|Butterfly by the lodge|
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|
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 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!