Women’s Music Festival to Rock Redrock Country
For the fourth year in a row, the Women’s Redrock Music Festival will enliven the beautiful scenery of Torrey with the music of some of the world’s best independent woman-identified musicians.
Despite losing some grant money thanks to the continually rocky economy, the festival is not only going forward as planned, but adding some exciting changes, said Jeri Tafoya, the festival programming director.
“We wanted to give our web site a more updated look, to make it more simple for people to go in and buy tickets, to see the performers and to get a feel for the majestic view of Capitol Reef National Park” which is located near Torrey, she said. “We pretty much kept the same logo, but we jazzed it up more.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, of course, is the festival roster of high quality musicians and performance poets. Although Lilith Fair, the internationally renown women’s music festival, will bring artists like Rihanna, Ke$ha and Emmylou Harris to Salt Lake City on July 12, Tafoya said that the Women’s Redrock Music Festival has a much different feel and focus.
“We’re not competing with them,” she said. “The Women’s Redrock Music Festival is more indie-based. We are more intimate, we have a small venue that holds up to 600 people in Torrey and we’re going to keep that as is. The stage is small enough for a connection, but big enough that magic happens there.”
“Plus,” she added, “where else can you go to spend $55 to hear artists who can hold their own with the talent of Lilith Fair?”
She said that one of her passions as the festival program director is finding unsigned female artists to perform in the intimate venue.
“There’s nothing that pleases me more than having someone walk up and say, ‘Where did you find this person?’” she said.
Some of the talented local women who will take the stage on Aug. 6 and 7 include newcomer Marie Bradshaw, a Bountiful performer specializing in folk, blues, country and rock who will appear on July 2 at the Real Salt Lake Soccer Game and Fireworks Show. Bradshaw and her four-member band will play on both days — something, added Tafoya, that is unusual at the festival.
“She has this brilliant voice that sounds like Brandi Carlile’s,” Tafoya said. “My wish for her and for her band is to be discovered so the world can hear the amazing voice she has.”
Other Utah performers will include Bronwen Beecher, the self-described “fiddle preacher” who has wowed audiences at a number of local venues, including the Utah Pride Festival, with her boundlessly energetic bluegrass, folk, rock and Celtic-inspired tunes. More local artists, Tafoya added, will be added to the Women’s Redrock Music Festival web site soon.
As always, the festival also casts a wide net when searching for talent, and draws in performers from across the United States and across the seas. California poet and singer/songwriter Angie Evans, who appeared on the Utah Pride Festival’s main stage earlier this month and drove her U-Haul truck in the Pride Parade, will return to the state with hard-hitting, politically incisive folk-inspired songs that the Women’s Redrock Music Festival describes as “a four-car accident with drivers Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, Erykah Badu and Ella Fitzgerald.”
“She’s a queer woman who puts a lot of poetry into her music and it comes out with such special drive and emotion,” said Tafoya “She was so great, so wonderful with the crowd interaction [at Pride] and really sold the music festival. We’re so grateful she’s coming back for us again.”
Speaking of DiFranco, one of the folk superstar’s former touring mates will also step onto the Torrey stage: Bitch, a New York City-based electric violin, bass and ukulele player, record producer and theater artist whose style the festival calls “left-of-center and controversial.” Her music can be heard in John Cameron Mitchell’s film, Shortbus and on two albums, Make This/Break This and the newly released and self-produced Blasted!.
From Boulder, Colo. comes Ayo Awosika, a classically trained vocalist with a background in jazz, opera, roots music and art songs who has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Japan, and is a star in her state’s vibrant music scene. Her voice has been compared those of Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Ross. And, from San Diego, comes Runhoney, a quartet which Tafoya describes as having “powerful voices and kick-ass rhythms.”
The festival’s featured artists are Jennifer Corday and her all-female band, The Classic Rock Cougars who, as the name suggest, specialize in classic rock, with a special love for the tunes of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Corday and her band are award-winning artists whose laurels include multiple Orange County Music Awards for best live band, best alternative band and best live female performer. Corday herself has opened for a number of notable acts including Cher, Sugar Ray, Joan Osborne and Indigo Girls.
“This is a group that shows up on stage with something different to offer every time,” said Tafoya. “You never know what you’re going to get with their blend of originals and with their cover sets. They go on stage and feel what the crowd wants and goes from there. It’s really kick-ass and brilliant.”
In only four years, the festival has gained international acclaim for the high caliber of its performers. Its reputation is such, she said, that several artists come to perform even though the festival can only pay “a small scale of what they generally get paid and are capable of earning.”
“They’ve heard a lot about the festival and its being one of the best that [its] performers have played at, so it really is an honor to have so much talent coming to Utah,” she said.
Their dedication to the festival is such that some performers, she added, will hop red-eye flights to Salt Lake City right after playing at the famous Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, with which the Women’s Redrock Music Festival has coincided since its founding.
“That will change next year, I promise,” she said.
When asked what else makes the music festival so popular for artists and attendees alike, she pointed to the majestic Utah landscape from which it draws its name.
“They love the beautiful surroundings, they love the circle of women and being able to share the intimate love of fantastic music,” she said. “We’re grateful about how it has organically grown into something everyone loves.”
And, while the festival is named the Women’s Redrock Music Festival, she is quick to stress that the venue welcomes people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. In fact, she said that men have attended from the first year on.
“We’re completely accepting of everyone who shows up and grateful to have them,” she said. “A lot of people bringing their families with them, [and there are] a lot more children, a lot more men. As it grows, I think people will start to realize it is for everyone. You don’t walk in ever feeling like it’s going to be a lesbian festival. You walk in and feel like it’s all about music and the area.”
The festival has grown a lot since its first year. To sustain itself — particularly with the loss of grant money — it is always actively seeking sponsors. Sponsor information is located on the website at redrockwomensfest.com as are vendor applications. Artisans, craftspeople and businesses of all kinds, save for those that sell food, may apply for space on the festival grounds until July 6. Space is limited to 25 booths and the cost is $100, which covers both days.
She attributes the festival’s ongoing success to the efforts of founder Carol Gnade, stage director Lu Prickett and volunteer director Laurie Wood. Gnade and her partner, said Tafoya, wanted to give something to Torrey when they moved to the small Southern Utah town a few years ago.
“She wanted to offer a gift of having every single hotel booked and every single campground booked and having so much filled within that weekend than they did in three months of the entire year,” Tafoya said.
“I’d like concertgoers to check out our web site and become familiar with these awesome performers coming here for them from all over the world. To me, it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give: The gift of music that touches all of us and the gift of sisterhood.”
The festival is a nonprofit organization and a program of the Utah Pride Center.