are female. Many prestigious jazz groups, including Jazz at Lincoln Center (and our own city’s Jazz Orchestra) have never had a female member. Clearly, the industry has a representation problem, as the fantastic response to this summer’s Ladyfest helps corroborate.
While organizations such as International Women in Jazz are rallying for changes in the industry, Elyse intends to use Ladies Night as a way to empower other women musicians to get their names out there. She hopes to feature other female and female-identifying artists in future Ladies Night events and albums. “Despite continuing gender disparity in music,” she says, “we can come together, move the industry into the 21st century, and have a funky good time while doing it.”
Tickets for the Ladies Night show at James Street Gastropub on Friday, September 17th can be purchased for $10 at www.jamesstreetgastropub.com, or by calling 412-904-3335. The show starts at 9 PM. To hear Ladies Night for yourself, check out their website, Facebook, or SoundCloud.