Sitting down to meet with the women of the Outskirts Festival, there is an air of openness and kinship that puts you right at ease. In its second year, the Festival seeks to establish a safe and inclusive environment for women — trans, cis-gendered or non-gender-conforming individuals included. Like in many places, the women of the Louisville music scene — whether that’s punk, indie or otherwise — have not always been met with open minds and hearts. This is their story, which is as much about the path to Outskirts as it is about building a better community. On Oct. 9-11, more than 20 bands will perform at the festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday at The New Vintage and Sunday at The Art Sanctuary. And, once again, this year will feature Rockshops for Girls, a “non-profit music education workshop that gives girls/female-identifying/gender-nonconforming youth an opportunity to learn instruments, form bands, write a song and perform.”
On a cool mid-September evening, I met with founders Carrie Neumayer and Stephanie Gary, along with volunteers and participants new and old, which includes a wide range of ages, experiences and interests, from people who were there at the birth of punk and indie scenes, to high school-age women eager to find their voices, and everyone in between.
Tari O’Bannon, instrumental in putting punk and indie on the map in Louisville as a member of bands like The Dickbrains, Orange Orange and Antman. Currently a member of Juanita: When I came in it was a very small scene. There was no scene. There was the Endtables, The Blinders, Malignant Growth, Strictnine … there was like this core of very different people, especially Malignant Growth, who were like these crazy guys from the South End, and you wouldn’t think that all of these nerdy kids from Goshen and no-class kids from the Highlands and Crescent and total rednecks really from the South End would really bond. It was so different. We had no place to play. We played at a biker bar in the South End, because no one else would have us. The only other place that would have us, until Tewligans (currently Cahoots), was this place on Main Street, but they wouldn’t let us in. The scene, as it expanded … those were my mothering years and I can’t really speak to that, but in the beginning it was really close; we all supported ourselves and it was wonderful.
Carrie Neumayer, co-founder of the Louisville Outskirts Festival. Plays in the bands Second Story Man and Julie of the Wolves: When I came up in it, it was in the height of tons of kids going to shows, and the bands that I was in played at Primizie Pizza and smaller venues. There were tons of kids going to shows and kids starting their own bands. And other kinds of smaller venues. You were playing for all your friends from school.
Heather Fox, coach and Rockshop instructor at the Festival, host of the Fuzzbox radio program on ArtxFM. Also manages the Louisville Underground Music Archive and is a founding member of the band Juanita: My first band is the band I’m still in, the only band I’ve ever been in. The way we’ve changed over the years, we started with four women, and we would drink whisky beforehand and we would drive in Becky’s Cutlass Supreme and blast “Exile on Main Street” to calm our nerves. For some reason we never had a permanent bass player, so we were always having people come in and join the band, and that’s morphed over the years … and the spirit of Juanita is one of welcoming people and being joyful. We played at Sparks with 13 people. Our biggest horn section was six people.
O’Bannon: Juanita is the most liberating band you can be in.
Fox: I dropped out of college and moved back to Louisville in 1990, and that’s when I met Tari O’Bannon and Steve Rigot and Brett Ralph — and everyone I knew played music. My friend Becky Brentzel learned guitar from Wink. So I’ve been doing that for 23 years with the same band.
O’Bannon: I found a band because I was underage and I wanted to see my friend’s band play, and that’s how the Dickbrains started. We rented this house on Bardstown Road where Taco Bell is now. Sandy started working at Karma and I started hearing X-Ray Specs and Blondie and the Velvet Underground and all that. And it stuck. I loved it. Cathy Irwin, who isn’t here, loved it. And then we formed Orange Orange, a precursor to Your Food. And I tried to play the drums. I’ve been playing music ever since. I took a long hiatus. I decided my children were raised, and I decided I wanted to play music again. And I’m learning how to play the bass. I made my debut at Nelligan Hall on the bass.
Meg Samples, member of the Outskirts Advisory Board, Rockshops drum teacher, band coach and head of instruction. Member of the bands Squeeze-bot, The Deloreans, Citizens United and Bridge 19: My dad was a musician, and still is. And I wanted to be a back-up dancer. But my parents said I shouldn’t, so I started playing drums. Female hip-hop. And my parents hated that.
Stephanie Gary, co-founder of the Louisville Outskirts Festival, member of Julie of the Wolves: The scene where I grew up was Ohio County, and there were two bands, except there were no bands. I was always waiting to be asked, and I was as cool as it fucking gets, and then I also did competitive singing, and then I was like, “I didn’t want to compete for this,” and I picked up guitar and moved to Louisville, and it was the days of AOL and I searched girls and music, and it was a much nicer world, because I didn’t get any pornography back then, and I found girls that wanted to play music and I sent them messages. Things were really supportive, but then there were weird instances, like the band that lit their guitars on fire, and they were gross, but mostly very supportive.
JD Green, vocal and band coach with the Rockshops program, plays in the band Afrophysicist and performs solo as JD Green Soul: I didn’t really start doing bands until like 2005. Otherwise I just did everything by myself. I’m in the Steely Danish or I’m in the Afrobeat band. I guess when you ask about the scene, it just depends on what scene you are a part of.
Sierra Tamalionis, participant of the 2014 Rockshops and a volunteer in the program this year: Maybe around middle school, I decided to be in a band. I wanted a guitar and a flute and a violin, but my mom said I could just have one. So I picked up a guitar.
Olivia Millar, 2015 Rockshops volunteer, member of the band Sorry Mom, which formed at last year’s festival: I’ve wanted to be in a band since I was like 9 years old. I had some failed bands for so long, until I met my best friend and we tried to find someone, but couldn’t. It all came together at the first rock shop last year. And I picked up “Dig Me Out” by Sleater Kinney. Then Outskirts happened. It pulled me in deeper into women and feminism. Outskirts is the biggest influence, for sure.
Obstacles to Entry
Samples: I came in through the jazz scene. I was not in the rock scene for a long time. I never met anyone like me. There was maybe one grad student. I got with Squeeze-bot in 2008. Even tonight I’ll probably go to the Nachbar to see jazz, and I guarantee I’ll be the only lady there. Seriously, I go and I wonder, “Where are they? Where are the people that identify as female?” So I got in that way. And then I love jazz, and it’s a great outlet, but I wanted to get into rock and hip-hop. Even then it took me a really, really long time to meet other women involved in music. I was only around men. They [Louisville Magazine] had a “Women Who Rock,” and they only had five women in there, and I was like “This is bullshit!” I am one drummer and I happen to identify as a female, but why isn’t it like, “Five drummers who rock?”
Neumayer: Stephanie and Salena and I had to jump in the air for a “Women Who Rock” Velocity cover.
Gary: I really like jumping.
Samples: I hated to think about it in those terms, because I never thought about it in those terms, until I started playing music and every show was men, men, men, men, and I have nothing against men, but it gets really exhausting.
Gary: I’ve been very outside of things for the past year now, so I’ve been seeing things through social media and hearing people talk, and people have been like, “Oh yeah, I saw this band and they were great, and they had this girl that played guitar, and I was like, “Why do people say, ‘There is a girl playing guitar,’ and not, ‘They had a great guitar player.’” How long have women been doctors, but you still hear people say, “Oh, what did he say?” Well he was a she, so well. It’s just weird and it’s going to take a long time.
Samples: That’s just part of the scene. Jazz just seems to be dominated by men. I don’t know if it was because I was here long enough to figure out that there were other ladies playing music or if recently there has been a push. I can’t figure out if…
Neumayer: …you notice it more because you’ve met more women…
Samples: …or, if there are just more women [in music].
Green: One of the things that helped me find other women that were musicians was kind of being out there. As I’m standing in front of a band and singing — that made me want to write. So I started writing myself and things came along. And I remember one of the earliest things that I did was “Ladies Rock the Night.” It was mostly R&B and soul. When we look at women who are in music in Louisville, it’s the band scene — there’s no R&B, there’s no soul … it’s very not diverse, it’s very segregated. There was always this side conversation that was like, “How was it working with all these other women?” Or, “We’re doing this to prove that other women can work together.” And I was like, “Fucking stop that!” There is no way that when you have these conversations with men that they would be asked that.
Samples: I was looking for all the musicians and I was like, “Why am I always finding men? Where are they?”
Neumayer: I’ve always played music with guys and it’s been great, but I had this desire to connect.
Gary: I think Kathleen Hanna said it best that there are a lot of women in their bedrooms playing by themselves.
Samples: Yeah, come on out.
How it all came together
Neumayer: Stephanie and I … I don’t really remember. She had the original idea.
Gary: No, that interview I did with you a long time ago by email for the research paper that I was doing, you said that you’d always wanted to do a girl rock band. I’ve been thinking about that and it was like 2004, and we didn’t really even talk much after that. Then we got into Julie of the Wolves and it came up again, because Salena [Filicia] used to want to start some fest in Tyler Park, and I was telling Carrie about it, and she was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Neumayer: I get really obsessive about things.
Gary: She was Leslie Knope for the rest of the year.
Neumayer: But then we started talking to people that we thought wanted to get involved. I don’t know how…
Samples: You just emailed me!
Neumayer: I just emailed you. I was like, “I like this Meg!”
Samples: We’d been playing music in the same city for like 10 years and we’d never met. That is insane.
Neumayer: So we went out to Nachbar and we talked about stuff and Meg was up for getting involved. Joel Hunt was really helpful, because he did so much show booking and kind of helping us with contacts and we worked together for last year. We’ve roped in all these people a little over time that were interested and had this awesome experience. Then, this year, it’s been a total collaborative group effort, we’ve got … how many people are on the advisory board? It’s anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen. It’s like six to ten and people have been able to come in and do various things at certain times. We started doing this in March.
Gary: It made me feel a little better, because I totally had a baby and deserted Carrie. And ten months later I’m like, “Oh, I made it!”
Neumayer: We figured out how to do it last year and this year has been about figuring out how to make it even better and how to bring in new voices. We’ve got different people that are instructors this year. We’ve got some that are returning, but some that are brand new and I think that that’s really cool. It’s a way for us all to keep growing this scene or community that we’re building.
Green: Well, I’m new. I’m in this second string, but I heard about it in a news story. I saw an article online and stuff for girls, stuff for women — it just gets my heart going — and it was women in music and I needed to know everything there was to know about it. So I sent Carrie a message and we started to talk about it … and we were going to get together … and we were going to get together … and we were going to get together … and [then] she came to one of our shows.
Neumayer: I was so nervous to talk to you!
Green: She gave me her card and I was like, “Yes, we’ve been meaning to do this.” And there was time and we got together at my office, which is Highland Coffee. We talked and I got to tell my story and got to say why I was so excited about it and the things that I had done in terms of teaching boys and working with girls and all this kind of stuff, and I was able to give her some of the ideas that I had about it and ways to integrate the arts in other ways, and it was just awesome. So I’ve been really excited to meet all these other women and to spread the word about it. We brought some flyers, some of the brochures to the Shively Library, and we had some folks that took handfuls of them. It’s been really exciting. And I haven’t even started it yet, and we are still under a month ago. I just get so pumped knowing it’s out there.
Neumayer: I just hope it’s able to continue to grow and we’ll be able to meet even more people in the community. We want as many people that want to be involved to get involved.
Gary: [to Tamalionis] I think it’s amazing that you were in the camp and now you’re going to be helping and volunteering.
Tamalionis: Actually, when my mom first suggested that I do the Rockshops, I was like “Mom…”
Gary: Really? What were your hesitations?
Tamalionis: I was a shy kind of person; I didn’t really like expressing my talents and felt like it would be weird.
The impact of the festival
Gary: The thing that I’ve been thinking about Outskirts — even though I was realizing that we have a long way to go and everything is incremental — is it’s kind of like instant gratification. The bands are formed at Rockshops. They are playing, everything is happening right then. Things are changing. Things can happen. At the festival, everyone kind of walked away feeling like they have been a part of something really amazing. Even though it’s incremental and it’s frustrating and we’re moving really slowly, things like Outskirts are important, because they give you that boost that you need. Every year you’re going to get that boost like, “This is happening, this is going to keep pushing us to where we want to be.”
O’Bannon: Because all the festivals are male dominated, too. I mean, at Cropped Out we were the only women the year that we played, right?
Fox: Yeah, I think.
O’Bannon: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anyone means to, but it ends up that way, and Outskirts is really important, because you have the balance.
Fox: No one is doing it on purpose, but if you stand back and look at it, you’re like, “Huh?”
O’Bannon: Outskirts has really filled this void in festivals.
Neumayer: The thing to me that’s cool is to see new friendships develop and new projects that maybe have come out of it in some way or another. I feel like we’re on each other’s radar a little bit more and that’s pretty awesome.
Millar: I think that Outskirts is especially important for young women, at least for me and my friends. It’s the first time you see a lot of women playing music in one space, that’s really important, and makes you think, “I can do this too.”
Samples: I think what’s coming back here is: encouragement goes a long way, which I think is what Outskirts is trying to do. We all kept saying if we had had this when we were this age, this kind of encouragement from this level, and the community aspect, what could’ve happened? If this had come into my head at 13 — that there was rock music happening and I could play rock music with my friends and do it no matter who those friends were. A lot of us in this room have had really good encouragement at a really young age.
Millar: I think I’ve been really lucky to develop my music through Outskirts, because it not only taught me how to play instruments and taught me how to form a band, but it also opened me up to the scene. When I think about what kind of scene I’m in, it’s the Outskirts scene. It’s not just a camp and it’s not just a festival, it’s a thing all year round. It doesn’t matter if we have a title, because all these people are all going to be here in body if not in spirit.
Neumayer: Olivia you’re going to make me cry.
Millar: We went into it with the expectation that nothing was going to come out of it, which made it even more special because so much did. My best friend, I met her there. If I didn’t go, I can’t even imagine what would have happened. Because I wouldn’t be in a band, I wouldn’t have met these amazing people. I wouldn’t be in this community that’s so important to me. I wouldn’t be this strong of a feminist, I wouldn’t be into punk music — and it changed my life so much and I could talk about it forever.
Gary: You know what’s really funny: in that first [Rockshop] instructor’s meeting, everyone went around and said how they got into music. Probably 85 to 90 percent of the women there were like, “Well, I just … I didn’t want to do it, because I didn’t know what I was doing and I probably can’t even teach this.” Everyone was doubting their ability to even be instructors there. Everybody. So, it was the same way that you were feeling, we were feeling, but we were able to move past it.
Tamalionis: A couple of days after I found out and was like “I don’t really want to go,” my Mom showed me this email from one of my favorite teachers of all time — not the one that told me that I couldn’t be successful — and she sent my mom an email and it was a picture of Rockshops and she said, “This reminds me of Sierra and you should tell her to do it.” So I was like, “I think I might do it.” And the week before, I was like, “Mom, can we cancel? Because I don’t really want to do it,” but then I got there and I was like, “I know you … I think we’re going to be friends.”
Millar: I don’t think I realized how special it was until I was up on stage playing and realizing that the community we had was encouraging. While I was there, I was like, “Oh, this was cool, but what’s going to happen from this?” … because I didn’t realize that the friendships or the band that I made was strong enough to move past the camp. I’ve learned that friendship in a band is really important, because music is vulnerable.
Tamalionis: As soon as I left after the last show, I’ve been like “Mom, when is the next show?” I feel like I’ve never really had this kind of experience before. I didn’t really know what it was like to get up with a bunch of girls and to make a song that was super cool. One of the most memorable moments of probably my life: we were walking there, it was freezing cold, we were walking to Dreamland, and I was really pumped and trying to move around, and this woman, she comes up and she’s interviewing us and I was like, “This is going to be my future.” And, in that moment, I was like, “I’ve got to do this.”
Millar: I remember being so nervous. But it was so cool! Even when people did mess up, no one cared. Everyone just cheered louder.
Tamalionis: My favorite moment when I messed up: I missed a beat or something, or my feet were off, and I was like, “Oh, my god,” and then I just kept doing it and no one noticed it.
Neumayer: So, at this year’s Rockshops, when people are freaking out and they are nervous, you all need to tell them those stories. Sometimes younger girls are just not used to someone giving them that space and letting them be loud in front of others.
Millar: I don’t think outside of Rockshops … I don’t think anyone has taken my music so seriously. It’s really empowering to be in a place where everyone believes in you and believes you can do what you’re trying to do and will help you to get where you want to be. If I’m at school and I’m trying to write a poem, people will get like, “Oh, that’s not that good,” or, “Oh, you have homework to do.” There is no environment were you can be productively creative without being kind of more self-loathing, and I think that Rockshops is a good opportunity for that.
Neumayer: I just hope it’s able to continue to grow and we’ll be able to meet even more people in the community. We want as many people that want to be involved to get involved.
2015 Outskirts Festival Schedule
Friday, October 9 @ The New Vintage
Blackbirds of Paradise
Frederick the Younger
DJ Suki Anderson
Saturday, October 10 @ The New Vintage
Psalm One aka Hologram Kizzie
Girl Up (Students from duPont Manual)
Big Momma Thorazine
Sunday, October 11 @ Art Sanctuary
Outskirts Rockshops Showcase
Tickets are $35 all access pass (limited to 50), $15 advance/$20 day of show for individual days. All proceeds go to establishing Girls Rock Louisville, a summer camp launching in 2016, which serves as an expansion of the Rockshops for Girls program.