Since this is my first blog post here at the HuffPost, let me take a minute to say hello and maybe explain. I plan to do a lot of speaking on this venue about life in New Orleans: our celebrations, our lifestyles, and the hardships we still suffer in the wake of Katrina, eight years later. But as a professional musician, I tour frequently, and speak about the things I see on the road. This first post, then, is about a gig I played, which was moving, amazing, and important to me: MEOW Con.
I was brought to Austin for MEOW Con (Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women) to perform with my friend and fellow New Orleans musician Sheryl Diane. I didn't expect to be very busy: it's a conference for women in the music industry, and I am, well, a man. I brought busy work: photos to edit, artwork to do. I imagined that as a male, I would feel like an outsider, looking in on a world I was only peripherally a part of. Boy (girl?), was I wrong! It was an incredible experience, and I was busy every minute of the time I was there. And as a man who has played in bands with women for my entire career, the issues discussed and the frustrations revealed truly hit home for me as well as for the incredible women in attendance.
Austin's MEOW Con came out of Seattle's Rocker Girl con: that original con was an event for women in the Seattle Grunge Rock scene. The Austin event is much more all-encompassing, including women from every musical genre, and from all aspects of the music industry. There were composers, producers, journalists and authors as well as musicians. And what a roster of musicians! I was amazed at the living legends there: Kathy Valentine of the GoGos, the only all-female band (self contained, no men playing instruments) to ever have a number one radio hit: rock legend Suzi Quatro: June Millington of Fanny, the very first all female band to, in 1964, be signed to a major label: and Margaret Moser, rock journalist who put Austin on the map as a music capitol. As a teen growing up in the American music scene, Quatro and Millington were legends that inspired me. And there they were, right n front of my face.
Fanny, June Millington's band, performing in 1971
I spent a lot of time attending panels. There were panels on crowd funding (such as Kickstarter), on the image of women in music (citing Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears as examples of the "good girl gone bad" image), on mental health of women in music, and on why females do not headline major festivals. These were just the panels I attended: there were tons more. There were also showings of films about women in music; workshops on navigating the very complex music publishing industry; and awards for women of outstanding achievement in music (going to Margaret Moser and Suzi Quatro). Both Quatro and Valentine made key-note speeches, both of which moved me to tears: these women are living legends, and yet Quatro, the first women to wear rocker leather, inspiration to Joan Jett, Valentine, and a generation of other women musicians, and television star (Happy Days) is not in the Rock And Roll hall of fame! Why?
But my favorite moments of the convention were the showcases. I want to share with you some of the incredible talents I saw at this event, known and unknown. I knew I would be kind of busy playing music, so I stupidly decided not to bring my camera: big mistake. So I will be using video and images placed on the Internet by the performers themselves. Really, I'll bring my camera next time!
I made a connection with amazing, quirky singer-songwriter Daisy O'Connor. Daisy played the Friday night showcase, and I loved her voice, her songs and her style. Oh, and her shoes.
Betty X also played Friday night. Betty X is a Punk Rock legend, and I love her.
I played with Ginger Doss and Lynda Millard, my friends, cohorts and former members of Velvet Hammer. It was awesome.
A Saturday night artist that blew me away was Alyse Black. Her song "B-17 Bomber Girl," about a young woman coming to terms with body image through the pin-up girl nose art on WWII bombers, was amazing. I could not find a video of the song I was happy with, so I'll share this one:
Ones To Watch Out For
One thing that was delightful about MEOW Con was the showcasing of young performers. Girls as young as 13 were given stages, and some were truly amazing. I do not call performers truly amazing all that often...
Grace London. What can I say about Grace London? I had heard some hype about Grace, so I went to see her showcase. Here's the deal: She is a singer-songwriter, a guitarist and kick-drum stomper. She is a force of nature. She is one of the most amazing performers I have ever seen live. She has played on some impressive stages, done television, and consistently wowed her audiences. Her songs will rip your heart out. Oh yea...and she is 13 years old. Don't believe me? Watch:
Are you amazed yet? Wait... check out (barely in their) teens Minnie and Ella Jordon. I had to play fiddle after these girls. I shake my head in fear and loathing...
I also loved Ashley Rezvani. She exuded the confidence on stage you would expect from a 40 year old.
So, best for last... the final performance of the convention was The Bluebonnets, Kathy Valentine's current project. OMG!! I was amazed. the musicianship in this band is incredible. And I have a little crush on guitarist Eve Monsees. OK, not so little.
There were SO many incredible performances that I cannot include them all. Jo Wymer, who had me perform with her (thanks!!), Abbie Bosworth, Kristy Smith and her husband Steve, who became my good buddies, and the amazing performance by June Millington, who currently runs a music camp for girls which needs your help!
I was so honored to be included by Sheryl Diane at this event. What else can I say? MEOW Con is an amazing conference. Go. Support women in music. You'll thank me for this advice.
Follow Kenny Klein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kennyfiddler