Outskirts Festival Organizers Say Louisville’s Finally Ready for a Women’s Music Fest

Stephanie Gary and Carrie Neumayer are one-half of the Louisville-based post-punk band Julie of the Wolves. They’re also co-organizers of the upcoming Louisville Outskirts Festival, a non-profit volunteer-run weekend celebrating music made by female-identified artists.

The inaugural Outskirts Fest is planned for October of this year. In addition to lots of live music, the event will include music workshops for girls and exhibit space for women business owners, artists and makers and social justice organizations.

Outskirts Festival will hold its first fundraiser show Thursday, April 10, at The New Vintage, featuring Screaming Females, Debauchees and Julie of the Wolves (it’s an all-ages event). 

WFPL’s Erin Keane sat down with Gary and Neumayer to talk about why Louisville is finally ready for a women’s music festival and how they want the event to challenge assumptions about what it means to be a female musician.

Why a female-oriented music festival in Louisville, and why now?

Neumayer: The idea was Stephanie’s. We had been setting up some different shows around town with a lot of female-fronted bands and we realized how fun it was, and we decided to put together a festival.

Gary: It was something I thought about for a long time. I played in a band called Venus Trap for about ten years, and we talked about it some during that time, just kind of fantasized about it. As I got older, the landscape in Louisville has really changed to accommodate more female musicians than I think I’ve ever seen before in this city, and we talked about that and what a great time it is to present this.

What’s different about Louisville’s music landscape now? Why has it changed?

Neumayer: I’m not sure why. I just remember when I grew up and went to shows around town, there were maybe two or three women I’d see playing, and that was really inspiring. As the years have gone on, more women have gotten involved and that’s very encouraging. But I’m not sure why.

Gary: It seems like there’s a younger generation of women coming up and there are a lot of great bands that are happening with those women. 

Your mission statement says “The Outskirts Festival aims to demonstrate that female musicians are complex and multifaceted artists.” That’s still a thing you have to say, isn’t it? 

Gary: I was at least cognizant of that when I was starting, that I had to prove myself at every show. Going into music stores was sort of nerve-wracking, and being a female musician, in general, in the beginning was scary new territory for me, and I felt like I was maybe alone in that territory because I didn’t have a lot of role models.

And once we started playing, I think people maybe expected one thing when they got to a show, and the way we wrote songs and the way we performed was different from what they’d seen on television. We weren’t pop stars, we didn’t show up in a way that (said) we were trying to sell sex. We were just there to make unique, good music.

I think that’s something that’s still happening, a lot of female musicians are categorized into a “sex sells” box. Local music is helping show that there’s a lot more out there than what’s on television.

Neumayer: We want to break stereotypes about what women’s music is. There’s not one sound, there’s not one style. There are women doing all sorts of interesting things and we want to show a variety.

I think a lot of people who remember the Nineties hear “women’s music festival” and they think Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan, that specific sound.

Neumayer: (Laughs.) Yeah, that’s not what this is.

You don’t have a line-up yet, but can you share the artistic vision for the festival?

Gary: The fundraiser we have coming up no April 10 is a good indication of one section of music we’d like to explore. We have a nationally-touring band, Screaming Females, they’re going to be headlining that night. They’re a really raw, power, kind of-punk threesome. That’s something you’ll be able to see at this festival.

We’ve also looked into a couple of artists locally who are doing experimental things. Carrie was just at a First Ladies of Hip Hop show at The New Vintage the other night.

Neumayer: We’re trying to have a diverse lineup in terms of style and types of music. We’re learning a lot. We want to make it very inclusive.

People hear “music festival” and they want to be there for the shows. But you have education and community building as pillars of the festival, too. Would you see those three as being equally important to the event?

Neumayer: That’s a good question. I’d say the focus is on the performances, but we are very excited about the workshops and community building. My hope is that (the festival) will grow and we can do more with the educational components.

We’re planning on having workshops during the afternoons for girls ages 10-18 where they can learn different instruments and learn from female musicians. We’ll see how that goes, and hopefully grow that component in other ways, too.

We’re hoping to have booth spaces available for different organizations or female-owned businesses so they can network with each other and with people who come to the festival.

Gary: We’ve already started reaching out for volunteers, and we’ve had several people who are involved in community organizing and small-business owners have offered their participation already. That’s going to be part of the way we reach out to the community.

What will a success look like for the festival’s inaugural year?

Gary: A success for us would be to see people of all genders, all ages, coming to the shows and enjoying the performances. Having ten to fifteen girls in each workshop, and having several booths, having each aspect of the festival come to fruition and hearing people enjoy themselves and coming away with a new band they’d never heard of to enjoy.

Neumayer: Or maybe the girls in the workshops will start new bands and we’ll hear about those and invite them to next year’s festival.

Do you see this as becoming a national destination, or is it more of a local and regional event?

Gary: We are seeking out national and international acts for the festival. We hope it becomes well-known on a national scale. 

Comments