Acclaimed SoCal punk band Red Aunts will play the second annual Fem Fest at MCA Denver on May 12, part of their national reunion tour. (Provided by Kerry Davis)
All-ages concerts are not impossible to find in Denver, thanks to promoters’ efforts to include as much potential audience in their programming — and ticket sales — as possible.
But they’re not the rule. Furthermore, their name belies the fact that teenagers tend to benefit most from all-ages shows, given that they’re old enough to be mobile and independent, but not old enough to get into concerts where 21-and-up with alcohol sales (which tend to dominate at mid-sized and smaller clubs) halt them at the door.
That’s one of the things Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s Fem Fest hopes to address. The second annual, all-ages event on May 12 unites women artists, musicians and performers from across the city in a celebration of empowerment, creative self-reliance and diverse, all-ages culture.
Think of it as a less academic, more entertainment-focused complement to MCA’s popular “Feminism & Co.” lecture series, producer Bree Davies said.
“The all-are-welcome aspect is really important to me, and that really means from babies to grandmas,” said Davies, a longtime Denver writer, activist and musician. “But my focus for sure is teenagers, because it’s just such a pivotal age when you’re figuring out who you want to be and what you want to do.”
Davies partnered with local organizations such as Girls Rock Denver, where she has volunteered for about a decade, and the nonprofit Youth on Record to employ stage managers, DJs and other folks at the fest who aren’t yet old enough to get their learner’s permits.
“It makes me so excited to see young people getting an opportunity to not just perform, but to go through this process of learning how to book a show, send an invoice and get paid for their work,” said Davies, who also co-founded Denver’s women-focused Titwrench Festival.
Acclaimed all-female SoCal punk band Red Aunts will play the second annual Fem Fest at MCA Denver on May 12, part of their national reunion tour. (Provided by Kerry Davis)
“And that’s something I’m very transparent about,” she continued. “There’s a lot you’re expected to know about the industry as an artist or performer, and people don’t consider you a professional if you don’t. Which is not true.”
Fem Fest will take place in and outside of the museum, with programming that reflects the diverse backgrounds and disciplines of its participants — with an eye toward turning them into future performers.
Admission is $20-$25 for adults, and adult beverages will be on hand, including free beer and tequila for the first 300 people from Ratio Beerworks and Proximus Tequila, respectively. But it’s only $5 for 18 and under, and there will be free soda (from Dram Apothecary and Rocky Mountain Soda Company) and ice cream samples (Frozen Matter) for the first 300 attendees under 21.
The event offers relatively hands-off activities like tarot and astrology readings on the museum’s Lower Downtown rooftop, and tours led by female stand-ups in the galleries. An outdoor Femme Bazaar pop-up market from Museo de las Americas’ Karma Leigh will highlight products, crafts and affordable fine art from women of color across the city.
But there are also hands-on workshops covering everything from building your own miniature synthesizer and learning to feel powerful through make-up (thanks to a trio of Denver drag performers) to “The Personal Is Political,” a crafting workshop with tampons, and the Secret Love Collective’s photo booth.
“The idea is to create something you can perform with, or prepare yourself to look and feel like you want to if you’re getting on stage,” Davies said. “Maybe someone will participate this year, and by next year they’re reading to perform. That’s the bigger-picture process of the festival.”
Starting at 2 p.m., music will provide a constant soundtrack to all events, with Youth on Record’s FEMPowered DJs featuring DJ Snailstar, Jade Severn, Kathleen McDowell and DJ Demogorgon. A Girls Rock Denver showcase, which includes participants of that youth-empowering musical summer camp, will offer songs from 13-year-old Kinzie McCloud, 14-year-old Makenna Rose and 14-year-old LenoRe.
Finally, hip-hop, punk and indie rock will arrive on the main stage with sets from Rarebyrd$, Princess Dewclaw, The Corner Girls and the event’s headliners: the acclaimed, all-female Long Beach, Calif., punk band Red Aunts, who recently reunited for a national tour.
“It means a lot to us that this promoter from Denver (Davies), who grew up listening to us, now has this real job with a real budget, and is bringing us back out for this event,” said Red Aunts guitarist Kerry Davis. “We would always pass through Denver on our northern touring route and we love the city, so we’re really excited to come back.”
As a mother of a 5-year-old girl, Davis appreciates seeing kids in the audience at recent Red Aunts shows — as well as more female stage crews, roadies and promoters at venues. At least a lot more than when her band first formed in 1991, anyway.
“It’s been so much fun running into people we haven’t seen in 20 years, and seeing fans bringing their kids to shows really (highlights) the passage of time,” Davis said. “Events like Fem Fest are so important, because even though they’re for everyone, it’s important for girls and women to stick together, teach each other and learn from teach other. My jaded cynicism has started to fade lately as I’ve gotten more fired up about playing shows again. I’m starting to feel like I did back in the 1990s.”