A recent survey by Pitchfork, a music website, found that women make up only 19% of the average festival lineup, so San Diegans may want to take note that a 100% female-fronted music and art festival is headed their way. On Sunday, July 7, the first annual Lady Brain Fest will kick off at Heritage Ranch in Encinitas. We took some time to interview Lindsay White, founder and organizer of Lady Brain Presents about the new organization and its inaugural festival.
San Diego Troubadour: Give us a brief background of Lady Brain Presents. What is it exactly?
Lindsay White: Lady Brain Presents is the public iteration of Lady Brain Collective, which is a San Diego-based group of women-identifying creatives that have come together to share resources and opportunities, support each other’s artistic endeavours, and challenge the notion that women must compete or hoard information in order to succeed in their respective fields. In addition to members-only meetups and online support, we also host monthly community gatherings for the public where members take turns showcasing their work at unique venues throughout San Diego.
SDT: Is it just musicians?
White: As of now, there are a majority of musician members, but we also have poets, writers, podcasters, photographers, videographers, and visual artists. We
welcome any local, woman-identifying creatives.
SDT: What was your motivation in starting the group?
White: An assortment of influential factors piled up to create this momentum. For starters, the 2016 election made me realize that outrage is worthless without action. Secondly, I’ve experienced much loss in the last several years, and grief had a weird way of whispering “hurry up and slow down” in my ear. Rather than chase some dream of future “success,” I’d rather just hunker down in the moment and try to ensure that my actual, current life is full of great experiences and great people. Lastly, I wanted to combat the reality-distorting, insecurity-breeding, competition-inducing, isolation-causing aspects of social media. I have followed and admired (and sometimes compared myself to or felt jealous of) so many of our members for years on social media, but I never really knew them. In short, starting Lady Brain Collective was all a ploy to channel my rage, live in the moment, and make new friends.
SDT: How has Lady Brain Collective grown?
White: Our first meeting took place at the end of last year; it was just a casual brunch in my living room. A handful of the most creative and hard-working women I know sat in a circle sharing their stories about the joys and pains of being an artist. There was a vulnerability and humanity there that social media alone can not deliver. Six months later, we are up to 76 members and a full-fledged summer festival. We offer a lot more structure and value now in terms of online presence and resources, but I am most excited about growing the member meet-ups and community gatherings. I don’t think people realize how much they crave being in a physical space with like-minded people until they actually attend these functions. Everyone leaves looking refreshed, relieved, and inspired.
SDT: Where does the name Lady Brain Presents come from?
White: In the beginning before I knew this was going to actually be a thing, I named that first meeting “Lady Brain Brunch” after a song called “Lady Brain” by The Harmaleighs. In the song, the phrase is used sarcastically, alluding to the fact that women are so often made to feel like we couldn’t possibly think for ourselves or make our own choices. As we grew, the name stuck (with permission from The Harmaleighs, thankfully). And I’m so glad it did, because it turns that negative connotation into a positive one. We are, in fact, quite capable and quite powerful, particularly when we pool our ideas and energy and resources together.
SDT: What made you want to plan a major festival so early on?
White: Cathryn Beeks from Listen Local Radio is a superhuman with so much experience producing countless events in San Diego, so when she offered to organize and host a summer festival for Lady Brain Presents, I was thanking my lucky stars. There is no way I would have considered putting on such a large-scale event in our first year without having someone like Cathryn in the driver’s seat. She is a master at bringing people together in the name of music and art. Not to mention, Heritage Ranch (the venue she represents) is the perfect place for a festival, with a lot of photo-friendly rustic charm, not to mention tons of space and ample parking.
SDT: Is this a political festival? What kind of statement do you hope to make by booking all female-fronted acts?
White: The collective and the festival itself are not overtly political. Our primary goal is to support our local female-identifying artists and showcase their work to our community. That said, it behooves us all to take a step back and ask a simple question: Why is it so rare to see so many women on a festival lineup? It affects how we work and how we make a living, so it’s impossible to ignore and irresponsible not to address.
There are so few seats at the table for women, not just at music festivals, but across the board. This scarcity of opportunity is extremely belittling and undermines our potential, which, in my opinion, really hurts society at large. We’ve asked for more seats at the table. We’ve asked to be taken seriously as artists, as thought leaders, as humans. We’ve asked for autonomy over our own minds and bodies and careers. It’s exhausting and frustrating to constantly request access to basic human dignity. I don’t want to be exhausted and frustrated all the time. So I’ve decided to stop asking for permission so much. Why keep wagging our fingers at a broken system designed for the suppression of some when we can just roll up our sleeves and create a whole new system designed for the success of all? I’m discovering the difference between demanding and commanding respect. That is what’s so great about the Lady Brain Collective and Lady Brain Fest. We’re busy creating opportunities for ourselves out of thin air, and it feels good to combat the status quo in such a positive, action-oriented way.
SDT: What is unique about the lineup, other than being all female-fronted acts?
White: We’ve tried to create a fun flow into the evening, but there aren’t traditional headliners like most festivals have. It is more of a sampler platter of styles, cultures, and genres, featuring everything from jazz, folk, rock, blues, indie, Americana, Latin, electronic, and even
SDT: What else can people expect to experience at Lady Brain Fest?
White: First and foremost, they will be able to enjoy continuous music on two different stages from noon until 7pm. Full bands will perform on one stage, and songwriters in the round will perform on the other. Besides music, there will be special guest performers and interactive artists, as well as a kids zone for the little ones. Guests can also shop and purchase food and drink from our local vendor booths.
SDT: Are men welcome at the festival?
White: Yes! We want to celebrate women-identifying creatives and create more opportunities for female-fronted acts, but everyone is invited to celebrate with us and work toward achieving these goals together! I am a feminist, but that is not the same thing as saying no-boys-allowed. It’s about everyone, no matter how you identify, coming together and deciding to treat each other with love and respect. I would love to see men there supporting their sisters in the community!
SDT: Is this a family-friendly festival?
White: Yes! We know it can be expensive to bring the whole family to a music festival, so we are offering free admission to children 12 years old and younger. Well behaved pets on leash are okay, too. The venue is smoke-free.
SDT: How do ticket sales work?
White: Physical tickets are available from all participating artists for $10, with all proceeds going directly to artists. Tickets can also be purchased online for $12. You will be asked which artist you’d like to support upon checkout, and all proceeds minus processing fees will go directly toward the artist specified. You can also purchase tickets at the door for $15 cash.
SDT: What’s on deck after the festival?
White: For now, I want to continue to find ways to support and develop meaningful relationships with members. I also am very committed to doing the work necessary to make this a safe and attractive organization for all sorts of women-identifying creatives, not just those within my own immediate folky or queer orbits. Growth is great, because it shows we are filing a need. But I prefer it to happen slow and naturally, not only for the sake of genuine relationship-building, but also because it takes a lot of work to keep it all running as is. At some point, I might need to figure out how Lady Brain Presents would look as a company with actual staff and services and financial backing and all that, but for now I just want to stay in the moment and enjoy watching Lady Brain Fest come to life!
SDT: How can prospective members join the Lady Brain Collective?
White: There is a contact form at www.ladybrainpresents.com. All you
have to do is fill out your info, and we will get you set up with everything you need to join!
SDT: Other than attending Lady Brain Fest, how can the community at large support the collective and its members?
White: There is also a section on our contact page where supporters can sign up for updates on all things Lady Brain and continue to come out to our monthly gatherings. In addition to that, they can click on our Member Profiles to not only discover new artists, but also find out how each member specifically would like to be supported. Lastly, there is a donation section at the bottom of our website. We are all-volunteer so every little bit of financial support helps us keep this train running.
Lady Brain Fest information and additional links.
Lady Brain Fest
Sunday, July 7, 12-7pm
450 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas
Free admission for children 12 and younger.
Lady Brain Presents
Purchase Tickets Online
Facebook Event Page