Buffalo Underground: Vaggie Fest
by Sara Ali
It is not about politics, it is about music: Buffalo Vaggie Fest 2014.
Yesterday kicked off the first day of Buffalo Vaggie Fest 2014. The three-day festival promoting local bands – that just so happen to have women in them – is featuring over 26 bands, both local and out-of-town. As many participators in Vaggie Fest say, “It is not about the politics, it is about the music.” It is not about women in bands, it is about bands that conveniently have women in them. To me, Vaggie Fest serves as the recognition that all human beings are capable of doing whatever they desire. Most of all, it is about bands getting together, shredding it on stage as fans dance and sing along. I had the opportunity to chat with three bands participating in the festival about the event and their music: Cross Stitch, Mayday! And The Fleshy Mounds
Cross Stitch, 2012-present
Members : Keely Guiliano – guitar, Joleen Bolger – guitar, Emma LaQue – bass, Holly Bloom – drums
The birth of Cross Stitch began with LaQue and Bloom. The two got together in August (or September?) of 2012 once Bloom started dabbling with the drums and LaQue got really into playing bass. Shortly after, these ladies came across Bolger who soon joined as the guitarist. After playing their first show in December, the three reached out to Guiliano who joined as the second guitarist in January of 2013. Something unique about Cross Stitch is the fact that all the members immersed themselves into being in a band with a small amount of instrumental experience. Getting up on stage in front of a crowd to perform takes a bit of courage, so doing this with little experience takes an extra pinch more. The quartet is made up of out-of-townees; with Bolger being from Gasport, Bloom who was born in Texas and moved to Saugerties at age nine, Guiliano from Long Island and LaQue from Albany; these ladies have experienced different music scenes. All of these ladies have been involved in the music community for over five years, starting in their hometowns and then making their way out to Buffalo. Over the time of their involvement, the ladies attest to seeing a bigger female presence in the scene and a larger variety in the music. LaQue believes that Buffalo has an inclusive music scene, claiming that it is much more inclusive then she has ever witnessed. Bolger also supports the popular idea of the thriving music scene in Buffalo.“I moved away when I was 24, I went to Tuscon Arizona and Port Townsend in Washington, Buffalo has the biggest music scene, such a variety.”
For Cross Stitch, Vaggie Fest is different from other “Lady Fests” around the country that tend to be driven by political ideologies. For them (and many others), this festival is more about the music, whether it be an all girl band or a co-ed band, this is a celebration of music for musicians and fans alike and isn’t created to make any extreme statements about female musicians. “It is not like there is a girl in band, it is just a band that happens to have girls in it,” LaQue said, adding that “you go to the show because you want to listen to the music.” Cross Stitch draws inspiration from many local bands. Some of them being Inerds, Mayday!, Human Touch. For Bloom, Inerds was the first hardcore female band that really caught her eye. Britt Wagner, Vaggie Fest creator and drummer of Utah Jazz, also inspired Bloom to play drums. “Britt was a big inspiration, I remember seeing her when she first started playing in Utah Jazz and thought, wow I need to do that too.” Check out Cross Stitch today at Broadway Joes along with Rochester band Pony Hand, Pisstburgh folks Soothsayer, Galesburg natives Pillow Fight, and local bands Loudmouse and Scajaquada Creeps. Doors at 6pm, music starts at 7pm.
Members – Melody Seymour – vocals & guitars, Mike Gac – bass and vocals, John Anderson – drums
With no online presence on social networking, Mayday! was an adventurous ride for me to finally track down. From spending time on the internet attempting to seek them out on Facebook and Bandcamp (which is non-existent), I finally got Seymours number and had the chance to sit down and talk with these three folks. Gathered around a small and crowded table in the backroom of Amys Place, the trio gave me a brief history of Mayday!. Although their first show was in April of 2009, they had been a band for seven months beforehand. Starting out with Gac and Seymour practicing in a basement on Custer, Seymour soon learned about Anderson’s drumming skills and inducted him into Mayday!. Tomorrow will be Mayday’s! fifth year performing in Vaggie Fest. Seymour commented that this year will be the biggest yet; in the beginning, Vaggie Fest had a lineup of seven bands, which has increased to a whopping 27. For these folks, playing in Vaggie Fest doesn’t have to be political. Although they embrace and support the implications of the festival, the main reason for playing is for the music. “It is more for strength and celebration, Brit and I never did this for a political reason, we did it because we love music and pushing ladies to do things,” Seymour said. “If I was going to set any political stance, it would be to just show your strength and be a part of something, whether it is male or female, just be involved.” The term “political” is one that floats around and is used loosely when it comes to punk music and festivals showcasing female musicians. But what exactly does political mean, and what makes a band political? “It is not like we are not a political band, what we do and how we do these things we are a political band, but that term itself is what everyone is getting stuck on; when you say you are a political band, it comes with all this extra baggage, and I don’t think anyone wants to be defined by that,” Gac said. The bassist and vocalist also told me that the band name itself could have a political connotation, but doesn’t have to result in bantering political beliefs. “We just do what we feel comfortable with, with three different people that all work together: that is a political statement, but it doesn’t mean we are a political band,” Gac said, adding that “we are not a political in the sense that people define it as now, it’s a gray area.” The passion and devotion to creating music is the all encompassing reason for all of this. As Seymour put it: “When it comes to being a women in the band, to me I am a musician first. I am a women and I identify with my femininity, but I really identify as a musician and I think all women in bands should identify as a musician first and foremost, because that is what you’re there for, the music. The political stuff and the gender issues can come through in your music. Being a musician, being strong and playing just as hard while owning your instrument is really important.” Mayday! will be playing at Sugar City tomorrow along with the lineup listed below: Green Dreams (Rochester, NY) Fellow Project (Long Island, NY) Way Harsh (Long Island, NY) Napalm Donut (Pittsburgh PA) Failed Mutation (Milwaukee, WI) War on Women (Baltimore, MD) Mallwalkers (Buffalo, NY) The Utah Jazz (Buffalo, NY) Mayday! (Buffalo, NY) Hot Tip (Buffalo, NY) Angstea (Buffalo, NY) Sleeptalker (Buffalo, NY) dildoN’T (Buffalo, NY) Grout (Buffalo, NY) Doors at 1pm, music at 2pm, $10 & ALL AGES!
Fleshy Mounds, 2013-present
Members – Jamie Claypoole – bass, Kathy D. – drums, Steve Kerfien – vocals, Alicia Paolucci – guitar
Before getting my own personal show by the Fleshy Mounds, we sat in a circle in their small practice space to discuss some more Vaggie Fest excitement. Yesterday was their first time performing in Vaggie Fest. Like Cross Stitch, this “male fronted band,” (a joke between the quartet) isn’t foreign to the idea of jumping right into a band before learning an instrument. For Paolucci, she started out booking shows and got her start on guitar this past January, which was exactly when she joined The Fleshy Mounds. Starting out with Claypoole and Kathy (who is also one of the original founders of Sugar City), the two decided they wanted to start playing music, already having experience playing an instrument. After Kerfien decided to be the vocalist, Kathy and Kerfien sought out Paolucci to play guitar. According to Kathy, the whole point of starting Fleshy Mounds was to acquire people who either don’t normally play instruments in bands or haven’t played a specific instrument at all; Paolucci began her adventure learning to play guitar, Kerfien usually plays drums in his other bands, and Kathy sings and plays trombone and accordion.
As for Claypoole, she has been playing bass since she was 17. Fleshy Mounds don’t have the usual band hangouts. After being told that they are an unconventional band, the four shared that they have mini-porn sessions, including weird 70’s porn and the occasional naked band practice when it gets too hot in the small practice space. Even through the funny stories and silly hang-outs, Fleshy Mounds show their commitment to their band by practicing a few times a week. They refer to themselves as a male-fronted band in order to make a statement: “The female fronted band in a label is more exploitative, they are trying to draw attention to the band because there is a female instead of just being a band, no matter what their sexual orientation may be,” Kerfien said. “It is a powerful statement for the ladies to me.” Through the words of Kathy, Fleshy Mounds are “just a band of people that are friends whom have the same ideas and want to convey these ideas.” The desire for playing shows comes from the love of playing music. Having three women and one man is just a running joke for those who don’t get it. “It is not a political statement, it is a creative statement,” Kathy said. If you missed the show yesterday, check out their Facebook to keep up with new music and upcoming shows.