The upcoming “Local Women Who Rock” concert is exactly as advertised.
The bands are local, they are indeed powered by women, and they most assuredly do rock.
On Friday night at The Depot in Salt Lake City, four female-fronted outfits from that town — Talia Keys and The Love, Michelle Moonshine & Co., Sarah DeGraw & the Odd Jobs, and VadaWave — will take the stage to quickly make Utah audiences a believer in girl power. The every-so-often concert — three such events were held at The State Room in 2017 — is produced by KRCL Radio and Salt Lake musician Talia Keys.
“We’ve always been here,” Keys said of women in the Utah music scene, “but we want to see more representation.”
The statistics are sobering. According to a Billboard magazine article from earlier this year, a study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found:
• In 2017, only 16.8 percent of musical artists were women.
• Females represented just 12.3 percent of credited songwriters.
• Of the 899 individuals nominated for a Grammy Award between 2013 and 2018, only 9.3 percent were women.
• And most dismal, just 2 percent of music producers are female.
All those numbers add up to an extremely bleak outlook for female groups.
“And it’s even less if you’re gay — as I am — or transgender or non-binary,” Keys adds.
Eugenie Hero Jaffe, the midday host on KRCL 90.9 FM, said Keys approached her a couple of years ago about doing a showcase featuring female bands. Jaffe produces a radio feature at noon each day on KRCL called “Women Who Rock.” The three-song sets explore female artists in the music business.
“KRCL has always played women artists,” Jaffe said. “We’ve just always championed women artists.”
Jaffe knows well the gender inequality that pervades the music business.
“I grew up at the time of Lilith Fair — that period of time where you couldn’t play two female artists back-to-back on the radio,” Jaffe recalls. “That’s why Lilith Fair happened, to show there is money and power with female artists.”
Keys says she was initially inspired by Jaffe’s “Women Who Rock” segment and noticed that not only weren’t there any local female showcases being offered, but it was difficult to find musical role models of her gender.
“For me, growing up and playing music since the age of 9, I had a lot more male influences than female ones in trying to find my voice,” Keys said.
She knows first-hand how difficult it can be to break into some of the bigger music venues in Salt Lake, so once Keys got her foot in the door she was determined to keep it open for other women behind her.
“It’s a way to get more female artists onstage,” Keys said. “My main dream for Local Women Who Rock is to turn it into a local music festival.”
Keys says she was further inspired by the Women’s Redrock Music Festival, held each summer in Torrey, Utah.
“I’ve played that a few years, and thought, ‘This is cool, I want to see this kind of thing where I live — at (SLC’s) Liberty Park or somewhere else where it can be a day-long event.”
Jaffe points to the way established female artists are beginning to help their up-and-coming musical sisters by providing more opportunities for these women’s voices to be heard. She singles out Brandi Carlile, whose recently announced “Girls Just Wanna Weekend” — billed as a four-night all-inclusive concert vacation — is coming in late December and early January to the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico. In addition to Carlile, the lineup will include Maren Morris, Indigo Girls, Margo Price, Patty Griffin, Lucius, KT Tunstall, The Secret Sisters and Ruby Amanfu.
“What is cool about the Local Women Who Rock series is that Talia is trying to do the same thing here,” Jaffe said. “She’s trying to help out other local women artists, and I’m trying to do the same thing — trying to promote local women artists.”
Jaffe said the goal is to develop camaraderie among women and “building one another up, instead of the stereotypical women-against-women.”
The first Local Women Who Rock show was held in January 2017 at The State Room. When that show sold out, Keys knew they were on to something. She and Jaffe believe it’s making a difference.
In the decade that Keys has been playing shows in Northern Utah, she’s seen the number of female musicians triple.
“More females are coming out and doing their own thing.” Keys said.
Today, Jaffe said there are a lot of “great, amazing women-fronted bands and all-female bands.”
All of the artists performing at Friday’s concert have been in previous Local Women Who Rock shows.
Talia Keys and The Love perform funk, soul, rock, reggae and more. Michelle Moonshine & Co. is more old country and folk music. Sara DeGraw & the Odd Jobs is more of a straight-up rock group. And VadaWave, although leaning toward rock ’n’ roll, will do an acoustic set on Friday, according to Keys.
With that diversity of musical genres, Jaffe says the “Local Women Who Rock” moniker is used more in the proverbial sense for Friday’s show. You might hear neo-soul one moment, Americana the next, and even full-on punk at some point.
“Oh, and there is a rumor that all of the artists will be on stage at the end of the show, and that it’s going to be a tribute of sorts to a female artist who passed away recently,” Jaffe teased.
Keys, on the other hand, was a bit more direct: “Yeah, we’re going to be doing a mini Aretha Franklin tribute at the end of the night. It’ll be great.”