Why don’t we have more women at music festivals?

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The Guardian recently published an article highlighting an 89.6% male line-up at this year’s Reading and Leeds festival. The article itself left me feeling largely disillusioned by the lack of female representation in the rock scene at the moment, but my exasperation came mostly from the comments that followed. A sad number of readers suggested that this percentage cannot come as a surprise, arguing that women are simply not as interested in playing rock music or forming bands as much as men are.

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However, the lack of women on the bill for upcoming British rock festivals cannot be passed off as a mythical absence of interest; you do not have to look far to see that there are plenty of ladies out there making brilliantly loud noises. Wolf Alice is one of the few bands set to shake up our rock festivals that happens to feature a woman (they are in that precious 10.4% of the R&L line up). Their debut album, “My Love is Cool”, will be released on the 22nd June and includes previous hits “Fluffy” and “Bros”, as well as the fierce newly released single, “Giant Peach”.

Wolf Alice are getting their time, though; many other deserving bands will not be so fortunate. Despite being overlooked this summer, female rockers all over the world are having a great year. Australian native Courtney Barnett has a new album coming out by the end of the month – “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit”. She has so far released two tracks from the album; “Pedestrian at Best” and “Depreston”. Both are lyrically constructed from seemingly mundane thoughts and experiences, as is Barnett’s style, whilst managing to sound dazzling at the same time.

Alvvays (pronounced less edgily as “Always”), a five-piece Canadian indie pop/rock group with two female musicians, is an upcoming band playing out a style similar to that of the “The Drums”, with jolly jingly sounds disguising more cynical and mildly dark lyrics heard in catchy singles, “Adult Diversion”, “Archie, Marry Me” and “Next of Kin”.

State side, all-female veterans, Sleater-Kinney put out their powerful eighth album, “No Cities to Love” earlier this year, followed by a popular reception and sold out gigs on their global tour. NYC indie punk rocker, Mitski, has released her third album, “Bury Me at Make Out Creek” and is currently making the rounds of the USA with her bright pink bass and no nonsense attitude. The album manages to cover most achingly relatable feelings, from parental rebellion to the need to be loved, economic woes, anger, angst and apathy. If you like punk, she is definitely one to catch when she makes enough money to tour in the UK. Alabama Shakes are also thankfully back, as are Brittany Howard’s soulful wailing vocals. Their second album, “Sound and Colour” is out in April and if the single “Don’t Wanna Fight” is anything to go by, it promises to be a more than worthy body busting follow-up to their highly successful debut.

Transcendent rockers, Haim, have reported that they are in the process of working on their second album – I am currently struggling to focus on anything meaningful until that comes out.

Back in Blighty, Florence will be dropping a new album in June, having given us a pounding, gut-wrenching taste in the form of “What Kind of Man”. Mancunian-native, Findlay and indie rockers, Black Honey, are two other female-fronted British artists to watch out for, both having just released rousing new singles.

So, you see, there really is no excuse for an excessively masculine festival line-up. Girls are picking up acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitars, keyboards, drum sticks and microphones all over the English-speaking world (we haven’t even touched on less anglophone locations). To quote Boy Better Know, we need some more girls in here, because there are simply too many men taking up space on headline spots (four years headling Reading and Leeds is great, Metallica, but maybe next year we will get something a little more female and funky fresh on the coveted main stage). They may not get as much exposure, but they are out there – go find them.

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About Author

Jessica Brough is the Editor of bite (2015/16). She writes about music and popular culture.

4 Comments

  1. I love this! Courtney Barnett, Alabama Shakes, Wolf Alice, all fantastic! And I can’t quite express how exciting it is that someone else in Bath knows Mitski, her record was my top of 2014 hands down. It’s a frustratingly slow process but I feel like things are changing from the roots up, labels like Salinas and Double Double Whammy have a decent number of rocking female artists signed, and The Le Sigh make gorgeous compilations of female-fronted music. Here’s hoping for Bikini Kill headlining reading in 2016.

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