Curve — October 2010
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Best Of The Fests

As curve turns 20 years old, we look back on the last two decades of women’s music festivals. Some of us cut our teeth playing these fests—others of us wore out our shoes dancing at them. Some of the fests are gone, but thankfully others are still going strong. So throw that sleeping bag in the Subaru and head out to those that remain. [Jamie Anderson]

Gone but not forgotten fests
Camp fest (Maryland and Pennsylvania):


Billed as the “comfortable” festival, it had cabins and a pool—filled with half-naked women. Campfest quit a few years ago and we miss it—the festival, not just the naked ladies.

East Coast Lesbian Festival (New York):

Proudly sporting “lesbian” in its title, this small but mighty festival existed for a few years back in the ’90s.

Gulf Coast Womyn’s Festival (Mississippi):

Tired of renting space, organizers Wanda and Brenda Henson bought 120 acres near Ovett, Miss. After Henson’s death, her children took over the fest, and the event morphed into the Camp Sister Spirit Folk School. Unfortunately, the last event was in 2009. We missed them this year, and will for years to come.

Lady fest (various cities):

It started in 2000 in Olympia, Wash., but is actually several festivals that happen all over the world; they share the same name and the same DIY attitude, but not much more.The original fest is gone but the one in London is still alive.

Northeast Women’s Music Retreat (New England):

Long-running and much-loved, this annual festival was a freakin’ good time. We wish it were still running.

Rhythm fest (Georgia and North Carolina):

Started by workers from other festivals, this was one of the first in the Deep South.Too bad they aren’t around anymore.

Southern Women’s Music and Comedy Festival (Georgia):

Organizer Robin Tyler felt so strongly about including comedy that she put it in the title. Tyler brought in political activists and authors too. Sadly, it ended in 1995.

West Coast Women’s Music Festival (California):

Fifteen years of 2,000 or more women in the woods near Yosemite. Did it get any better than that?

Wimmin fest (New Mexico

Shows were at the beautiful KimoTheatre in downtown Albuquerque. They stopped just a few years ago. Damn.

Still going strong

Estrojam (Chicago): This fun fest has included big name performers like Cat Power, Leslie and the Lys, Northern State and Meshell Ndegeocello. We can’t wait to see who they have this year. (decibelle.org)

Fabulosa Fest (California):

This three-day festival is held on a 1,700 acre ranch in Northern California. Formed by the San Francisco-based Fabulosa Collective, the festival’s proximity to the Bay Area makes it an ideal testing ground for hot new music acts like Blair Hansen and Excuses for Skipping. They also secure big names like Ferron and Bitch.(fabulosafest.com)

Houston Women’s Music Festival (Texas):

This is a city fest, so rent yourself a nice hotel room. Texas women know how to party and they’ve proved it with artists like Michelle Malone and Halcyon. (hwfestival.org)

Iowa Women’s Music Festival:

This yearly September festival features regional artists and a headliner or two. This year it was Janis Ian. In years past, it’s featured Michelle Shocked and Wishing Chair. (prarievoices.net)


Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival:

A few thousand women on acres of beautiful forestland filled with music—from punk to bluegrass—and workshops abounding.How could you not have an amazing time? Even with the current debates over their trans policy, MichFest is the one place where you can still learn traditional African dance, stilt walking and singing in a sacred circle and then groove to Bitch, the Indigo Girls or Erin Mc Keown.(michfest.com)

National Women’s Music Festival (Wisconsin):

The oldest festival, the National has moved all over the Midwest, from Indiana to its present home in Wisconsin. It’s at a convention center, so dancing naked is not an option, but staying in a hotel and going to shows in a real theater is more than a fair trade. (wiaonline.org)

Ohio Lesbian Festival:

Having just celebrated its 21st year, this festival rocks the outdoors near Columbus in September. Normally a one-day festival, they opened it up to a weekend, with camping or nearby hotels. It’s a party, y’all, with everything from Cris Williamson to sexy burlesque dancers. (ohiolba.org)

Sisterspace Weekend (Maryland):

Taking place in September at a private wooded camp, Sisterspace offers a variety of entertainment, from the spoken word artist Staceyann Chin to the party band Wicked Jezabel. (sisterspace.org)

Southern Women’s Music Festival (Florida and Georgia):

Different from Tyler’s events, this is a smaller festival, which began in the ’90s and is organized entirely by Southerners. (someonessister.com)

Virginia Women’s Music Festival:

Held near Richmond on a gorgeous piece of private land with a lake, this festival doesn’t have intense workshops but there’s always someone tossing a football around, and maybe that’s exactly what your therapist ordered. Expect a friendly nightly bonfire, amazing food (fried chicken and pie anyone?), a place to shake your booty and lots of great music.(campoutva.com)

Women’s Voices Festival / Raise the Roof Women’s Music Festival (Canada):

Women’s Voices was a three-day outdoor festival in Ontario; it stopped in 2007. Fortunately, Raise the Roof has arrived to fill those substantial hiking boots. It’s no relation to the first fest, but caters to the same audience with a roster of great Canadian artists and a few musicians from the states. (rrwmf.ca)

Who did we miss? Tell us about your favorite women’s festival moment from the last two decades at letters@curvemag.com.

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