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Ladyfest Midwest

Ladyfest Midwest announces 10th anniversary weekend schedule

Chicago—In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Ladyfest Midwest, organizers of the original 2001 festival are planning a weekend of events on August 19–21. The weekend will include a dance party, music showcase, and gallery exhibit. Proceeds from every event will benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center (CWHC).

Kicking off the weekend, on Friday, August 19th, is a dance party from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. at Late Bar (3534 W. Belmont ). Three DJs will be spinning punk, post-punk, riot grrl, girl groups, and international weirdness: Sam O’Rama (Laurie’s Planet of Sound); Emily Agustin (CHIRP Radio, Toast & Jam, Maybenauts); and Rebecca Crawford (Reckless Records and ex-The Dials). Crawford is an original organizer of the festival and performed at Ladyfest Midwest in 2001 with her former band, the Puta-Pons. Late Bar was a 2010 critic’s pick in Time Out Chicago. There will be a $5 suggested donation at the door.

On Saturday, August 20, from 12–5 p.m. and Sunday, August 21, from 2–5 p.m., there’s a documentation exhibition of video, photographs, and archival materials from Ladyfest Midwest 2001. The exhibition is free and located at LivingRoom Gallery (1530 W. Superior ).

Saturday, August 20, at 9 p.m. is the music showcase at Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western). Performing at the showcase are the Wanton Looks, Cathy Santonies, Hollows, and DJ Reaganomix. The Cathy Santonies and Hollows were featured in the Chicago Tribune’s “11 local bands for 2011.” Jyl Fehrenkamp, a performer/dancer/choreographer and curator/host of Poonie’s Cabaret at Links Hall, hosts the music showcase. Tickets for the showcase are $15 at the door and there will be a raffle with prizes from Reckless Records, Hanger 18, and Bucket of Blood.

Ladyfest Midwest was a community-based, all-volunteer, not-for-profit global arts and activism festival celebrating the achievements of women. The four-day festival brought 4,000 people together for music, film, spoken word, performance, visual art, and workshops, raising nearly $20K for CWHC and Women in the Director’s Chair. Contributions to an online archive at are welcome. Ladyfest is all-inclusive, welcoming all gender identities to participate in the celebration.

People have the Power

By Charlotte Robinson

“Have you heard about Ladyfest? They had one in Olympia and now some ladies in Chicago are trying to organize one here. Want to come to the meeting?” With those words of invitation, or something like them (you’ll have to cut me some slack on exact quotes since it was eleven years ago), I was drawn into what would be one of the biggest, most exciting, sometimes frustrating, and life-altering experiences I’ve had.

It was late 2000 and I had only moved to Chicago from my native Michigan that spring. I also had recently started writing for, and then editing music reviews for, Venus Zine, an indie publication about sisters doing it for themselves. The magazine’s founder/editor, Amy Schroeder, landed in Chicago not long after me, and it was she who invited me to that first fateful band committee meeting. We drove to someone’s apartment, where we met about a dozen other young women. The mood was tentative but optimistic.

As time went on, there were more meetings and more attendees. New people were constantly coming aboard, bringing new skills into our group. Although we shared an interest in the arts, music, feminism, and activism, we came from different backgrounds – and that was a good thing, considering that we would be dealing with everything from travel arrangements to city permits to cranky rock stars. Having a group with a broad skill set was a huge help.

Ladyfest was about much more than just music. There were workshops, readings, performance art, and films. I joined the workshop committee and organized a panel called “Behind the Scenes: Women in the Music Industry” that was covered in the Chicago Sun-Times. I also participated in a poetry reading. The biggest task, though, was running around town to the various venues, making sure the owners, performers, and audiences were happy. At one venue, there was a miscommunication about the age for admission that had the owner peeved. At another, I was put to work chopping fruits and vegetables for a huge BBQ. Needing to pay bands and not having a car at the time, I carried a huge amount of cash with me on a bus, clutching the bank bag to my side in mortal fear. I delivered Diet Coke and salt and vinegar chips – the stipulations in their rider – to Tegan and Sara, who were charmingly appreciative.

And I heard lots of music. I am still pretty amazed at the great performers we bunch of novices were able to land: ESG, Le Tigre, the Butchies, Amy Ray, Mary Timony, Bratmobile, and the list goes on and on. No, really, it goes on and on because we booked about 100 bands, not to mention 40 visual artists, 35 spoken-word artists, 47 film and video makers, 38 performance artists, and over 50 workshop hosts. If you would have told us in the early months of planning that we’d be attempting such a feat, I’m sure most of us would have run away screaming.

I was very lucky to have gotten involved in something like Ladyfest at that pivotal time. I was new in town, and the planning sessions at various apartments got me out learning my way around the city and meeting new people with similar interests. I am honored that I can still call so many of the organizers my friends. I also like to remind myself every now and then, when I feel a task is too daunting, that we made Ladyfest happen. As one of my favorite ladies once said, people have the power.


Music lineup for Aug. 20 Empty Bottle event announced

The organizers of Ladyfest Midwest are happy to announce that the Wanton Looks, Cathy Santonies, Hollows, and DJ Reaganomix will perform at the Empty Bottle on Saturday, August 20, in honor of the festival’s 10th anniversary. All proceeds of the show will be donated to Chicago Women’s Health Center.

Hollows and Cathy Santonies were recently featured in the Chicago Tribune‘s “11 local bands for 2011″ list. We are thrilled to host these performers not only because of their talent, but because of their connections to the 2001 festival: Members of the Wanton Looks and Cathy Santonies performed at Ladyfest with their former bands, and Ali McDonald/Reaganomix works at CWHC and cites attending the festival as one of her inspirations for moving to Chicago.

To get a taste of the great evening of music to come, please visit the bands’ websites:

Wanton Looks –
Cathy Santonies –
Hollows –

Why Ladyfest Midwest

By Jennie Wood

When Shannon Wright played a rare show in Boston recently, I was reminded of the lasting impact of Ladyfest Midwest. Ironically, Wright hates to tour even though she is known for her intense, primal live performances. She completely gives herself over to the music on stage, as if her life depends on the very next note. It’s a performance that’s hard to forget. I remember the first time I experienced it: Friday, August 17th at the Empty Bottle, the second night of Ladyfest Midwest.

During the eight months I worked on planning and organizing Ladyfest Midwest, it was easy to lose track of the why – why an arts festival. Between the four-hour long meetings that often left more questions than answers, making fundraising calls, booking artists, and promoting the event, it became easy to forget – for me at least  – why we were doing it or why I’d become involved in the first place.

Once the festival started there was still much for the festival organizers to do.  All of us wore multiple hats, active in several committees with a long list of responsibilities that weekend – performers had to be picked up at the airport, venues needed to be staffed, money had to be collected and deposited so it could eventually be donated to Chicago Women’s Health Center and Women in the Director’s Chair.  Many of us shuffled back and forth from locations across the city – the Congress, Empty Bottle, Schubas, Chopin Theater, Subterranean, the Hideout and many – making sure that performers, volunteers, and venues had what they needed. And, some of us even performed at the festival.

Running around, it was hard to stop and take it all in. On Friday night of the festival, I went to the Empty Bottle to manage the show – pay the musicians, make sure their sets started on time, organize the volunteers, and keep the venue staff happy. By the end of the night, things were running smoothly and I was able to watch the headliner, Shannon Wright.   To this day, this set still  stands out in my mind as one of the most amazing sets I’ve ever seen – and I have seen a lot of effing shows! Until Ladyfest Midwest, I’d never seen Shannon Wright perform or anyone like her. It was the gift the festival gave to me and watching her perform made all the hard work worth it. Watching her, I remembered or perhaps truly realized for the first time, why Ladyfest Midwest.

Discovering one of my all time favorite musicians wasn’t the only gift Ladyfest Midwest gave me. As an organizer, I learned valuable skills that have helped me in every job I’ve had since. As a musician, I got to perform with my band and proudly share a bill with other performers I greatly admire: Cyndi Elliott, Sally Timms, and Eleventh Dream Day’s Janet Bean. As a member of a community, I also made some lasting friendships. All that and Ladyfest Midwest exposed me to some really great music, music that has been a soundtrack to my last ten years.


Ladyfest Midwest Organizers in 2001

Marf Wright and Amy Schroeder

Dara Greenwald and Steph Edwards

Ladyfest Midwest confirms Empty Bottle as reunion venue

By Amy Schroeder and Steph Edwards

Ladyfest Midwest organizers are eager to announce that the Empty Bottle will be the exclusive venue for the 10-year reunion event on August 20, 2011, in Chicago.

The Empty Bottle is a longtime friend of Ladyfest Midwest’s. For the original festival’s closing night of events, on August 19, 2001, the Bottle hosted Tracy + the Plastics, Metalux, Analog Tara, Occasional Detroit, and the Arches.

The Empty Bottle also helped Ladyfest Midwest to raise funds, leading up to the festival. On March 16, 2001—five months beforehand—the venue teamed with Ladyfest organizers for a benefit show featuring the Puta-Pons, Forcefield UK, the Tuffetts, and the Hamicks. The first benefit went so well, that Ladyfesters organized a second Bottle benefit on May 3, 2001, with the Dishes, Selby Tigers, and Competitorr.

An Empty Bottle newspaper ad from 2001


Ladyfest Midwest marks 10th Anniversary with benefit for Chicago Women’s Health Center

By Amy Schroeder

On August 16–19, 2001, people from Iowa to Japan caravanned to the Windy City to experience Ladyfest Midwest Chicago.

Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre performs at Ladyfest Midwest Chicago in 2001. Photo courtesy of the Christa Holka archive.

They crammed into venues like the Empty Bottle and Congress Theatre to see more than 100 performers including ESG, Le Tigre, the Butchies, and Mary Timony with “her friend James” (Iha). And, depending on how much energy attendees had to spare, they also participated in DIY workshops, fanzine talks, art shows, film screenings, dance performances, activism pow-wows, and DJ dance-offs.

If you were one of the 4,000-plus people who attended, performed, or organized Ladyfest, here’s what we want to know: Can you believe it’s been a decade?

Neither can we.

We, the Ladyfest Midwest organizers, are still wrapping our heads around everything that’s changed in the last 10 years (the Internet is a teenager! We have a new president! And a war that won’t end!), but we’re still totally armed and ready for another round. Which is why we’re organizing a reunion event.

On August 19–21, 2011, you are invited to attend the Ladyfest Midwest Reunion in Chicago to benefit Chicago Women’s Health Center. Right now we’re nailing down details (location, time, bands, and whatnot), and you can keep up with it all here on

We’re also in the thick of creating the Ladyfest Midwest Archive, to pull together photos, writings, interviews, videos, artwork, and more. Got a story or photos to share? Read our submissions info here, and go to our Facebook page to connect with the Ladyfest Midwest community.

Limited Edition Ladyfest Midwest Logo T-Shirts Available

Ladyfest Midwest 10-Year Anniversary Logo T-Shirt now available

Ladyfest Midwest Logo T-ShirtT-shirts will be available at the Late Bar and Empty Bottle Ladyfest Midwest events. T-shirts also available at ENJOY, AN URBAN GENERAL STORE.

Email social media [at] for more details.

Shirts are 100% cotton white American Apparel Mens/Unisex T-Shirts (Style #2001).

Available sizes:
M, L, and XL

Logo designed by QuiteStrong.

Net proceeds to benefit Chicago Women’s Health Center.

10th anniversary kicks off 8/19 with dance party

Ladyfest Midwest’s 10th anniversary celebration will kick off Friday, August 19 with a dance party at one of Chicago’s hottest night spots, Late Bar (3534 W. Belmont).  Three DJs will join forces to spin the best female artists from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.  There will be a $5 suggested donation at the door, with all proceeds benefiting Chicago Women’s Health Center.

The DJ lineup will include an organizer of Ladyfest Midwest in 2001, Rebecca Crawford (ex-Dials, Reckless Records), Emily Agustin (CHIRP Radio, Toast & Jam, Maybenauts), and  Sam O’ Rama (Laurie’s Planet of Sound).

Late Bar, a 2010 critic’s pick in Time Out Chicago, is located near the CTA blue line and the 77 Belmont bus.

Two Ladyfest Midwest Dance Parties Coming in May

Two Chicago nightspots are hosting events this month to support and bring together the Ladyfest Midwest community.

On May 18, Parlour on Clark (6341 N. Clark) will host P.R.D.C.T. – a night of queer and grrrl punk with DJ Reaganomix and Bruise LaBruise. This free event is part of the Indie Parlour series.

On May 25, Late Bar (3534 W. Belmont) will host Homocore Returns! Marky and Joanna Homocore return for one night only to DJ this special benefit for the upcoming Ladyfest Midwest reunion in August. Suggested donation is $5 and the music starts at 10 p.m. This event is co-hosted by Laurie’s Planet of Sound’s Mix Tape Meltdown.

Proceeds of the Ladyfest Midwest 10th reunion events in August will benefit Chicago Women’s Health Center.