Interview: Amy Reid On Her GRL PWR Party & Why It's So Needed

It's no secret that women are underrepresented to a shameful extent, in music and otherwise. Shit, in every industry just about. It's also no secret that not enough fight against that goes down which is why things like The Exchange II are starting to pop up in Baltimore and all around. We need discussions like those to continue challenging the patriarchal structure of our society. Amy Reid of Baltimore duo, Chiffon, is doing her part in that challenge with her new Baltimore-based party, GRL PWR, which exclusively showcases women performers and DJ's. Her last party featured performative dance by Fluct, a live set by Ami Dang and DJ sets by Genie and Isabejja. Aside from proving that they didn't need any men to pack over 300 people in a tight warehouse space, it also showed that there are tons of talented female artists that go unnoticed. Wanting to know more about the origins and intentions of GRL PWR, I caught up with Amy recently. 

Photo: Diamond Dixon

Photo: Diamond Dixon

What was your initial mission when conceptualizing GRL PWR? Was it to show that you didn't need men or was it just to celebrate women?

Amy Reid: Definitely to celebrate women performers. Exclusion is the opposite of what I want. There is an obvious focus on women performers but I'm all about including people who want to be a part of it. Originally, I wanted it to be strictly DJS and then I realized how boring that could be to exclusively have DJ sets. I think the best shows are when you get a taste of everything which is why I love Baltimore. It's not out of the ordinary to walk into a show where there's 4 different genres of music being represented on a single bill and I love that. I also wanted GRL PWR to represent a mixture of established artists, up and coming artists, and people who have maybe never performed before. I was just getting into djing and I was trying to find women djs in the area and I had a hard time and I was kind of puzzled. I had a drink with a friend and they brought up a good point that I had never really thought of but if you don't see yourself represented in a genre or art form it's hard to picture yourself doing that. I think that's a little extremist but still holds some truth.

When you think about it, it's pretty crazy that there haven't been any women-focused shows in the city. But it's so common for an all-guy lineup to be booked without it even being a thing. I've been guilty of it too when putting shows together. How's all that make you feel?

AR: That was a driving force for sure and I know people don't do it intentionally I just hope that this event brings awareness to that. There have been a few that have happened over time like Puss Fuss, Female Front Fest, and Lady Fest. They are all cool events and there is always room for more. Like those events, mine is curated. I want every show to make sense even if it's in a non traditional way. There's a focus on electronic, club and movement/ dance performance so far but I'm not going to limit it to be only that.

Did any anxiety come during the planning process when you thought of how the party could be received?

AR: I definitely had anxiety before both events. Some people freak out when you start to talk about things like gender. I look at this event as a positive reaction to further support women performers and have a conversation about it if someone thinks differently. There was one person sort of trolling the first event facebook page which made me pretty bummed out. But realistically, you can't please everyone and not everyone will agree with you and that's okay, I am interested in the conversation that happened anyway even if I feel uneasy or start to second guess afterwards. That's how we grow, we listen to each other, contemplate, and agree disagree or meet somewhere in the middle. For the most part it's been positive.

Playing in Chiffon, you've done a good amount of traveling through touring with Future Islands. Was the disparity in women being booked a problem in other places as well?

AR: It's not unusual for me to be the only woman on a bill but thats not to say that it's 100% of the time. We play with a pretty broad spectrum of artists from  a lot of different genres and backgrounds. When I'm on the road I actually forget about it cause I'm just doing my thing with Chase, my best friend/ bandmate. I don't really notice a difference in treatment or anything. It's when I take a step back and think about it, that's what makes me want to address it in a positive empowering way.

It's a common thought that women are marginalized the most in hip-hop culture but this party speaks to multiple genres. Is that struggle of being ignored just as prevalent in other genres, in your experience?

AR: I think that DJ culture is what initially sparked my interest in starting GRL PWR. It's a problem when you can't name more than 5 women DJS in your city and part of that is me learning more about djing in general. I obviously don't know everyone who is djing or interested in it, that would be stupid to assume. I just want to meet those people doing it or provide an opportunity for people interested in it.

Photo: Diamond Dixon

Photo: Diamond Dixon

A great thing that I noticed at last week's party was that the all-female lineup had little-to-no effect on the crowd's diversity in comparison to other shows in Baltimore. Was that something you put a lot of thought into?

AR: Yeah, definitely. I want to put on shows that slay every time which is generally the philosophy behind every show I play or book. I think that everyone can get down with celebrating powerful women performers and I am confident in everyone I ask to play or that wants to play. I want people to come to GRL PWR knowing that they are going to have a great experience.

How've people been receiving GRL PWR?

AR: By the turn out alone I think it's going well. The first one was about 150 and the second was about 300 which is crazy and i was not properly prepared for. I was talking to isa bella about that earlier, DJ isabejja, and we were trying to figure it out. It's one of those things where I have no idea at this point if its the performers, the  event, the philosophy behind the event or a combination of why people want to be a part of it. Either way, I'm grateful that people want to be a part of it.

What effect do you hope the party will having on booking trends throughout Baltimore?

AR: I hope that people who perform at GRL PWR gain more attention and people become more open to giving budding artists a chance to shine. I also hope that people think more deeply about the ways that shows can be more dynamic and interesting be it location or performers. Not saying that this already doesn't happen, but there is always room for things to grow into something more.

Dream acts to have play at GRL PWR?

AR: Missy Elliot, Tink, Holly Herndon, Kelela, Grimes, Kali Uchis, Emily Reo.....everyone that has already performed has been that dream come true.


Diary: Chrissy Vasquez

 Photo: Keem Griffey

 Photo: Keem Griffey

Today I realize that I'm not like many people. As I've been told my entire life by many people. I'm similar to my music, my music is me. Different...astranged...created off earth. Where ever I go, my music goes with me. Journeys written into a melodic tune. It flows in my head through times of melancholy and when I feel joy it takes off into my body. Wave length. Taking off in to outer space. Let me go so I can free my mind. I swing my maschete full of treble cleffs, eight notes, do...re....me's...fa's...and sorrows. I'll blow you away baby, blow you away. Chrissy Vasquez. That's what they call me. I smile. As well, I'm hesitant. As I step on stage. The tune plays, I sway my hips and range my vocals with my hand. Strange voice. Numb and glazed. They didn't expect this, did they? Capturing pictures of the essence. Fifteen minutes...only fifteen minutes. Fifteen fucking minutes.

As they applauded, the noise filled up the room. The smell of drunk, the smell of fucked up...I still smelt a scent of love.

Love is universol. Love is all you need.

...

I grew up...without love. I grew up, with heartaches. The house on Rogers Ave, living bottom under the crack addict on top of us. I struggled. I've seen more than you think. You'd think the only thing I'd be witnessing in a child stage is the frog pad, and cartoon figures on the televsion screen. I knew what guns were before I even seen one, I knew what fear was because I scent it. I knew what pain was. It was all around me. Mami don't cry, I will protect you. The cops knocked the door down...

Love...love.........it's out here. Mami...do you hear me? Love...love.

He blacks out.

Follow Chrissy Vasquez on Twitter: @CHRISSYVSQZ



KAHLON: All Night Rager + True Laurels Zine Release Party

If you're in Baltimore next Saturday (November 9th) you should definitely come be a part of KAHLON—an all night dance party and rager with live sets by my friends Abdu Ali, TT The Artist, Ponyo, Gurl Crush and David Revlon. But best of all, KAHLON will also be the release party for the first issue of True Laurels' zine! I've been working on this for a while and I'm excited to finally share a physical component of the blog with people who've been reading from the start and anyone who happens to stumble by. Overall, it's a collection of conversations and insight with people that inspire me a great deal. Catch Cities Aviv, Abdu Ali, DUOX, Modi (DCtoBC/Trillectro), Neil Martinez-Belkin, TT The Artist and 83 Cutlass in the first issue, along with contributions from some talented friends! I've been fiending for a more personal connection with artists that are featured through interviews, profiles or docs in various pubs, so that was the aim for the zine—intimate moments with those who push the culture forward. Without mouthing my way to completely defeating the purpose of an invite for its release, come by The Crown (1910 N. Charles St., 2nd Fl) next Saturday. For those not in Baltimore, some online components of the zine will be posted soon after the release.

RSVP to KAHLON here!