Sisters gonna work it out
The first annual Goddesses Get Down fundraising concert looks to unite local songwriters and performers
Flagstaff, Ariz., is a college town not unlike Chico.
Though it’s a somewhat smaller mountain town in picturesque northern Arizona, the college is close to the same size as Chico State University, and the local music scene is thriving with homegrown musicians and artists, just like here.
Several years ago, current Chico State grad student Stacy Schutten went to undergraduate school in Flagstaff and afterwards taught Spanish briefly at a local Montessori school. During this time she began reading poetry at an open-mic night in a downtown club called Charlie’s, where a coordinator for a local arts event known as Goddesses Get Down spotted her one night.
The Get Down was an annual showcase started by five women who had the same idea to unite local female songwriters and artists and stage a fundraiser for select local causes—be it a single person in need of help or an organization.
“Flagstaff is like a lot of towns where women aren’t necessarily visible in the main music scene,” says original organizer Sirena Squires. “It’s very competitive to get gigs in the bars, and there’s sort of a male-dominated climate of rock bands, etc.”
The Goddesses event in Flagstaff proved to be a tremendous success, as more and more women showed up each year—be they amateur or professional—wanting to help out the cause and promote networking and unity among local female artists. A highlight came when, after several years of the event, attendance on the night of the show outsold a neighboring bar gig by popular female rockers L7—proof that Goddesses Get Down was a force to be reckoned with.
Today, both Schutten and Squires live in Chico, and after noticing some similarities between the two towns and the local music scene, their desire to continue the popular event was a natural conclusion.
“We’ve been looking around and noticing that there weren’t a ton of female musicians, so we thought we should do a Goddesses Get Down here, keep it going with a different twist,” Schutten says. “Basically, this is a chance for all types of musicians to come together and work together.”
The pair of friends put up “female musicians wanted ads” and started receiving a high volume of calls right away.
“I think there’s a lot of people in the closet who would love to play or perform and get together with people but just have a hard time finding the right opportunity,” Squires says.
The first annual Chico Goddesses Getdown will be held on Sunday, June 9, at the popular local bar Duffy’s Tavern and will be a fundraiser for local non-profits Rape Crisis Intervention and Prevention and Catalyst Domestic Violence Services, costing a $5 cover charge at the door.
The pair chose Duffy’s because they thought it would be an intimate, cozy venue—in addition to the fact that part owner and booker Doug Roberts was supportive from the start. Schutten is quick to point out that she hopes people know the event is not exclusively for women.
“I hope guys know that they are welcome too,” Schutten says. “A lot of people hear the name and think that only women are going to come … but we can use all the support we can get.”
This year, there will be five acts—mostly acoustic singer-songwriters—who will each have a 45-minute set, and, as it turns out, each will be presenting somewhat of a different theme with the music. There will also be a few featured speakers from each organization. For future reference, organizers add, the event is not limited by genre or style and is always looking for creative ideas to add to the mix. The show begins on an interesting note with a group of women performing “sound medicine” or chants from several different cultures. This year’s maiden voyage may also be recorded for future airplay on local community radio.
Dee Dee Vest is a well-traveled performer who has been playing her acoustic-guitar folk in downtown Chico for about the last six months.
Although she has never heard Joni Mitchell, Vest says that she often gets comparisons to Mitchell’s songwriting as well as to solo artist Natalie Merchant—though her own influences tend to stem from modern musical artists with highly creative vocal styles such as Sara McLaughlin and Bjork.
Vest says she got into music about 10 years ago while living in Chicago. It was there that she discovered an old guitar in her grandmother’s attic and began learning how to play. After she eventually relocated to Chico, a friend helped her out by giving her a place to play, and she says that the local community has been extremely supportive, as she has ventured into the coffeehouse and the small-club scene.
She read the ad for the Goddesses Get Down event at Herried’s Music Store and loved the idea.
“It’s been kind of my dream to play in Duffy’s, so I’m really excited!” she says about the upcoming show.
“The organizers are very into letting people do what they want to do,” she adds. “It’s really encouraging, and I think [overall] it’s a great way to use music to do some good in the process of helping people find a venue and audience.”
Local Claudine Franquet is performing as a duo with Heather McCafferty—two guitars and vocals performing all original material. Franquet says the pair will be playing mostly songs centered on relationship issues—"moving on, breaking up, those kinds of things,” she says.
“I’ve lived here for 10 years, and about five years ago I would say there were some female groups out there"—she lists Nothing Rhymes with Orange and a few others—"but it seems to have dropped off since then,” she says, though she admits that she doesn’t get out to the bar scene much anymore.
Her partner McCafferty is also handling stage decorations for the event, which should include some interesting statistics on behalf of the non-profits involved—messages that could stick with the audience well afterwards.
“We want to transform the room by decorating the walls with info, plus a goddess tapestry and fabrics on stage,” she says. “But all done with a positive approach in mind … no scare tactics.”
Dana Heyer, community educator with Catalyst (a local support service for victims of abuse since 1977), says that the money from the event will most likely be used to boost the education program or for maintenance—getting nicer things for clients for example, or a new paint job perhaps for the shelter.
Executive director Anastacia Snyder is similarly thrilled about the event.
“We think it’s wonderful that they put this together themselves,” she says. “It’s a great way to get out information out and raise awareness, and it’s a really selfless thing to do.”
Snyder says she is completely supportive of less conventional fundraising efforts like musical concerts and arts events, explaining that her organization has been concerned lately about state-level funding being reduced this year, considering the current political climate.
When asked about the level of local domestic violence, Snyder says Chico falls almost in line with the state average but adds that there are many young people and teens are affected by violence while dating and that events like these speak directly to th0se younger groups.
If the interest garnered so far is any indication, the Goddesses Get Down concert should become an annual event for years to come.
“We’ve gotten so much response, and I’m so excited that I’m getting the shivers,” Schutten says. “We just hope that the excitement will spread, more ideas will grow from this and it will become a popular annual event.”
“The main thread has always been the fundraising aspect," Squires adds. "I’ve always looked at music as a form of communication and sharing, and this is really what the event is all about."