Community members of Binghamton and beyond have channeled the spirit of DIY feminist punk into a new festival.
Femme Fest, an event that will feature live music as well as art projects, community service activities and social-justice workshops, is set to take place on Saturday. The festival was initially conceived as a response to what some of the organizers say is a male-dominated music scene in Binghamton.
“We got the idea together because we saw a lack of representation for females and the LGBTQ community in the local music scene,” said KT Kanazawich of Binghamton.
Kanazawich decided to organize the concert with the help of a few other women who are active in Binghamton’s art and music scenes. As a photographer, she’s had experience organizing art shows, but this is her first time putting together a music festival.
“I don’t think any of us have ever done anything quite this big,” said Jess Steele, also of Binghamton, who helped organize the event.
Eight bands will perform, all of which play punk or grunge and have at least one female member. The acts in the lineup include Pogo Tzlutz, Ellen and the Degenerates and Green Dreams, of Syracuse, Brooklyn and Rochester, respectively. Binghamton-based band Talk Hard! features community member Brianna Salazar, one of the event’s organizers, on guitar and vocals. Kayla Volpe, another Binghamton community member, will be reading poetry in between musical acts.
According to Kanazawich, all of the acts were chosen because they embody the event’s themes of empowerment and inclusivity.
“We wanted to make sure everybody had a similar message in their music that would contribute to our cause,” she said.
As Kanzawich, Steele and the other organizers started piecing together the event, they found their original plan for a concert snowballing into something more. They decided to give local social-justice organizations the chance to speak and conduct interactive workshops. Representatives from Family Planning of South Central New York, Anthropologists for Direct Action, the American Civic Association, Truth Pharm and more will be attending.
Erin Alexander of Binghamton will be hosting a 20-minute workshop called “Sisters, not just Cis-ters” in which she will talk about oppositional sexism and cissexism, as well as inclusivity. The workshop will guide participants on how to be a better ally to transgender friends, family and acquaintances and how to get involved in the transgender rights movement.
In the spirit of fostering a DIY subculture, there will also be collaborative art projects (for kids and adults) and a clothing swap, for which participants are encouraged to bring in old clothing. Anyone is welcome to bring in or take whatever they want from the clothing table and the leftover clothes will be donated to a local women’s shelter.
Although they know the festival takes place during Binghamton University’s spring break, Kanazawich and Steele still hope to see some students there.
“I think there’s a general disconnect between the local DIY community and the Binghamton University students, and we’re always looking for ways to bridge the gap,” Kanazawich said.
According to Steele, this gap has not always been present, but she hopes that Femme Fest will aid in closing it.
“We used to have a lot more BU students in the scene and it was incredible; we had a lot more diversity because of that,” Steele said. “We always have things going on and yet it doesn’t seem to reach out and stem to them, so we definitely want students to come.”
Students who can’t make it to Femme Fest might be interested in joining the “607 RIOT GRRRLS” Facebook page, which was created to aid in organizing the event, but has since become a community in its own right.
“At first we needed a place for everyone to contact us, and then when we saw how much interest there was, we said, ‘This can be more than a show, this can be a movement.’ So many people want to be involved,” Steele said.
Kanazawich and Steele, and the other organizer of the event, Zoe Davis Chanin, said they hope to reach out to student artists, poets, technicians or musicians who are interested in tailoring punk traditions to the ideals of feminism and intersectionality and the issue of transgender rights.
“There’s a lot of things that people wish they could change, and they don’t have enough power to change, but it’s important to remind people that there’s things we can do that matter,” Steele said.
The event will be held at CyberCafe West in Downtown Binghamton on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The cost of admission is a $5-10, which will be donated to the local YWCA.