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Women Musicians in Homegrown

Did anyone notice the low number of female performers at the Homegrown Music Festival this year? I did. There seemed to be about eight male performers for every one female. If you don’t want to count just look at the steering committee, it’s pretty representative of the entire festival. There are a few  wonderful women and a bunch of men.   

The ladies are around performing with a variety of styles unique to themselves and Homegrown!  They may be harder to find in that giant Homegrown Field Guide, but if you looked closely you’d find some on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, not peak days.  Often these women have to be underground, persistent or be extra bad ass, which they are, to get noticed. They often try harder and get less recognition. 

I don’t want to start a fight, maybe just a good discussion, I’m just saying we noticed.

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47 Comment(s)

  1. As a former member of the steering committee, I would point out that the committee does not consider weekday shows to be a place to cram “underground” bands. Just the opposite. Look at the schedule again and you’ll notice many of the established acts (featuring men and women) were scheduled on weekdays.

    You are correct that men far outnumber women in bands. I’m not sure if this trend is more prevalent in Duluth or not, but Homegrown and its steering committee seem to accurately reflect the gender imbalance in the Duluth music scene. Why the imbalance exists is certainly a topic for discussion.

    Paul Lundgren | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  2. Don’t worry Juliana79—I don’t think the boys are cock-blocking us. There really are not as many girls in music around here. (Maybe the ones that do start here are actually good and move on to greater things?)

    I was on stage with The Surfactants on Saturday night. Not a highly-influential member of the band, but I was there.

    (On a vaguely-related note: random dudes seem to dig chicks in bands because I think I got chatted up twice hauling gear out after our set.)

    Karasu | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  3. I think it is fair to acknowledge the gender disparity, but I don’t think it has much to do with HG per se. And although I have pretty peripheral connections to the whole awesomeness, there where quite a few women performers on the “peak days” as well. Outfits with women in prominent positions on Fri/Sat include: Sing!, Three Song Sunday, Emily Jayne, Kathy McTavish, The Keep Aways, James & Younger, Snöbarn, Next of Kin, Ian Thomas Alexy and the Deserters, Bird by Bird, Southwire, The Murder of Crows, Lookdown Moon, Sweetgrass (not to mention the Spin Collective)… I’m sure I missed/don’t know a few.

    Outnumbered yes, absent for those days? Not by a long shot.
    The way to have more women in Homegrown is to have more women musicians in general.

    edgeways | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  4. I notice this fact 365 days a year in Duluth. I heard a lot about HG scheduling, etc. I don’t buy it. You want a Saturday slot that most people can’t get into in a venue so crowded that the set can hardly be enjoyed? And Wednesday not a peak day? Or Tuesday? Monday? Sunday? I saw the best stuff when I wasn’t worried about losing my spot or standing on something to get a peek. And you get to talk with the performer or their fans to learn more. Ditto on gender imbalance, but not on scheduling.

    spy1 | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  5. I thought Snobarn totally kicked ass Friday night and am sorry I missed Gaelynn Lea with Sparhawk Saturday night. I make a point of going to the women’s performances. They indeed rocked. And I was glad to see a middle aged woman (Carol Kondrath) performing Sunday in Todd Gremmels’ rock opera. There is a gender imbalance, but don’t blame it on the Homegrown schedulers.

    Claire | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  6. I’ve been involved with music in Minneapolis since I moved from Duluth in 1989. I worked at a venue that put on an event including as many solo acts as possible -- around 30 -- and I struggled to find female performers just so it wasn’t an all-male revue. A few years back I took in a couple of Homegrown shows and at the old Silver Hammer there was band with a female front/guitarist and she tore the place up!

    llinmpls | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  7. Silver Hammer = R.T. Quinlan’s.

    adam | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  8. A quick scan of the 2012 schedule shows a bunch female artists scheduled in the supposedly desirable weekend venue slots and a lot of the better known bands are rocking venues on Tuesday & Wednesday.

    This conspiracy theory seems half-baked.

    Nettles | May 7, 2012 | New Comment
  9. Muck.Rake.

    Jay | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  10. Funny that all of the initial responses to this little post are a wee bit defensive. Look! There’s X number of women! And some of that X number got slots on the weekend! So obvi Homegrown is totes equitable!

    Eh, I don’t think so. I know of two female musicians who opted out of performing @ Homegrown this year because it’s such a bro fest. That’s not to say that Homegrown/its steering committee sucks (It doesn’t and they don’t!) or that I boycotted Homegrown (I didn’t!) or that the overwhelming majority of bands comprised of men aren’t worthy of their spots (they are!) — but it does prompt the question of where the over-representation of male bands and singer/songwriters stems from.

    A related question is to know how HG actively solicits female performers to vie for spots at Homegrown, and how it fosters ample enthusiasm amongst Homegrown attendees (whether it’s by venue selection, media messaging, recruitment, public relations, etc.) for women who perform at Homegrown.

    The same could be said re: the racial make-up of performers at Homegrown this year. Duluth is a pretty white town, but there are definitely people of color who are also kick-ass musicians … with Homegrown being a bit of an insider/hipster elite event that can be tricky to break into as a first-time attendee or performer, some active, engaged recruitment from the steering committee to women and communities of color could really help diversify Homegrown and help ensure that everyone has equal inroads to performing at (and attending!) the event.

    My .02 … ready to be ripped apart as you will.

    ewesterl | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  11. For one thing, Homegrown adopted a “no tan cocks” policy a few years ago to exclude certain men. I think that has helped a lot.

    Paul Lundgren | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  12. You’re right; that policy has really been beneficial to Homegrown! Kudos to the steering committee for such an innovative, proactive protocol!

    ewesterl | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  13. Marios | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  14. Perhaps a no-cocks-whatsoever policy would better benefit women and bring a refreshing change to next year’s bro-grown.

    krissssss | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  15. Rock and roll has always been a male-dominated sport. Men are generally angrier and require more attention and space to vent those frustrations. They can’t make babies, so all they have is their ability to scream, smash guitars and hump their drums. You ladies shouldn’t be jealous of this.

    I am more responsive to quality over quantity, gender is not important. Still I would welcome a leveling of these gender scales. Women smell better, are nicer, more thoughtful, and in my opinion, look better without their shirts on than men do.

    I will say this though, Ann and Nancy Wilson can rock. Consider this, both Amy Abts and Sara Softich left in the past year, for wetter and browner pastures, respectively. Maybe this colors things a bit.

    Herzog | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  16. I didn’t notice that there weren’t a lot of female performers, being one myself (Saturday slot). I don’t mind being in the minority group. I get that a lot playing country music in Minnesota.

    BreanneMarieMN | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  17. I opted out of Homegrown this year…hadn’t thought of it specifically related to gender equity, but you make a good point. I decided not to participate because I feel like it can be a bit of a hipster pageant -- for the bands and the audiences. I enjoy giving and attending concerts that impact people in a big way and Homegrown doesn’t usually do that for me. Why? Because with so many bands in so few nights, it’s really hard to appreciate the truly amazing musical moments that happen.

    I agree with Paul that Homegrown organizers aren’t consciously out to screw women out of choice time slots -- it’s just the way our music scene works. Man bands make it easier and women make it easier if they’re hot and they like to drink beer. I don’t mean to say that the people who fit that description don’t deserve credit -- there are plenty of amazing musicians rocking the popularity contest. However, we’ve got to stop thinking of Homegrown success as the ultimate decider of talent in this city -- it’s really just a big fun party with too much music and too much drinking for the most gigantic clique in town.

    rachaelkilgour | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  18. I’ve enjoyed the PDD Homegrown feedback today. How I see the festival is just one half of the definition of the word clique. I want for those who share in the festival to not feel like it is an impenetrable and exclusive circle, but rather an event held to bring people together who have common interest in celebrating and recognizing the talent of local musicians and to have fun doing so.

    The festival is not perfect and in the years I’ve worked on the production side of things we have worked to make all aspects of the 8-day showcase better and will continue to do so. Better community outreach and involvement is a great goal for the festival and I’d be happy to have those interested offer their service to our committee -- please send email to walt @

    In the meantime I am happy to run a festival that includes all 25 members of Sing! A Women’s Chorus and all 25 members of Aaron Gall & the Likely Story.

    w.dizzo | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  19. Yup, agreed. Our “clique” is made up of some pretty sweet and memorable folks and is always expanding and open to newbies. I didn’t mean to use the term in an entirely derogatory way -- just that there is clearly pressure to fit in with the crowd. And by fitting in I mean finding a balance between being unique enough to stand out and the same enough to think the same things are cool before they are cool.

    I also think it’s great that Homegrown includes a variety of artists and even creates special evenings/venues for fringe acts including the awesome youth band night this year that my daughter got to be a part of. Kudos to you on that one Walt, and MRC for asking for it. I think you’ve been doing a great job organizing the festival.

    rachaelkilgour | May 8, 2012 | New Comment
  20. So, yeah. Homegrown is kind of a bro-fest, but Juliana79 was not accurate in her original post -- i.e. no women on Friday and Saturday. The two big dykes in Homegrown both played on Friday night -- opposite each other… The Rock’n'Roll bent to Homegrown does privilege men’s culture -- also youth culture with the heavy drinking and raucous partying.

    That said, I think the organizers have been working to expand the festival into a larger variety of music styles. And yeah, I would like to see more women and more people of color. I’m with ewesterl “engaged recruitment… to ensure that everyone has equal inroads to performing at (and attending!) the event”

    I choose to play Homegrown for a few reasons:
    I want to place myself in the community of Duluth musicians, I’m all about cooperation and collaboration. No one else decides for me if I’m part of that community, if I engage I become a part of the community.

    It’s an easy gig -- Homegrown does all of the legwork getting venues, publicity, sound guys. I’m not turning that down.

    Our audience finds us -- the folks who go to RT’s aren’t coming to my gig at anytime, but the house was full for our Homegrown show and we got a few new people.

    Walt, I can vouch for the fact that all 25 women of Sing! were really happy to be a part of this. Many of them are not a part of the “usual” Homegrown audience and they really enjoyed giving their best to the audience and going out to see who else is out there.

    We were very stoked to get a Friday night slot -- but I would never complain about any gig that I can do for Homegrown, that’s just ego trippin’.

    Mags | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  21. “Engaged recruitment from the steering committee to women and communities of color could really help diversify Homegrown.”

    Does Homegrown recruit anybody? I thought it was a “sign up if you want to” kind of event. I know not every band that signs up is added to the final list of shows, but really, recruiting?

    If people (men or women of any race or nationality) want to play Homegrown, fill out the paperwork and start practicing.

    Here is a partial list of other demographics that did not represent well within hgmf12 performers sample;
    • People over 60
    • Eunuchs’
    • Asians
    • Latinos
    • People under 15
    • People with 4 syllables in their middle name
    • Wookies
    • Non native English speakers
    • Homeless people
    • Single parents of triplets
    • Cancer survivors
    • Native Americans
    • Recovering heroin addicts
    • Eskimos
    • Non U.S. residents
    • Introverts
    • Zombies

    The point is, those who want to play are those that get to play. Blaming anyone involved ex post facto is just correlation. As we know, correlation is not causation.

    See y’all next year for hgmf13

    B-man | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  22. Thanks everyone for the thoughtful dialogue.

    @B-man : Maybe you don’t value diversity in your Homegrown experience. I just wanted to acknowledge that Homegrown is, predominately, a white-boy music festival. In fact, there are several white boys who can get 2/3/4/5 gigs over the course of Homegrown, yet women and people of color are sorely underrepresented (but yes, great strides are being made in this area -- good job Walt and steering committee). I just think it would be nice to see increasing amounts of fresh, demographically different, blood -- and if you know some musically inclined zombie triplets, please -- be my guest.

    This brings to mind the Guthrie’s new season and the total absence of women and people of color as directors or playwrights. I guess it depends on what a community values; if you’re a white guy, maybe HG represents you just fine:

    Guthrie Theater’s debt to women and diversity

    ewesterl | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  23. The bottom line is, anyone who wants to go out and encourage women and minorities to start more bands is welcome to do it.

    Complaining about other people not doing that work for you is pretty lame.

    If you’ve got examples of Homegrown rejecting acts because of skin color or shape of genitals, let’s hear it. Women and minorities have been involved in Homegrown since the very beginning. Homegrown is a reflection of the music scene as it exists. If you want more ladies, more Asians or more cowbell in your local music, by all means do something about it beyond suggesting that other hardworking volunteers should work a little harder.

    Paul Lundgren | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  24. “If people (men or women of any race or nationality) want to play Homegrown, fill out the paperwork and start practicing.” —B-man


    zacbentz | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  25. B-Man hit it on the head.

    It’s no lie that women and people of color don’t represent a huge lineup of local bands. But that’s because they simply aren’t playing as much music in town.

    Nobody is being turned down from anything. And we as a scene embrace anyone who wants to be a part of it. But so far, the ones making music are white males. That’s nobody’s fault. I know lots of women that performed this year. And if the fact that the ratio of men to women performing music here is upsetting, let’s get more women to pick up a guitar, bass, keyboard, drumset, oboe or microphone and hear their original music!

    We love women who rock. Start and continue to rock with us!

    Hot Shot | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  26. “@B-man : Maybe you don’t value diversity in your Homegrown experience.”

    @Juliana79- WTF? When did I infer that I do not value diversity? You are discussing a problem that is only solved by individuals. Not by volunteers of a festival. I suggest you stop commenting on this “problem” and start taking action. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    1) Start a women’s only music club specifically targeted at increasing participation in Homegrown.

    2) Give free music lessons to women of all ages to increase participation.

    3) Increase the job market for the city and 51% of the people that move here will be in the demographic you are courting.

    4) Adopt a dozen girls into your family, train them up, and send them out.

    I work in social services and am very aware of our regional shortcomings when it comes to diversity, all I can say to that is; be welcoming to others and we may see an increase in the color of our city.

    According to Rolling Stone’s “100 greatest artists of all time,” only eight of the top 100 were female, should America be responsible for getting more women to record music?

    More women will be in Homegrown when more women sign up for Homegrown.

    Also please substantiate your original statement “They often try harder and get less recognition.” Is this a fact or your opinion?

    I agree that there are more male musical performers than female, but I disagree that a festival can or should be responsible for changing that fact.

    Have a PDD.

    B-man | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  27. Yeah, Em…but Duluth itself is pretty much a white boy party. You can’t blame that on Homegrown. I say that perhaps some women and people of color are choosing to stay out of Homegrown like I do, simply because they don’t feel like it’s their scene and they’re not interested. No harm in that, and no one to blame really either. I don’t feel hurt or unwelcome…I just have to work a little harder to either go out and make my own scene here in Duluth, or find it elsewhere in the country. Unfortunately, that often means Duluth loses a lot of talented musicians.

    rachaelkilgour | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  28. Ooh, can I chime in can I chime in? I think this goes way beyond Duluth. Before I got involved with Homegrown I attended a contemporary music focused college. My freshman year the demographics were something like 80% male/20% female. I had zero issue with this. It certainly helped me not be intimidated when called on to direct the fest during my tenure.

    This experience led me to the theory that the types of behaviors that make for good musicians — for example, locking yourself in a little room by yourself and working on your craft — are not strongly encouraged in girls at the time where it would be helpful. When girls are between 12 and 20, the ages at which the seeds for a music career might be planted, the more culturally acceptable way to go is to be very social, spending time with friends nearly constantly. But a teenage boy who wants to sit in his room and play the guitar all day? No one bats an eye.

    Also interesting was that at my school the ladies were way concentrated in certain majors: music therapy and music ed (more people oriented, right?). My performance program was pretty well mixed, as was music business, but music technology and production were brooooo heavy.

    Since I graduated in ’03 my alma mater has definitely balanced the scales a little more (something like 60/40 probably now), but it took a real effort and outreach on their part. And a lot of growth of their music ed program.

    gothgimpbadcooking | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  29. I’ve watched this unfold and didn’t want to muddy waters with my observations. Might I suggest that there has been an opportunity to use some of the day times during Homegrown weekend for something other than kickball. Workshops, demonstrations … maybe even a trade show of sorts. For sure a panel discussion or two … hmm about topics … like “Diversity in Rock” or “Thrash Metal as Social Commentary.” I’m smelling a keynote by Chissy Hines or Kat Bjelland. Anyway, More Talk & More Rock!

    baci | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  30. As for the complaining about “white boys” playing 2/3/4/5/6/7/8 shows, I find it very ironic that almost all of them playing multiple gigs do it in support of/with female musicians.

    ian | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  31. Also should mention that quite a few of the female performers also played in multiple shows.

    ian | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  32. Hopefully we’re almost to the point on this thread where no one feels the need to attack or defend Homegrown and the noble goal of nurturing female musicians can be explored.

    Baci brings up some good ideas. Those and other ideas don’t necessarily need to coincide with Homegrown, but if that is the desire keep in mind that a lot of the ancillary events that happen during the festival are coordinated independently by people who keep in communication with the festival director and steering committee but aren’t involved with the overall running of the festival (i.e. video fest: Annie Dugan, art shows: Jeredt Runions, poetry showcase: Kyle Elden, etc.). The festival director and steering committee have 167 or so bands to worry about, so don’t expect that if you have great ideas they will take them and turn them into more work for themselves. If you present ideas that are backed by a strong leader with soldiers ready to march, however, I think you’ll find the Homegrown white boys and token females on the committee will be eager to cooperate.

    Paul Lundgren | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  33. Point well made Paul. I’d be happy next year to work with others to create such a forum/panel discussion.

    baci | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  34. The gender thing kind of reflects touring acts large or small in this country. I wouldn’t blame Homegrown.

    This is my favorite line of this thread:
    “Man bands make it easier and women make it easier if they’re hot and they like to drink beer.”

    So are you saying if a guy was ugly and didn’t drink beer he wouldn’t have a hard time making it as a musician?

    Maybe the issue is really about ugly people not getting shows then? A bias against the less beautiful and more sober musicians. (That is what coffee-shops and Starbucks’ CDs are for)

    I am trying to think of a band that doesn’t imbibe themselves in something and actually create great music while looking like they were beat with the ugly-stick. Nope, can’t think of one.

    I personally have mixed feelings about Homegrown because there are all these bands for a few days and then the next weekend it is back to very few local bands performing. I would rather see a band play a slightly less crowded venue on a night where I can really enjoy the music and not run to 10 venues while missing tons of bands. Homegrown is more for the bands than for the fans in my view.

    The exposure is great for the bands up here and the festival has gone totally legit now, but I can see where the “scene” of it all gets annoying. Hipsters chase me away easily too… Go to Uptown in Minneapolis and see their Portlandia Mecca.

    Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Joni Mitchell, Joan Jett, Heart, Debbie Harry, and other women own rock and roll. Many were not so hot, but I suppose they all drank.

    Homegrown Ladies Night perhaps?

    Andrew Olson | May 9, 2012 | New Comment
  35. “Homegrown is more for the bands than for the fans in my view.”

    I would argue the exact opposite. Especially since every musician playing is also a fan.

    And I think Homegrown Ladies’ Night is a terrible idea.

    adam | May 10, 2012 | New Comment
  36. From Rachael’s post above:
    “I didn’t mean to use the term [clique] in an entirely derogatory way — just that there is clearly pressure to fit in with the crowd. And by fitting in I mean finding a balance between being unique enough to stand out and the same enough to think the same things are cool before they are cool.”

    This is exactly why I haven’t gone to Homegrown since I moved here in 2001. I want to, I really do. But I’m not a certified Duluth hipster.

    jessige | May 10, 2012 | New Comment
  37. Now … c’mon! Are you really not joining in Homegrown because you’re letting your perception tell you that you don’t fit some stereotypical definition of “Duluth hipster”? I hope you’re not laying that on the festival or anyone else other than your own insecurities. I don’t like folk music … seriously … I admire all my friends who play it and I commend all those who do it really well and enjoy it … really doesn’t do it for me … (far too many banjos … hehehe). But to deny yourself exposure to good music and energy because you don’t consider yourself enough of a “hipster” is handing over a lot of control to others. As far as diversity in the Duluth scene, it’s a topic worthy of discussion to be sure. But I really don’t think there’s some hipster clique that actively excludes anyone. Craft your destiny for yourself!

    baci | May 10, 2012 | New Comment
  38. This thread has grown insipid. A hipster bubble zone? Homegrown for the bands only? No music beyond Homegrown? Get out once in a while, people. This isn’t 2007.

    spy1 | May 10, 2012 | New Comment
  39. Andrew Olson | May 11, 2012 | New Comment
  40. baci | May 11, 2012 | New Comment
  41. What about a Homegrown Mix Tape with just women musicians?

    Andrew Olson | May 11, 2012 | New Comment
  42. Paul Lundgren | May 11, 2012 | New Comment
  43. Q: How many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A: It’s an obscure number, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it. | May 11, 2012 | New Comment
  44. Baci, you make a good point. Still a little awkward at times to be the only one who’s not in on the joke, so to speak. But next year, you’re right--I’ll try to be a little braver.

    Alternate answer to the joke: I can tell you, but once I do, it won’t be cool anymore.

    jessige | May 12, 2012 | New Comment
  45. Yeah, that’s the catchall punch to the “other” genre of hipster joke. | May 12, 2012 | New Comment
  46. I love it when someone suddenly declares a thread boring, hopeless, flacid, insipid… the drama is so incisive. It’s like a restrained explosion. A certain, ‘people of Duluth… I have become so over this thread!’

    This thread is Over!

    Jack White is Over!

    ‘Duluth is Cool’ is Over!

    Kickass Rock and Roll is Over!

    Folk, Emo, and Banjo are in!

    Herzog | May 13, 2012 | New Comment
  47. Over being over is so over.

    Bah. | May 13, 2012 | New Comment

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