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Photos courtesy Jarrett Edmund

Femme Wave gives overlooked voices a stage

By Troy Hasselman, October 22 2019 —

Femme Wave, Calgary’s feminist music, comedy, film and visual arts festival is set for another year. Since its founding in 2015, the festival has grown widely in its scope and occupies multiple venues across our city’s downtown core from Nov. 7–10. 

Femme Wave sets itself apart from other music festivals by having a core set of values and ethos in how it is ran by acting as a platform for underrepresented groups within Calgary’s art scene, including women and non-binary artists.

“When Femme Wave started my co-founder and I, Kaely Cormack, were in the beginning stages of a band that we also share called The Shiverettes,” Femme Wave co-founder and Artistic Director Hayley Muir says. “As we started playing shows together, we noticed two funny things that happened. On one hand we were often the only women around when we played shows, which we noticed early on and was kind of frustrating because on the other hand, we also knew a lot of women and non-binary folks who were in the music community in bands and as solo artists who were producing great music, so it was kind of an odd imbalance for us. At the end of the day that’s the core value of Femme Wave, to give women, non-binary folks and otherwise underrepresented artists more of a spotlight and more space to share their stories and their music and their art. Really across disciplines, across whatever it is we’re doing, the ethos is to provide that space for folks who might not otherwise have it.”

Acts at this years festival include Vancouver’s The Pack A.D, The Torchettes and recent Polaris Music Prize winner Haviah Mighty. Highlights will include the programming at the #1 Legion over the weekend.

“Of course, we’re so excited to have Haviah Mighty. We booked her quite a few months back, before she was nominated for the Polaris Prize and before she won it, so we’re really excited to have her debut solo show here in Calgary,” Muir says. “That’s going to be great, she’s headlining at the #1 Legion on the Friday night. The Legion is always such a great time, we’ve got programming on all three floors, including the basement. We’ve got a couple of DJs down in the basement which we haven’t done before, so that’s something new, a nice little ravey dance party in the Legion basement.”

On top of these performances, Femme Wave is also a hub for experimental musicians, with avant-garde acts both local and otherwise highlighting the festival.

“Gabi Tomé is coming in from Montréal, they’re a classically trained guitarist with an incredible voice,” Muir says. “They’re going to be doing the brunch showcase on Saturday morning, along with the Jessica McMann Trio. Jessica is a First Nations artist, she’s classically trained in everything — piano, voice, violin I believe, she’s got a host of many instruments that’s she’s very skilled at, so she’s going to be doing a little neoclassical, experimental thing as well. We’re doing a co-production with Bug Incision, which is an avant-garde, experimental collective here in Calgary lead by Chris Dadge, so we’re going to be taking over Highline Brewery on the Sunday night with a few different artists. It’s mostly Calgary-based but we’re also excited to have an artist from Edmonton, Shumaila Hemani. She does acoustic, acapella, traditional Pakistani songs, so that will be super exciting.”

The closing day of the festival will include workshops, with astrology and crafts courses serving as highlights.

“We’re so happy to be welcoming back local astrologer Ariel Learoyd, she’s an incredible woman and she’s done astrology workshops the last couple of years and by far, they’re our most popular, well-attended workshops,” Muir says. “This year she’s going to be giving a workshop on Chiron in the charts. Chiron is an asteroid and the wounded healer in your chart, so she’ll be going through what that means in general and what it means in your chart and how you can heal from past wounds. We’ve got zine-making, we’ll be having a panel discussion as well with local organizations Pink Flamingo and Shetox. We’ll be having a couple different panelists for that discussion, as well as another artist that will be performing at the festival. Her name is Eekwol and she’s an unbelievable First Nations rapper from Regina, so that’s gonna be really great as well. All day at the workshops there is a craft corner. STASH, which is a local company, is going to be on hand and they’re going to do some knitting and some crafts, and probably meet some new friends and have a whole lot of fun.”

Femme Wave is supported through the hard work of volunteers, its board and the support of its audience. The festival has launched Club Sandwich as a means of supporting the festival year round, Club Sandwich includes perks for its members.

“Club Sandwich came from a brainstorming session on how we can have people able to support us year-round,” Muir says. “It’s a minimum $40 yearly donation, and with that you get a Club Sandwich patch, your membership patch you can put on your jacket, or your backpack or wherever you want. There are lots of other perks that go with it, you can get little goodies that we send out throughout the year. You get discount codes for festival wristbands or tickets, all that kind of fun stuff. You get one free ticket to a non-festival ‘Femme Wave presents’ show every year.”

Femme Wave has grown steadily since it began in 2015 and is one of numerous Calgary festivals that offers access to local artists and displays work from a number of different disciplines. Femme Wave has acted as a platform into other festivals such as Sled Island and Calgary Folk Music Festival and a means of getting local artists their first bits of exposure.

“Calgary’s lucky in that we’ve got a lot of other amazing festivals. We’ve got Sled Island, Calgary Folk Music Festival, there’s all these other, locally regarded, amazing festivals and we’d like to have Femme Wave situated as a gateway,” Muir says. “Say you’re a local emerging artist. Maybe you’ve never played a show before ever. We exist for those kinds of artists. I think it’s really important to have that easy access entry point into what can be a really difficult world to get into, whether it’s music or film or visual art or any of the disciplines we do, it can be really difficult to crack into those corners of the community. We hope to serve as a gateway drug into other festivals and other platforms. Not that we’re not a big platform, but we’ve had a number of artists play their very first show at Femme Wave and go on to play Sled Island and have really great shows and open for really big artists and play mainstage at Folk Fest and all these really beautiful things. I think that festivals like Femme Wave exist to support those baby artists and new folks to the scene and without supporting that, then the scene and the community just goes stagnant.”

Femme Wave will run from Nov. 7–10 at venues across Calgary. Festival passes are $70. For information about tickets for individual events and the festival’s schedule visit their website.

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