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FemFest expands its Madison footprint with workshops and two days of music

Friday, January 17 through Saturday, January 18, Bos Meadery and Communication. Info

Image: Heavy Looks members (from left to right) Dirk Gunderson, Jarad Olson, and FemFest co-organizer Rosalind Greirt. Photo by Steven Spoerl.

Following several successful runs in Milwaukee, Riverwest FemFest expanded out to Madison last May for a one-night event at Communication. That venue will once again play host to a portion of the festivals offerings, housing a special workshop portion of the event on Saturday. While workshop leaders Communication will be tackling topics like how to get started in stand-up, home recording, and effective music marketing, Bos Meadery will be hosting the festival’s live music portion on both Friday and Saturday. A slew of notable local and regional acts will be participating, including Appleton country-boogie masters Dusk, Madison power-pop standouts Proud Parents and Heavy Looks, Milwaukee rapper/dancer/producer Zed Kenzo, Milwaukee punks Fox Face, Madison queer-punk champions Gender Confetti, and producer/DJ Saint Saunter (among several others). 

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Riverwest FemFest initially started as a celebration of artists that have been historically Othered throughout history, providing a safe, inclusive opportunity for a standalone showcase. The core tenet of the festival remains the same: amplifying voices that aren’t exclusively male in an industry where that still, unfortunately, can present barriers. As recently as 2018, studies had shown the repercussions of systemic sexism manifesting on the major festival level, forcing several bookers to focus more on inclusivity. 2019’s booking outlook has been more diverse, but not by much, presenting a clear need for local, community-driven festivals like Riverwest FemFest.

“Our hope is to produce a creative, uplifting, and empowering space for people in our community who historically were excluded from performance spaces and events,” says Rosalind Greiert, one of the festival’s organizers and guitarist/vocalist for Heavy Looks. “We strive to create a welcoming environment where people can meet, collaborate, and celebrate each other and their talents. We hope people feel comfortable to express and share themselves through art and music and that it makes a lasting positive effect in Madison so that we can continue doing events like this.”

While FemFest happens once a year, Greiert also stresses the need to take a bigger-picture view of equity in Madison’s creative communities: “There’s a ton of talented musicians, artists, and performers of all walks of life here in Madison and around the city. It’s a hub of creative people and there’s no good reason why certain folks are more represented than others in the entertainment scene. I know we’re not the only ones pushing for more diverse representation in the Madison music and art scene. There have been some great strides to create more inclusivity and diversity with groups like Half-Stack Sessions, events like Gender Fest and Hot Summer Gays, and spaces like Communication and Bos Meadery. In the seven years I’ve lived [in Madison], I’ve seen a lot of improvements, but there’s always room to grow.”

Greiert also makes it clear that the festival continues to happen thanks to the support from the greater Madison arts community, who have ensured the festival continues to have an extension in the city. Hotel Indigo will be providing a discounted rate for those attending the festival and Noosh will have a booth and be selling food on both nights. All of the proceeds from the festival will be split between the performing artists and Willma’s Fund, a branch of the OutReach LGBT Community Center that’s dedicated to assisting Dane County’s homeless LGBTQ+ residents. 

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