About three years ago, Taylor Czerwinski did something in Charleston that had never been done before. Czerwinski, the executive director of 9to5 Magazine, a local arts and music publication, put on an all-female music festival, the first annual Femme Fest. It wasn’t just about the musicians, either. All of the vendors at the festival were female- or nonbinary-owned businesses.
The first Femme Fest, which took place at Tobin’s Market downtown, featured musicians Hannah Wicklund, Babe Club, Maya Gold, Grace McNally, Entit and Anna Crosby. The event was a hit, and spawned a second edition, which went down at Tradesman Brewing Company and again featured Babe Club, Maya Gold and Anna Crosby, along with Shelby McDaniel, Jordan Igoe, Julie Slonecki, Aggie Flores & the Wildflowers and Brooke & Rattle.
This year’s edition of Femme Fest will be the biggest yet, taking place at the recently reopened Music Farm, with plenty of space for musicians and vendors.
Charles Carmody, the Music Farm’s Charleston market director, said that when his team took over the Music Farm last April, bringing Femme Fest to the venue was a no-brainer.
“One of the things we talked about for a long time was underrepresentation of women in music,” Carmody said, “and as we were going through the list of things that we wanted to do, one of them was an all-female festival. Of course, ding ding ding, Taylor came into my brain, the Femme Fest she was doing, and so we reached out, and we’re really excited to work with her and her team.”
For her part, Czerwinski said she’s been happy with the reception that Femme Fest has received so far.
“I honestly was really excited about how great the feedback was overall,” she said. “There was a pretty good amount of local support.”
This year’s version of Femme Fest on Aug. 13 spans genres from dance-pop to soul to alt-rock to country. The lineup features Rose Hotel, Hrlum & The Renaissance, She Returns From War, LaFaye, Babe Club and Pip The Pansy.
“We created a wish list,” Carmody said of booking the festival. “And we kind of honed in on highlighting local and regional artists.
And so from there we worked together to put this year’s lineup together. We wanted a mix of genres, a mix of ages. We wanted to try to make it diverse, and here’s where we landed.”
As great as it is that Femme Fest is at the Music Farm, though, there was a bit of a struggle involved when it came to creating the lineup, a struggle which points to the problem that the festival was created to address.
“Now that it’s become a yearly festival, it showed me that the Charleston area lacks a lot of female represented artists,” Czerwinski said. “In terms of just the musicians, not necessarily the vendors. It’s hard to find more new local bands that are all female run or fronted — we’ve had Maya Gold on twice, Babe Club will be playing three years out of three years — it’s kind of hard to find more artists. We’re hoping through the festival that that will encourage more female artists to try and come forward and give them the opportunity to find representation.”
Senior marketing manager of Music Farm Bonny Wolfe added, “I had friends in college who were females who were artists and they just felt like they didn’t have stages to perform on, so they didn’t develop their musical careers. Hopefully, this just tells the city and our area that we are ready and willing to be presenting more female and nonbinary artists.”
Hunter Park, the singer and songwriter for She Returns From War, said that she’s excited to play at Femme Fest and that it’s important to support events like it.
“I think it’s important to note that with this festival it’s like starting from a grassroots kind of place,” Park said. “I think it’s really important to recognize that there really is a sense of community who wants to support [it] and it’s really important to celebrate that.”
Czerwinski added that she’s hopeful that having repeatedly successful editions of Femme Fest will widen the pool of female-identifying and nonbinary musicians.
“My dream with Femme Fest,” she said, “has always been that with more regional representation and the consistency of creating an event that’s going to be more well-known, it could easily reach more artists outside of Charleston and maybe even outside of South Carolina. With that collaboration of artists from outside of South Carolina, it would then directly benefit the local artists. In high tides, all boats rise.”
Femme Fest is Sat., Aug. 13 at 4 p.m. at Music Farm. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 at the door.
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