Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Michfest 2013 Wrap-Up: Bringing it Home! (Friday-Monday)

Butterfly by the lodge

Friday August 9th
This was another stupid busy day for me. The headache was still in effect, but I had to keep going. I drank so much water that I was peeing what felt like every 10 minutes.

I didn’t go to bed to late the night before because I knew I had to get up near the crack to be at the lodge again. The crew told me I had a reprieve from being there at 5:30am and said I could come at 8am. I didn’t really feel right about that, but I did take a little more time. I probably got there around 6:45-7am.

Robin, Brook and I were the firekeepers for that mornings open lodge. It went really smoothly and then I had to get ready for the Womyn of Color lodge. I was going to pour two doors for that lodge, but I only ended up pouring one because my head hurt so bad. I ended the lodge on a high note and we went on with our day from there.

I missed all of the early stages that day. So that meant I missed Lovers, Sick of Sarah, Jill Sobule and Laura Love and Jen Todd. So I looked ahead to night stage and headache and all I was actually really looking forward to it.

Night stage opened with BETTY, which is always fun. As I watched them I realized that they are doing so much and on a high level for a long time! They are a pretty amazing crew of women. Alyson Palmer, Elizabeth and Amy Ziff are musicians, activists, funny ladies and all around good people. If you haven’t seen BETTY just check them out. If you know the theme from the L Word then you know BETTY, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


BETTY was followed by Melissa Ferrick. She came and did her thing on solo guitar and it was off the chain. I mean really amazing for just her on guitar by herself on the stage. She took up all of the space. That was a killer set as well. Really, really good. The sad thing about the set was that my headache was still killing me. So as much as I really loved it, I didn’t all the way enjoy it.

So I was sitting out in the audience for all of this, I felt like I was freezing my tail off and still fighting this damn headache. Then just that fast Toshi hit the stage. Immediately I found myself getting a little warmer. Maybe it was the music or just how beautiful everyone looked on stage. I mean this was a great looking group of women up there. Besides Toshi there was Stephanie McKay (vox), Marcelle (vox), Judith Casselberry (guitar/vox), Ganessa (bass), Alex Nolan (guitar), Vicki (percussion), Julie Wolf (keys) and Allison Miller (drums). Now if you had looked at the program you would not have expected to see Vicki & Julie, but there they were and that’s how it was all damn week for Vicki and Julie!

That set was off the chain and Toshi had the heart to address the elephant in the room. But that’s Toshi. It’s it her blood. She is wired that way and thank Goddess she is.

It was still really cold and Stacyann was in the audience with her daughter Zuri. So when she was looking to leave I headed back to Central Heating with her and helped carry her things. Toshi was still on and then I heard her start “Real Love.” It was sounding so good from back stage that I decided to come out and see the ending for myself. When I got out there, everyone was on stage! I was like, “WHAT??!!!” So I ran up on stage and started singing right next to Gina! I just jumped in. It was a totally love fest for real and I almost missed it! LOL! It was 2 of the best minutes I had on stage. After it was all over I noticed my headache was almost gone. At that point it just felt like a low grade ache, but I was feeling so much better. At that moment I realized that Toshi put a healing on me. I know it might sound strange, but I really believe that. No my headache wasn’t all the way gone, but I felt so much better it was unbelievable.

The Toshi Reagon band!
Judith & Julie post Toshi bliss
I can’t remember what the midnight meal was for that night, but I went down and got something. Then I headed over to the fire to hang with the crew. Let me tell you, Thokozani and Karen Williams had us laughing so hard around that fire that by the time I snuck away to go to sleep my headache was gone! I guess I just needed the medicine of laughter to get me through the pain or for the pain to leave me. I clearly needed an energy shift. It was so good to be pain free. Amazing actually; really amazing.

As I headed back to my tent I saw Vicki and Julie in one of the trailers working. I walked up and knocked on the window to tell them goodnight and Julie waved me in. So what was supposed to be a semi-early turn in turned into an all out late night. I sat with them as they worked out music for a set they had to play the next day. It was so wonderful to just sit with them and watch them work. I mean seriously these women so talented it’s almost unfair. LOL! Just kidding. I love them so much and my heart is so open for them that it’s not a game. Where else can you find such generosity with talent? Only on the land. I swear it’s just overflowing. OK enough of my gushing.

Now it’s about 2:30am and I head off to bed feeling so filled. So blessed. On to Saturday. I can’t believe we are here already.

Saturday August 10th
I kind of chilled that morning. The Native lodge happened, but I didn’t go. I did go give Reiki to my friend Cassandra that morning and I was so thankful to be feeling better. My headache was gone and I wanted it to stay that way. So I chilled until it was time for Chix Lix soundcheck at 10:45am. I got up a little late so I hadn’t showered. I know that might be a lot of info, but I will follow up I promise.

Chix soundcheck was supposed to be from 10:30am-12pm, which was great because the plan was to hustle over to the Day stage to see Aima the Dreamer, Reina Williams and Theesatisfaction. I just met Aima this year on the land and she is one of the sweetest people on planet and that woman has MC skills that are out of control! There is hope for hip-hop yall! Real hope! In fact the whole lineup for that day could have been dubbed “Hope for Hip-Hop” because those women brought it.

Back over the Chix soundcheck, the show is usually checked in order and my song was #9 on a list of 11. Now that might not have been a problem if we started on time, but after I heard the first song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” played about 7 times I knew that we were not going to be on time. There was a whole crew of us who wanted to support Aima because she had supported us all week. So we were all trying to get out of that soundcheck in a hurry. LOL Luckily Hanifah and I worked a little something out with Connie, the stage manager, to get in there and then I hightailed it down to the Day stage.

DJ Rimakable was on the decks for Aima showing just a little more Brooklyn/Bay love in the house. Not only was Aima on the hook on the MC tip, but then Maria (DJ Rimarkable) sang up in that joint. Now when I say she sang, I mean she SANG and it was amazing! I knew my girl could sing, but she doesn’t do it much at all if ever and it was so great to hear her voice. I mean, seriously? How much more talent can I take from these people in my life? Really? That set was banging and then I had to make a decision.

Aima the Dreamer

DJ Rimarkible letting folks hear her vocal SKILZ!!

Yes the Electric Slide happened in the woods!

Aima getting the love

Reina was up next and I wanted to see her, but I really needed a shower in a serious way. So I chose to skip her set because she was going to be playing with a full band that night before Chix.

I slipped out to wash my butt and back in time for Theesatisfaction. I had not heard of these young ladies until I saw the festival lineup. I checked them out on YouTube, but I wanted to see them live. Well, these ladies did not disappoint! That show was off the chain. The sampled Anita Baker for Christ sake and made it so hot! Who is doing that? Um…No one! They had these really cool interludes in between songs and they were doing these sexy/cool dances that were part African, part hip-hop. It was dope! All I have to say is check them and all the women I mentioned out. Do it now!


I have to admit that I don’t know what I did after Theesatisfaction show. I did get some lunch in there somewhere. The next thing I knew it was dinner and Saturday is, as always, the Latina diner. Shirley bought me a ticket so that’s where I got my dinner. I was trying to make it to Acoustic Stage to see Linda Tillery. I had been hearing about this woman for a long time and Toshi gave her such a huge shout out the night before during her set that I knew I had to be there. The group was called Hills to Hollers and it included Nedra Johnson (bass), Barbara Higbie (vox, fiddle, keys), Laurie Lewis (vox, fiddle, guitar, banjo) and Linda Tillery (vox, percussion, harmonica). Of course you can’t get all that goodness without adding a little more goodness with Cris Williamson. Come on!

Hills to Hollers: Barbara Higbie, Nedra Johnson, Linda Tillery, Laurie Lewis

When I got up in there the set had already begun, but I found myself a seat to take it all in. I sat down near the front and just watched the magic happen. That show as dope! I had to leave a little early because I had to take some time for myself and get ready for Chix Lix that night. I didn’t leave before sitting a bit with the lodge crew and also healing Lindy Tillery tear it down one more time. It was magic. I made my way down the hill back to my tent just to take a moment for myself until showtime.

Remember, for Chix I was singing “Invincible” and although I knew the words I just wanted to triple check. I have a knack for knowing words to a song until it’s time to hit the stage. LOL! Anyway, I went to the tent, got my outfit together and headed up to Central Heating, which is also the green room of sorts. Up that night were God Des & She, Elvira Kurt and Reina Williams (sharing a set) and finally Chix Lix.

I was getting ready while God Des & She were on, but I could hear them and it was a dope set. For my 80s gear I went to the neon and chopped up side of things. I had a yellow neon shirt that I actually wore for the American Candy 80s show that I had Kelly cut it up for me to make it a little more funky. I had some cut up jeans that I had worn at a blaKbüshe show some time ago that I pulled in. I also wore a pair of bright yellow Kangaroo sneakers that were given to me after playing the Northside Music Festival in Williamsburg a few years ago. No one was paid for that hit, but we all got kicks. I hardly ever get to wear them so now was a perfect chance. I also liked the idea of not wearing heals in a show so I could really move around. Well let me not say that because you all know that I get around just find in my heels, but it was so great to be on the ground for a show.

I wanted to see Elvira and Reina do their thing so I couldn’t put on my kicks right away because I didn’t want to get them dirty. So I kept on my other sneakers, put on a jacket so no one could see my neon shirt and headed out into the audience to check out the show. Both Elvira and Reina killed it. I think my highlights of both shows was the interaction between Elvira and her sign language interpreter Pam Parham and also her Hanifah impression. For Reina’s set it was her singing Sade’s “Couldn’t Love You More.” That was undoubtedly one of the best things I saw a heard all week. It was fire for real! Sadly, I couldn’t see the end of her set because I had to go backstage and get ready for my set.

When I got backstage it was the usual organized confusion that happens before Chix. Folks putting on costumes, realizing they need this thing or another that is back at the tent or just nonexistent, but we always make a way. I realized that I needed a belt and Tina took hers off right after she got off stage dancing for me to wear. She reminded her of how I saved her one year with a pair of gold pumps that I had that I let one of her dancers borrow. Gotta love it!

Julie played with Reina, which was right before Chix, and she wasn’t feeling well. So I gave her some Reiki before the set give her some energy to make it through. She later told me that it helped, which is great! Soon Alyson circled everyone up for the pre-show pep talk. Really Chix is all about having fun and every year that I’ve done it we have done just that, had loads of fun.

This year was infused with the 80s music and women’s stories about their proms. Some were funny, some were sad and some were stories of resistance and breaking barriers, but it felt like it was some sort of healing to tell their stories. There were prom queens in the house and others who fought to wear a bowtie to the prom. All in all it was a beautiful backdrop to the music of one of the best times of my life, the 80s. Some of the songs on the list that night included “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Walking on Sunshine,” “Smooth Operator,” “Like a Prayer,” “Push It” and “Rhythm Nation.” As I said, I sang Pat Benatar’s “Invincible” and it was amazing! I try to be as present as possible when I’m on stage, but sometimes the spirit takes over and that catwalk takes over. It’s so irresistible. I was going to wait until the second chorus to get on it, but it just happened. The next thing you know I’m out there on the catwalk! I always feel like the catwalk is calling my name! LOL! Anyway, as soon as the chorus hit I was out there with the people. Some folks had gotten up on “Like a Prayer,” but I wanted everyone to get up and they did.

"Like a Prayer" Jill Sobule & One World Inspirational Choir

"Push It" JD Samson & Bitch

I am known on the land for wearing my heels and I did give the heels earlier in the week with Hanifah, but that night I was giving my best 80s girl vibe. Back then we all wore our Filas, Lottos, Reeboks and the like. That was the style. I worked my kicks and kicked it. The crowd was up and singing with me with hands in the air. At the end of the song we were doing what we called the double James Brown ending. So it’s a hit and then a hit again to really end it. So basically when we hit the last “we will be invincible” I just held the band there where I talked to the audience. I don’t remember all of was I said, but I did say something about getting up if you “want another 38 years on the land.” Then I turned and looked at the band, Jyn on drums in particular, and then I ran back up the catwalk, jumped in the air cued the hit! Then a little JB grunt and one more hit to hold and end. I don’t know if that made any sense as a description, but it was really amazing and fun!

Since I have no idea what people see or feel when I’m on stage I just have to defer to those who have seen and heard. Shelley Doty, who was playing guitar, said she could feel a force of energy as I ran back toward the band to end the song. She was not the only one to say that. My friend Ginger who was in the audience straight up said I was doing healing work while on stage. Honestly that is what I aim to do. I got a lot of love when I came off stage, which is wonderful, but to me everyone was on fire that night.

Alyson always does such an amazing job pulling that set together. I often find myself backstage at that show looking out and saying to myself, “Is this really happening?” The production level in the woods is so ridiculous. I mean really stupid at times. There are so many women there who make that thing happen that I wish I could take on tour with me. It’s such a powerful meeting of the minds and talents on so many fronts. Just brilliant. Kudos to Alyson once again.

Chix Lix Band: Jyn Yates, Shelley Doty, Alyson Palmer, Vicki Randle, Julie Wolf, Rae Fehring, Tory Trujillo & Aleah Long

Chix Lix Crew

After the Chix post-show love fest there is a dance party at the Belly Bowl (where we eat) for the performers and workers. Of course DJ Rimarkable is on the decks and it’s always off the chain, but for some reason this year seemed even more special. Even more of a celebration. We partied hard that night and had a blast. I mean there were dancing circles, wine was flowing, and it was all good. We even went a little longer than usual that night. Then after the party is the after party, which was happening by the fire pit. We sang songs and laughed hard. Everyone was at ease. The only thing left to do was the closing ceremony.

That night Vicki asked me to sing with Gina at closing. She had compiled a little choir of Marcelle, Judith and Jori, Melodie and Renée from Big Bad Gina. I was totally down. I chilled a little longer and then headed back to my tent. I knew I had to get up early because folks were leaving and I wanted to say farewell. It was a wonderful Saturday and it wasn’t quite over yet. There was Sunday comedy and the closing. Time to go to bed.

Sunday August 11th
I got up early as usual and spent some of the morning saying farewell to people who were leaving before closing. On Sunday there is a the Drumsong Orchestra, “church” with the One World Inspirational Choir, the Transformational Healing Circle and two hours of comedy all before the closing at 9pm.

I only caught Ubaka Hill and the Drumsong Orchestra that morning. I missed everything else because I needed to pack and get my tent in order for leaving the next day.

I got everything together in time to get lunch and head to Day Stage for the comedy. This year Gloria Bigelow, Gina Yashere and Julie Goldman were the featured acts. All of these ladies are very different, but all of them are stupid funny! As you know, I’m in the sketch comedy group American Candy, but I give so much props to those who can do stand up.

After the show there was a brief rehearsal for closing. Vicki was playing cajon and that was it. So we needed to make sure our harmonies were tight. It all came together quickly and we went our separate ways to get ready for the evening.

Closing starts at dusk. In Michigan that’s around 9pm and the whole ceremony is done by torch light. There are a few performances, some drumming and some speaking involved. Everything is kept at a pretty even keel meaning it’s not too rowdy at closing. In fact people don’t clap after someone is done, they just hum. I think the highlights of closing this year for me were Stormy and Shirley singing the Native two-spirit song, Shirley giving the hoop to Lisa, Gina B., and Big Bad Gina singing “Ella’s Song” by Sweet Honey in the Rock. 

Closing Ceremony song with Gina Breedlove & Dance Brigade

When closing ends we know that it’s really over. There is time to chat, but the next day we will all be going our separate ways. I can’t remember what I did that night. I can’t recall the conversations, but I knew I needed to go to bed early because I wanted to make sure I saw Julie who took all of Sunday to sleep and recover from the week. So I probably took myself to bed. Much needed rest.

Monday August 12th
At a slow and steady pace folks started to leave the land. Julie was first and then Hanifah, Toshi, Bob, Shelley, Kofy, Aima, Vicki, Stacyann, Marcelle and the list went on. For the first time in my Fest history I wasn’t going home right after. I made plans to hang out at Shirley’s place for an extra week. It was a daunting thought at first because I always have so much going on back in Brooklyn, but I decided to do it for myself and take the time. I was probably one of the last of my NY and Bay Area friends to leave that day. It was nice to have some time to chill and not rush for a shuttle, but it was hard to say goodbye to everyone else. Of course I would see most folks back in New York and at some point. I say at some point because our lives at home never bring us together like they do in Michigan.

As the tents came down and the people filed out I thought I would feel that wave of sadness as I always to when Fest ends, but this year was different. It was hard to bid folks farewell, but I really felt filled as everything came to a close. I felt like I was talking them all with me and I made a promise to myself that I would make it to the Bay to play before the next Fest came around. I am long overdue and really I pretty much have a band out there, meaning that I have played with so many women in the area that I could surely pull something together. I had a renewed spirit.

View from my tent door
As artists were leaving I was also helping Shirley and Sue to pack everything up so we could leave. Sue is a craftswoman so we had to make sure everything was broken down before we pulled out. We had a whole caravan of folks who were coming to Chateau Relaxo (Shirley & Sue’s house) post-fest. In the first wave were 8 of us including Shirley and Sue and the wave never stopped for the whole week I was there.

As I look back on this year’s festival I feel really blessed. There was a lot of drama pre-fest, but once we got there it all seemed to fade. I mean there were still talks and meeting and concerns, but the overall vibe was love. Probably a deeper love than I have felt in past years. There is always a lot of woo on the land. A lot of love juju floating around, but this year it was palpable. This year, with all its pre-fest drama, probably had more love, thoughtfulness and insight than any year in my time going. I know in the age of the festival I’m still a baby, but it has become a place to land and I’m grateful.

As we drove through the gates one more time I did not feel sad. I just felt an overwhelming sense of calm and purpose. There is still a lot of work, but as the gates faded in the distance I knew we could do it. We can do it.

"Wild Girl with Crystals" : Self Portrait

Tuesday August 27
Post Fest I stayed I Michigan. I had thought about blogging about that too, but I'll leave that for the book.  I will probably post some pics from after Fest in my FB page at some point, but I'll leave it at this for now. 

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my blog.  When I first started doing this wrap- up I had no idea who would take the time to read all of my ramblings.  I know I'm long winded, but I'm glad some folks still have the attention span to read like I do. 

If you are reading this blog and are not familiar with the artists that I mention throughout the piece, take the time to Google them.  There are some amazing women out here making incredible music and making people laugh.  Support them and support art in general. 

Thank you all so much! I hope you enjoyed Michfest 2013, from my perspective. One love! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Michfest 2013 Wrap-Up: It's On! (Wednesday & Thursday)

Wednesday August 7th
I woke to rain. I woke to a downpour and I knew that it was going to be a long day. I was not only firekeeping that day, but I had also planned to pour water for a two-door lodge that day. I peeled myself up at about 4:45am. I prepped what I was going to bring to the lodge the day before so I didn’t have much to do. I just had to pull it together and get out to the lodge. I put everything that I needed for the day in a plastic bag and ventured out into the early, early morning rain. My flashlight was barely helping me. I almost walked through what seemed like ponds of water. It was pitch black out.

When I got up to the lodge I could see a little fire going. Sharon, Brooke, Robin and Mia were there getting things going. That morning Mia, Cynthia and I were responsible for the fire, but Brooke and Robin camped right by the lodge so there were there in an instant. Once I got up there it was time to put the rocks (ancestors) on and keep the fire going at the same time. Certain people have very particular ways of getting a fire going, but when there is rain you have to do the best you can and use all methods available. We also had to make sure that the kindling was dry at all time. Eventually Cynthia arrived and it took all 6 of us to get that flame really going. There was a whole bunch of fanning happening and then eventually I brought some paper in the mix because one side of the fire was going faster than the other. It was wild to say the least. I think the sun was just starting to come up as we really got it going.

After things had calmed down, Robin, Brooke and Sharon went back to bed while Mia, Cynthia and I keep fire for the rest of the morning through the first lodge. After all that rain it turned out to be a beautiful day; really amazing actually and a great first lodge to firekeep for.

There was a bit of a break between lodges so I went in search of my friend Cassandra and lunch. I ended up finding both. Cassandra and I talked about me to do a Reiki session on her on the land long before Fest, which I was happy to do. So I found her in the WOC tent and we talked about times. Soon I was off to get some grub and head back for the Honoring Our Elders lodge. I was supposed to pour water, but I choose to just sit in that one. It was only two doors, which was good because when it was all said and done I don’t know if I could have done four doors that day. After those two doors I was done and I had a headache that wouldn’t leave me for three days. I don’t know if I was dehydrated or just trying to release something, but it lingered and it was no joke. It’s kind of hard to believe as I write this how much pain I was in for all those days. I was doing everything under the sun to try and get rid of that headache and you know that on a land filled with women, EVERYONE had a remedy. Nothing worked for a good long time and yes I took some drugs too.

Opening the Sky
It wasn’t until around Opening Ceremony that I started to feel the headache really come on. I was actually hoping that might cry at Opening so that maybe I could release some of the tension. I don’t know what it is about that damn event, but every time you may find yourself crying, cheering or both. Seriously it’s amazing. This year we celebrated 13 and it was very powerful. Hanifah and Animal did a rendition of “Pussy Manifesto” that was off the chain and really just warmed people up for Hanifah’s show the following night. Marcelle [Davies Lashley] sang a beautiful song and Lisa [Vogel] did something she rarely does at Festival, she spoke and talked about the event that she created. If it was ever going to happen, this was the year. I won’t get into all the Opening details, but I will just say as usual there was serious dancing and fire involved, followed by the annual singing of “Amazon Womyn.” This year Reinna Williams joined Judith Casselberry on the rhyme and it was off the chain. I have heard that song sung or been a part of singing it for many of the years that I’ve been to fest, but this year was something special. I swear that was the really the kickoff to what was going to be an amazing week of music. I feel like every artist that showed up at fest really showed up this year. It felt so incredible at so many moments.

Heartfelt Opening

Animal & Hanifah: Sisters from another Mister
"Pussy Manifesto"
Amazon Womyn Rise!

The opening ceremony was followed by Gina Breedlove. Can you say off the chain?! This was her Night Stage debut and it was one of the best sets I’ve seen on the land. I know you might think I’m a little bias because she is my friend, but for real it was killing! Gina left us in BK for the Bay, but damn if I don’t think that was one of the best moves she made in her life. While she was on stage I could see and feel the joy in her heart, soul and spirit. Now that brought tears to my eyes. That show was banana-balls. Her band was Vicki Randle on percussion & guitar, Shelley Doty on guitar, Kofy Brown on bass and Julie Wolf on Keys. Also everyone, but Kofy were also on vocals! They were all in white and were calling in the ancestors for real that night. Everyone looked and sounded gorgeous. It was just brilliant. These are also the same ladies that are on Gina’s latest album Language of Light. Pick that joint up immediately. Get it now! In fact open up another tab on your computer right now and buy it! I’ll wait for you to come back…Ok, now that you have the album feel the vibes. LOL! Yes, I am serious.

The angelic Gina Breedlove and what might have been the sexiest band on the land!

Gina Breedlove, Vicki Randle, Shelley Doty, Kofy Brown, Julie Wolf

Gina looking good front to back!

After Gina’s set my head was really pounding and it was cold. The Indigo Girls were up next. There was a lot of controversy around their performance at Fest this year. It was expected that they were going to talk about the trans-inclusion issue while on stage, but it didn’t happen. They did a really sweet set and Amy Ray talked about having a baby on the way. I missed much of it because my friend Rachel was giving me an acupuncture treatment by flashlight. Yes you can get acupuncture in the woods! Sadly it did nothing to ease my pain so we went back and caught the tail end of the set.

After Night Stage there is a midnight meal for the artists and workers. The first meal of the week was one of my faves, sesame noodles. I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked because my head was still killing me. I hung for a bit, but then I went to bed to see if I could sleep it off.

I was a very eventful day and a seriously powerful kick off show to a powerful kick ass week. Rest.

Thursday August 8th
I woke with a calm mind and then just that fast the headache was back. I just had to keep moving through it. I drinking so much water, Emergen-C and Hibiscus tea that I had to pee every five minutes. I know that’s probably the best, but it was killing me. I just kept drinking because I was thinking that I dehydrated, but clearly after a while I was thinking that something was on me in the lodge and it was taking some time to get it off. Nothing I was doing was helping, but I had work to do so I had to hop to it.

At 10:45am I went to soundcheck for Hanifah’s show. I’m not sure what I did before that. Maybe just chilled and checked out the schedule. Hanifah’s soundcheck was fast, but good.

After soundcheck I still had a headache, but I wanted to go check out Round Robin and I really needed to take a shower. So I ate some lunch, took a shower and then headed to Day Stage. But instead of finding a seat I went to check out my girl Kelly Horrigan at her booth. The crafts area is situated at the edge of the Day Stage area so it’s a good place to hear the music, but not be in then blazing heat. There is really not much shade at the Day Stage at all. In fact there is only a big tent that only so many people can fit under and it usually gets filled up quickly. Anyway, that day on the Round Robin was Marcelle, Gretchen Phillips, Laura Love, Jenn Todd, Jill Sobule and Cris Williamson. They all sounded so great and I was glad I caught a bit of it. One of the songs that they sang was “We Shall Overcome,” which I hadn’t heard in a long time. That moment turned out to be more poignant than they probably know. Later that day Shirley told me that the song started just as the Cancer Survivors lodge was getting ready to start. So they sat with the lodge door open, listening and releasing until the song ended. It’s not that the Day Stage is right next to the lodge space, but the sound carries on the land and that song came right on time.

After Round Robin was Big Bad Gina, who I had met on the road and at sound check the day before. I only caught a bit of their set because my head was killing me. I chilled with Kelly a bit longer and then headed back to my tent to take it down for a bit. I had missed poet/actress/writer Lenelle Moïse’s set on Tuesday and I heard it was great. So after a brief rest I peeled myself up and went to see her on Acoustic Stage. I’m glad I did because her show “Womb-Words, Thirsting” was off the hook. Sadly I couldn’t stay to see Stacyann Chin do her thing because I had to get ready for the set with Hanifah.

I still had a headache, but by this time I was just moving through it. I have had this top with a Chinese collar that I have been wanting to wear for a long time, but I need a camisole or something underneath it and I don’t have one. But at Michfest that’s the only time I feel like I can go with just my bra or something like that and get away with it; meaning I feel safe to wear just my bra because it’s a safe space.

Hanifah is always the cool nerd so her and Julie were right in step, but I know Hanifah likes heels so mine were in full effect. I wore the shoes that I had on at Pussypalooza; black, open toes with rhinestone heels. I really love them. Black pencil skirt and my top, which was all the way open so you could see my new bra (I love it) and my dangling hoops. We were ready to rock!

The outfit in full effect!

Hanifah was debuting the music that she’s been doing in France with her band St. Lô and it’s off the chain. I think my favorite new joints are “Flight and Fantasy,” and “Legendary,” but really she does a killer rendition of “In the Pines” that I love too. We had the early set so we didn’t have the luxury of the stage lights to really set it off, but Hanifah is nothing if not a show-woman and she killed it. We officially ended the set on “Hero,” which is a crowd favorite, but of course we couldn’t get out of there without doing “Happy,” the unofficial Michfest anthem.

Hanifah Kicking it off!

In the air!

The Mezz & I
The Cool Nerds!
Marcelle and I getting "Happy!"

The "Happy" Dancers!

Hanifah & Julie in a post-show glow

Brooklyn/Bay Area Love!

Footwear: That's what it's all about.  Ha!

Hanifah did a remix on that joint and it was dope! People came up on stage to dance and it was a blast! Marcel was the first person to crash the stage so I told her to come over and sing harmony with me on “If you feel it/you can do it!” Shelley Doty danced on the catwalk and said it was her first time out there. She never gets out there because she’s a guitarist and usually the band is glued to the stage. Well that is unless you are MEN, but more on that later. I think that moment was the beginning of the Brooklyn/Bay artist love affair that was at a high level this Fest. I mean there has always been love between us, but this year for some reason it just felt really strong. We danced together that night and danced together though the week. It was the beginning and there was much more to come.

Emily Wells followed Hanifah that night and if you are not familiar with her she is a one-woman band. She played drums, violin, keys and samples. Oh yeah she sings too. That was a really cool set as well. Right after Emily was the return of JD Samson & MEN. I’ve seen MEN before at Festival; in fact I think they followed me on Night Stage in 2011 if memory serves me correctly. Although I had seen the set I stood in the audience for a while to catch them once again because my girl Ginger was back with the group and it’s always a pleasure to see her. As I mentioned earlier, usually guitarists are glued to the stage, but next thing you know I see Ginger heading to the catwalk. Shortly thereafter Gretchen come up behind her and starts playing Ginger’s guitar while Ginger just lay back like and angel and let her play. From where I was standing it looked like Gretchen had picked her up in the air. She didn’t, but it really looked like Ginger was flying. That was a really cool moment.

What was also fun was watching and listening to people in the audience negotiate whether or not they were going to body surf through the crowd. People were going up left and right so if you ever wanted to body surf that was the night.

The rest of the MEN set was really great! I won’t give away the ending of their show in case you get to see them one day, but I will say this, “Who am I to feel so free? Who am I?!”

I think the midnight meal that night was chicken. I say I think because I could be getting my days mixed up, but I’ll go with it. There was a dirty rumor that it would be fried chicken. Not so much! Maria [DJ Rimarkable] and I were joking about that on the line and cracking Elvira [Kurt] up. Fun, fun night all around!

Stay Tuned...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Michfest 2013 Wrap-Up: I've Arrived (Monday & Tuesday)

I am back from Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and back from Michigan in general. It has been a heck of a two weeks and some of the best days of my life. Now that I'm back I’m feeling energized and ready to do this damn thing. I know that every time I come back from Fest I talk about how amazing it is, but this year was really beyond my expectations. I don’t know if it was all the controversy that preceded it that made it that much more special for those who chose to come, but it was just filled with light and love. I think all of the drama beforehand just made the women who chose to attend, that much closer.

I will admit I was sad not to see some usual faces there this year and I wish they had come and talked it out as women. I know everyone had different reasons for not showing, but I’ll speak for myself and say I missed you. I miss you.

I would encourage every woman who is reading this post to consider coming to Michfest next year. I can hear the resounding, “I don’t camp” from my city and suburban bougie friends (Love ya'll!), but listen to me when I tell you that you need to put that story down. Some of you have never been camping in your life and Michfest is no ordinary camping trip. Feel me. This is a life-changing affair. It’s more than a music festival. Much more. I can’t imagine not being there. I can’t imagine my summer without Michigan.

So here is my recap of the 38th Annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Here we go!

Monday August 5, 2013
Written on the Plane

I was concerned about being late so I left really early. For the past two days I had been telling people that my flight was at 11am, but Sunday night I really looked at my ticket and saw that my flight was actually at 10am! After that I knew that there would be very little sleep had that night. I never really know what to pack for Fest and honestly I haven’t had to think to hard about it in a long time. I have been driving out for at least the last three or four years so usually I’m in a car that stuffed to the gills, but this year I had to be a bit more conservative because I was flying.

As I was packing, I was catching up with Y&R since I wouldn’t be able to see it for the next two weeks and I got through Season 2 of Game of Thrones. Yes I’m late, but I’m getting there.

I thought I was all packed when I realized that I hadn’t put one instrument in my bag. Luckily I’m only carrying percussion, but still. I was so tired, but I had to keep going. [As I write this I still don’t know if I have everything.] As many years as I have been going I feel like I’m the least prepared this year. I hope I have enough warm clothes, but you never know. You just don’t know sometimes till you get there. Last year I had to buy a hat because my bald head was so cold. This year I have two hats so watch it be super hot! Either way, I’m prepared.

Wait! Damn! No I’m not. As I’m writing this on the plane I realize that I forgot my flashlight! How could I do that? Damn, Damn, Damn! That’s like leaving your underwear at home. Wow… Well, I know the festival will have one more me, but it won’t be the same. Damn! Oh well... Let it go. Damn!

You maybe be wondering why I flew this year.  I decided to say in Michigan for an extra week and hang out with Shirley (who does the sweat lodges) at her place after Fest. I had such a great time staying with her last year after my surgery and I thought it would be a good way to have a little vacation. How about that for a novel idea? I know some of you might think that all these trips have lots of chill time, but not so much. It really is work and often times there is not a lot of sleep happening.

At Festival there is rehearsal and more rehearsal and people will sometimes pull you onto sets you had no idea you would be on. Also I work the sweat lodge so some mornings I’m up really early. So this girl is not doing a whole lot of partying on the land. It’s really work, but a great work! Sacred work. I am not complaining; I’m just giving you the facts. Also, when I’m away I’m always thinking about what’s next for blaKbüshe. Oh the restless mind.

Getting back on message, I got to the airport mad early because I was concerned about rush hour traffic. Turns out I was right to be concerned, but then as luck would have it I was sent a cab driver who really knew he way around the mess. The Koskiousko bridge is always jammed sometimes seemingly for no reason at all. But my cab driver taught me new something today. I kind of pride myself on knowing my way around the crazy traffic in this town, but that code of that bridge had not been cracked until now! I don’t know when I’ll be driving that way again, but that was pretty cool. As you can see I’m a bit of a directions geek. Yes that would be me.

Since I was at LGA in plenty of time I was not sweating getting through security. I checked one bag so I didn’t have any liquids to deal with, but still they stopped my carry-on. I wasn’t sure why, but then I remembered I had all my instruments in the bag. Still I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary, but as it turns out it was to the security folks. The woman who checked my bag was shocked to see my tambourines. Even asked me if I was from the south because she hadn’t seen a tambourine since she moved to New York That’s kind of sad honestly. I also had my vibraslap in my bag and I know the shape of that could throw people off. She asked me if I wanted to open the bag in private so I’m thinking she’s thinking I have some sex toys in there. Well, no such luck. Just my vibraslap! Actually that does sound kind of sexy. LOL

I thought I was in the clear until they went back, scanned everything and then asked, “do you have rocks in your bag?” “Well yes I do!” I carry my crystals when I travel. So I took them out to show her. She showed another woman at the scanner and I was all good. It seems my tambourines, etc. were my weapons of mass destruction, but no need to really carry a weapon because my crystals are my protectors. Give thanks.

My protection

My weapons of mass destruction!

Fast forward, I’m on the plane and the plane is packed. The flight left late and I don’t know if I’m going to make my connection. It happens. Boy does it happen, but I really hope I make my connection. I guess there are worse places to be stuck than Minneapolis, but again I really want to make my connection.

I’m flying Delta, which I wouldn’t have chose it myself. Not really feeling them, but it was on the house so here I am. I’m still shocked sometimes at how cheap airlines are with the food. I really wonder where all the money is going. That’s kind of a rhetorical question, but I do wonder sometimes.

Before I leave the LGA side of the story, I have to mention these four young men I saw at the airport who got on my flight. They were all probably in their early 20s,  three were black and one Asian. They looked like they were some sort of dance crew;  just had that kind of swag about them. They all had on gear that would by some be considered street gear, but they were tight. Two had matching sneakers, they all had cool caps either on or hanging off the back of their backpacks and one of them had the flyest gold backpack that I have ever seen. If fact I have never seen a gold backpack till I saw that young man. It made me want to get one immediately.

This is the bag and it's fire!

I watched people watching them and I guess I was one of those people. But it made me smile when they started boarding our flight and they called for first class to board and all four of them headed up to check in. Yes! That’s what I’m talking about! Get your first class on! It just made me feel good to see them, being themselves in first class with all the rest of the business people, etc. It know it might seem small, but with all that is going on and all that we tend to think about our young men, I felt good to see them in first class. I don’t even know what they do. I have no idea at all, but sometimes told me from the moment I saw that buying snacks before boarding, that they were into something exceptional.

Next Stop: Minneapolis! (Let us pray...)

Later that day...
I arrived in Minneapolis just in time to make the next flight. Thankfully my departing gate was close. Almost as soon as I got there we started boarding. We all got on and it seemed like we were good to go. We moved away from the gate and then we sat…and sat…and sat on the tarmac. Damn! Seems there were some sort or mechanical issues so we moved back to the gate; actually a different gate to be exact, and waited.  I tell you, even though it’s a drag to be at the airport on the plane when that kind of stuff happens it sure beats being in the air!

Delta could have at least called Prince to entertain us while we waiting.

After being delayed for about an hour and a half we were ready to fly to Grand Rapids. It was smooth sailing from there. Thank Goddess!

When I arrived in Grand Rapids I found the festival folks who drive us to the land. I also quickly saw Kofy Brown and Shelley Doty! Bay Area in the house!  Yes there were two Shelley’s on the land. It made for some good times that I’ll talk about in a minute. I rode to the festival in a great van with just one other woman. This minivan was the bomb. It had outlets in it so I could charge my phone to boot. I know you might be wondering why I needed a charge since there is no service on the land. I use my phone as my alarm so I figured I should be as much juice as possible before I get there. Nothing makes me more excited than a dope minivan! Geekout #2.

As we rode I took a bit of a nap and soon we were there! It’s so hard to describe the feeling of when you reach the gates of the festival. Everyone says “Welcome Home” and it truly feels that way.

I was dropped off at Central Heating, which is where all the artists check in. The first face to greet me was Thokozani! She now lives back home in South Africa so it is always great see her. Then the faces started pouring in. All my folks! Penny, B.E., Mel, and the list goes on. I got my packet and because my flight was late I missed my first rehearsal with Hanifah. On the food front, thankfully Gals, the kitchen crew, had put food aside for the artists and performer support crew that came in late. So I got some food and then headed over to the Womyn of Color (WOC) tent to try and find Shirley.

Before I got there was walking down the road and I heard this woman say to her friend, “I’m so glad Shelley is here.” I couldn’t believe my ears so I turned around and said, “Me? Oh I’m so glad you are here too.” She looked at me surprised and said, “Is your name Shelley?” To which I told her it was and we all had a good laugh. Turns out she was talking about Shelley Doty and they were Jori and Melodie, two of the three members of Big Bad Gina who were playing the festival as well. I love when that kind of thing happens.

As I approached the WOC tent I could hear the drummers. There I found Shirley and a crew of women drumming outside the tent. Yeah! I’m home. I’m home.

Tuesday August 6th
This was my first full day at Festival. I had two rehearsals and we had our sweat lodge crew meeting to get clear about how things were going to move for the week.

My day started with the lodge meeting. We had a really great crew this year. Shirley, Brooke and Mimi came from the Dragonfly Lodge in Michigan at Shirley’s place; Robin, Maria, Ellie, Mia, Cynthia and I were from the Brooklyn Lodge, Haylin and Corellia came in from Washington State, Barbara Lee from Alaska, Sharon from Toledo and Marie from the Bronx. Oh how could I forget Firey and Iamie from Nova Scotia. The crew is international for sure! Robin, who is head firekeeper really pulled things together to make a schedule for the week. We also decided to add a Moon lodge led by Firey. I signed up for two lodges and I was going to pour water for one. So I was good to go. After that meeting I headed to get some lunch and to get ready for rehearsal with Hanifah.

Hanifah had not been back to the festival in two years so folks were ready for her. This year the players on the set were just Hanifah, Julie Wolf and I. Julie was holding down the keys of course and I was on percussion and vocals. We were working with tracks, but it was a really hot set of new music from Hanifah’s new band St. Lô.  It’s so nice to do something with a small group of people sometimes.  After that I made my way to Acoustic Stage to see C.C. Carter and crew before I had to hustle back for rehearsal with Chix Lix.

I think I have explained before what Chix Lix is, but just in case you are here at Michfest with me for the first time I will break it down. The last set of the festival on Saturday night is Chix Lix. Basically it’s a cover set, but every year Alyson Palmer of BETTY who leads the band, picks a theme. This year was 80s Prom! How about that; I was at the prom in the 80s! LOL! On the side note; when I was at the acoustic stage later in the week the MC asked the audience, “Who went to the prom in the 80s?” I raised my hand the and woman behind me said, “Stop it! Put your hand down. You could not have been at the prom in the 80s.” Bless her heart. LOL! I guess am looking pretty good. *wink* So back to Chix.

When the schedule went out that and I saw that the theme was 80s prom I immediately hit up Alyson and asked her if I could be on the set. She said I was the first one to reach out so the answer was yes! OK. So I started thinking about songs and for some reason it came down to Tina Turner or Pat Benatar. I don’t know why those two, but that was where I landed. When I got back to Alyson she said that Tina was taken so I went with Pat. I didn’t want to do something too obvious like “Love is a Battlefield” even though that is the joint and I knew that the people would be up for that no matter what. So I started to go through the Pat archives and of course found “We Belong,” “Heartbreaker,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and the list goes on. Then I remembered one of my all time faves, “Invincible,” which was actually from the soundtrack of the movie The Legend of Billie Jean and on the Seven the Hard Way album. I am a total 80s teen movie geek! I think I have seen them all. The good, the bad and the terrible, but The Legend of Billie Jean is one of my faves. So I told Alyson my choice, which she loved, and then I didn’t think much about it until a couple of weeks before I had to head to the land. So much happened between picking that song and singing it, but no excuses. I was going to rep for Pat and do it the best I can! I mean who gets to sing Pat Benatar everyday? I damn sure don’t so I was looking forward to it.

Back to the land... 
I was at rehearsal for my song and at first I was going to change the key. I think one morning (in Brooklyn) I was practicing the song and it felt so high. When we did it a half step down it was OK, but it didn’t have the same energy. So we moved it back to the original key. Just as we were doing that a little girl named Zora came by the tent with her mom. When I say little I mean like maybe she was 2 or 2 ½. She was naked, fresh out of the shower and staring at me. So I asked her if she wanted to sing. She nodded yes so I picked her up and we were ready to go. Some folks were concerned about her ears so Vicki [Randle] put a pair of headphones on her and also gave her a shaker and we were off. Let me tell you, as soon as the music started she was shaking that shaker in time! We went through the whole song before I gave her back to her mom. It was a great moment.  We finished rehearsing the song and came up with what we called the double James Brown ending (I can’t get that man out of my life) and called it.

Me and the lovely Zora!

Before I move away from the rehearsal tent I must tell you about this bass I met. Yes I said bass. It was the bass of Reneé from the band Big Bad Gina. They were rehearsing “Call Me” right after me, but the first things I saw as I walked toward that tent was the bass. It was screaming HELLO to me. Let me beak it down. It was mahogany on the back and maple on the front. So let’s first picture the two tones. Gorgeous! Then to put the icing on that cake the pick guard was LEATHER!!! Pink leather at that! Dayum she was beautiful and of course custom made and a jazz bass like I like it. Yes!

There was no night stage that night. Folks just hung out, talked and caught up, but I went to bed early as I had to be up to start the fire for the first at the lodge at 5:30am. It was a calm night, but right before I went to bed BN said it was going to rain at about 3am. I didn’t want to believe her. I really didn’t because that might mean we would be starting fire in the rain for the lodges. I went to bed hopeful and happy to be on the land with my friends from all over the world. Give Thanks!

Stay tuned for the next installment...

Me in my tent. I'm home!