Tag Archives: Anna Bulbrook

Turn It Up!

TIU

Liz Warner, Allison Wolfe, Kate Nash, Solvej Schou, Evelyn McDonnell and Mar Sellars at Turn It Up! mixer. Photo by Lucretia Tye Jasmine.

What happens when 50 female-identified musicians, DJs, journalists, scholars, publicists, sound engineers, podcasters, etc., come together in a subterranean hotel bar on a rainy Superbowl Sunday? “I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky come tumbling down.” On Sunday, February 3, Turn It Up!, a collective of women working in the music industry that has been meeting since December, had our coming-out party at the Hotel Figueroa. It was an invitation-only mixer — an initial step to broaden our base as we take aim at gender inequality in the music industry. The feeling in the room was electric, the ideas that came out of small brain-storming sessions were provocative. A change is gonna come.

Alice Bag, Lynnée Denise, and Shana L. Redmond

Turn It Up! evolved out of a special December issue of KPFK’s Feminist Magazine Radio show. Valecia Phillips interviewed myself and six contributors to Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyoncé. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl. Inspired by each other’s stories about the musicians they profiled for the book, we decided we didn’t want this to be the, er, final chapter of our work together. As Alice Bag said Sunday, Women Who Rock is “the big, hard, pink seed” that must be planted and grow.

The mixer was a tremendous first sprout. Opening up our “rolodexes,” our steering committee — Alice, Adele Bertei, Allison Wolfe, Lynnée Denise, Mukta Mohan, dIA hakinna, Shana L. Redmond, Solvej Schou, Valecia Phillips, Lucretia Tye Jasmine, and me — were able to draw a pretty impressive group of artists, scholars, writers, workers, engineers, publicists, and activists, including Phranc, Lysa Flores, Kate Nash, Anna Bulbrook, Carla Bozulich, Anna Joy Springer, Abby Travis, CJ Miller of Dimber, and Katie Gavin and Naomi McPherson of MUNA. There were representatives of other rad feminist warriors, including SoundGirls, 50/50 by 2020, the Kilroys,turn it upGirlschool, and Chicas Rockeras, as well as folks from KXLU, Fly PR, Girlie Action, etc. My favorite moment was when the hotel’s staff couldn’t figure out how to get the microphone working, so Kathleen Hanna got up and fiddled with the cables, and voila, sound. Turn it up!

Turn It Up! somewhat coincidentally happens to be the name of a great song about self-expression by Alice Bag: “You’ve made a playlist and it’s locked inside your head, Toss it out play something new instead.” In just two months, we’ve got a name, an anthem, and a logo: the women’s symbol with the computer icon for volume inside it. We’ve also got a mission statement:

“Turn It Up! is a collective working toward gender parity in music. We advocate for equal airplay, media coverage and industry employment of groups who are historically and structurally excluded from the business and the institutions of music-making. Women WILL be heard.”

The Hotel Figueroa generously housed us and donated a fabulous spread including warm cookies. The building has a feminist history, having been built as a YWCA and served as the first place where women traveling alone could find lodging in downtown LA. Sunday we plotted the next steps for change, breaking up into small groups that brainstormed a number of ideas to put our mission into motion. Stay tuned for further developments.

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Girlschooled #musicbizsobro

Anna Bulbrook saws a mean fiddle and sings with a dreampop echo in the Bulls, Airborne Toxic Event, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. She has big eyes that make for a bold, direct stare and a bit of an Annie Lennox vibe. Those big eyes are capable of big vision. Bulbrook founded Girlschool to provide a platform for the many talented female musicians whom she felt were overlooked in the alternative rock scene. Thought became praxis this weekend when she booked a formidable gathering of women-led bands for three nights at the Bootleg Theater.

Making full use of the venue’s capacious space, the audience Friday night was able to move from the Bulls at the Theater Stage to the powerful emoting of Miya Folick on the Bar Stage to the slick funk of Kitten back on the Theater Stage. And that was just Friday night. While there was a somewhat repetitious Lilith Fair vibe in that evening’s bill, Saturday offered the raw power of Kim and the Created and the ’90s pop grunge of Veruca Salt. Tonight, there’s Allison Weiss, Kera and the Lesbians, and more. In volume (numbers) if not volume (decibels), Girlschool’s Field Day Weekend aptly proves its point that there’s no rhyme or reason in #musicbizsobro.

That said, the industry panel that kicked off the weekend was depressingly retro. Ten white women in their 30s and 40s all dressed in black perched on bar stools and complained how there were no women in their fields before them and, essentially, told women not to act like drunk sluts. It was a painful erasure of herstory and object lesson in how the radical activism of feminism can be reduced to self-help bandages for internalized misogyny. There was some useful conversation about the recent disclosures of sexual harassment by a predatory publicist; one woman spoke frankly about the decade’s worth of indignities she had sloughed off as part of the price of being a woman in show biz, and how her consciousness had now been raised by this Twitter outing. However, instead of acknowledging all the women who had broken barriers before them (only manager Carol Shields got any love; what about Sylvia Rhone, Marilyn Laverty, Ann Powers, Liz Rosenberg, Frances Preston, [your name here]), panelists moaned about having to invent the wheel. When two journalists complained that they had no “elders” to guide them, the “elder” NPR reporter sitting next to me and I burst into laughter.

When the “experts” began telling the audience “not to fuck the band” and praised sobriety, I felt like Revolution Girl Style had never happened, and I was back at the New Music Seminar circa 1993. Fortunately, at that point, Fabi Reyna, editor in chief of She Shreds magazine, walked on stage. Younger than the others and not clad in black uniform, she proudly confessed her love of a drink or two, or even more. After all, if men can enjoy the pleasures of spending a lot of time in clubs, why can’t women? Bulbrook speaks proudly about feminism, which is great; I love feminism. But as bell hooks and others have said, if we use this term lightly and vaguely, do we dilute its meaning? Sarah Banet-Weiser talks about how today’s “pop feminism” puts the burden of social change on women, and particularly on girls, to empower themselves as individuals. Empowerment is certainly the goal of feminism, but the means should be to take down the structures of oppression by creating alliances with others who are oppressed, not gender equity through self-improvement.

Girlschool is getting that last part right. But they don’t need to reinvent the wheel and spread a doctrine of 21st century chastity. The talk Friday got a bit wack. But the music was great.

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