Guitarist Izzy Hess has heard the backhanded compliments plenty of times. You’re good for a girl. Did your boyfriend teach you to play like that?
But Hess isn’t just a good female guitarist. As a member of the indie-rock band Ghostplay, she’s an astute musician of any gender, with a keen sense of animated rhythms and a lengthy chain of effects pedals for building immersive sonic structures. And together with like-minded musicians, she plans to blast stereotypes, create some camaraderie and have a lot of fun this weekend.
Hess is a coordinator for Sac Ladyfest 2016, which runs Friday and Saturday, July 15-16, at Cafe Colonial on Stockton Boulevard. The event, which starts at 7 p.m. both days, places female musicians front and center, but its overall manifesto is one of inclusiveness, be it musical genre, gender and more.
“We’re open to any bands, really, even all-male groups if they give a good reason that they want to play,” said Hess, whose band is set to perform Saturday. “But we really want females in the bands.”
Now in its second year, Sac Ladyfest has emerged as a steadily growing grass-roots event. Ticket sales have been strong for 2016, said Keyko Torres, who organizes Sac Ladyfest with Hess and Chavez D’Augustine. At the current rate, future editions of Sac Ladyfest may need to move to a larger venue from the 100-person capacity of Cafe Colonial.
The event has loose ties to Ladyfest, a 2000 event in Olympia, Wash., that included such pivotal female-oriented acts as Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, Neko Case & Her Boyfriends and Cat Power. The original Ladyfest also included a series of workshops and panels, which covered topics including parenting, women in technology, transgender issues and political mobilization.
Ladyfest has since grown into more than 90 affiliated festivals around the world, but there are no strict rules in how they are to be run. “Ladyfest” is more of a call to action than a company.
“With Ladyfest in general, it’s never been branded by a specific person who takes ownership,” said D’Augustine. “I don’t think the people who created it wanted to be the only community who could have it, and that’s been proven throughout the world. Sacramento needed to have one.”
The Sacramento version of Ladyfest focuses primarily on the music, with a bill that includes 17 bands hailing from Sacramento and beyond. Attendees will be privy to hip-hop from April Foolzz, 1970s-styled hard rock with Jethro Tull-ish flute from Queen Crescent, the funky one-woman band known as SpaceWalker, teen-angst-fueled garage rock from Destroy Boys and much more.
Proceeds from the festival will benefit Wind Youth Services, a Sacramento organization that provides support services for homeless youths.
“The kids who end up homeless in Sacramento, many are youth of color, queer, identify as (transgender) and don’t have a place to go,” Torres said. “We want to give them a place and a safe space. We want to create a culture of consent with things like moshing. It’s all ages. It’s affordable.”
Sac Ladyfest also pays homage to the 1990s, the era which birthed the riot grrrl movement and a golden age for feminist-oriented bands. Organizers are creating a ’zine for the event, a key way of spreading news about the underground rock scene during the pre-internet days, and a cassette mix tape of Sac Ladyfest bands with a suggested $5 donation. Music from the mix tape can also be downloaded for free.
Organizers plan to keep developing the festival with elements of visual arts, poetry and multimedia experiences. But the overall goal remains the same – to bring in musicians and a crowd that can celebrate together regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
“We’re really trying to put it out there for marginalized folks to have a place to come and have a place to perform,” D’Augustine said.
Sac Ladyfest 2016
When: Friday and Saturday, July 15-16; 7 p.m. each day
With: Pink Bandana, April Foolzz, Jem & Scout, many more (July 15); Destroy Boys, The Bottom Feeders, Ghostplay, many more (July 16)
Where: Cafe Colonial, 3520 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento
Cost: $12 daily; $22 for weekend pass