Following a raucous and spirited first night, 2017’s installment of GIRLSCHOOL continued Saturday morning at The Bootleg Theater. The program ramped up its activist component with a series of panel discussions that covered everything from body wisdom, women’s role in the music industry (including a fascinating take on the unique experiences of Latina women in the industry), all the way to a practical session on audio mixing.
During the session “Ruidosa presents Heroína Latina: A Conversation with Mujeres Shaping Music and Culture Today,” a conversation led by Chilean artist Francisca Valenzuela revealed struggles shared by the panelists, including issues of cultural identity, and frustrations about how Latin musicians are often confined by expectations to play certain styles of music that are attributed to their culture via stereotype.
Artist Lida Pimienta affirmed that her view of feminism is that it “is not a quest to attain the rights of a white man,” and urged everyone to take advantage of the fact that the world is currently activated by the current political climate in the U.S. and beyond: “When you have a microphone, it’s a very powerful thing.” Towards the end of the robust dialogue, we were reminded that Latin American society is, by nature, matriarchal, despite the yet undying presence of machismo. It felt like a moment of reclamation for some GIRLSCHOOL participants, and one of self-realization and empowerment for the millennials that helped fill the room.
In the evening, the clean sound of Los Angeles-based, Vietnamese-American artist TRACE got the music going again. New song “Blood and Bones” stood out, as did the set closer “Low.” In between, TRACE worked in a mashup cover of Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home,” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Her vocals were so deeply soulful that it made her 7:30pm set feel like a hazier, late night affair.
The fun thump in six-piece outfit Lipherma rattled sternums of those gathered in front of the Moon Stage. One member was part musician, and part hype man. If Lipherma had played reggae (they didn’t), he would’ve been the guy waving the Jamaican flag. Unlike many electro-heavy acts, the injection of bright guitar work into Lipherma’s set was an unexpected, but welcome, element.
Brazilian-born Samira Winter’s project, Winter, played a half-hour of dreamy indie rock. In “Waiting for You,” their last song, Winter’s sound lilted, before relenting to a triumphant rise. By the end, the three band members at the front of the stage had dropped to their knees to conjure deep space atmospheric sound effects with their pedals and buttons.
The Wild Reeds – another local act – utilized what may have been the first acoustic guitar of the first ten sets of music of the weekend (welcome to 2017). Strains of vocal twang and an earthy subtext evoked the spirit of The Band. Pearl Charles took this stylistic baton and ran with her own brand of singer-songwriter swagger, starting with “You Can Change.” She spat certain lyrics like her pal Conor Oberst, and occasionally modified the position of the guitar over her shoulder as if leading it around the stage as her dance partner.
On one tune, Charles recalled the Dylan lyrical gem “see if her hair’s hanging long” with her own moody yearning: “You let your hair grow long, I saw in a picture, and heard it in a song.” With an six-song EP being her only release to date, the rock stomp songs that she played on Saturday bode well for whatever Pearl gives us next.
Boyfriend wasted no time during their set, cranking the collective energy on Beverly Blvd. up to about a 12. Part sordid burlesque spectacle and part furious rhyming, Boyfriend’s set was unapologetically berserk. The three members performed with excessively large curlers atop their heads, and frequently disappeared between songs to change into various combinations of silk robes, lingerie, or pasties.
There was a call and response with the audience about a “man cheatin’ on me – hell no!” and an anthemic chorus of, “because you didn’t make me come like my hand did.” In certain moments, the performance had the same wild energy of a Die Antwoord set, though from a decidedly more feminine perspective. At the start of one of the final songs, Boyfriend stood front and center, and raised both arms to the sky. Her stage mates then lathered her armpits with shaving cream and proceeded to actually shave her with razors – this while she sang a Beyoncé cover.
While it could have been easy to become cross-eyed and dazzled by a theatrical set like this, Boyfriend’s lyrical prowess cut through the madness with surgical precision and biting rap sarcasm.
A much needed come down followed when Francisca Valenzuela sat alone at a keyboard for a so-called “acoustic” performance in the adjacent room. Although Valenzuela played with impeccable posture that fortified a distinguished presence, many of her songs swung with a playful bounce that echoed Regina Spektor. Buttery work on the keys and nimble vocal work from Valenzuela, and guests Maria Del Pilar and Alih Jey, gave levity to “Quiero Verte Mas.”
After four hours of music that crossed genres, borders, and languages, LA’s own Deap Vally closed out Saturday with their filthy garage growl rock. Guitarist and lead vocalist Lindsay Troy bounded across stage to meet drummer Julie Edwards during “Smile More.”
Taken off of their 2016 release Femijism, a couple choice lines from the song could easily have been put on a patch and sold at the table in the front room alongside some of the memorable slogans that were for sale (such as, “dead men can’t cat call”). Troy defiantly sang, “I don’t want to be your reflection,” then revealed, “Yes, I am a feminist, but that isn’t why I started doing this.”
Deap Vally’s disruptive, fuck you attitude appropriately capped off the night. As the duo climaxed a late set tune with their signature choppy musical twists and turns, in a moment of perfect visual poetry, a bra, launched from an anonymous source, arced overhead before disappearing into the crowd.