Local women musicians find strength in numbers

You go to Reno bars; you see guys and their guitars. You turn on Reno radio; you hear—you guessed it—guys and guitars. It’s not a bad thing. But there are some who realize that rock ‘n’ roll is not strictly guy territory. There are some of us who, simply put, would like to start hearing a bit more soprano over those screeching guitars.

Listen closely, however, and you’ll hear female voices in Reno growing more distinct. In the last few months, musicians like Tara Connolly and Kathy DeGeiso, formerly members of the co-ed band Three Foot Hand, and Jen Scaffidi, who played with male musicians in the bands Crushstory and Twilight Project, have been playing around town sans the boys. Connolly and DeGeiso have formed their own band, Marten’s Platform, and Scaffidi is playing solo. These days, solo or duo seems to be the way to go.

Why the shift toward musical independence? Maybe the girls are having a hard time finding the right male bassists, drummers and lead guitarists. Or maybe these women have very specific visions and very personal messages that they want to get out to their audiences. Maybe the messages would get muffled when played through a band.

“We have stories to tell, and we tell them with our voices,” Scaffidi says.

Scaffidi says that there are advantages both to being a member of a band and to playing solo, although she says that it’s generally easier to get success as a band. In Crushstory, she played to bigger, more energetic crowds. There also wasn’t quite so much pressure.

“Whatever you’re going to share [as a solo artist] is coming straight from you,” Scaffidi says. “The audience is going to judge you that much more.”

Musician Sophie (who prefers to be known by her first name only) has the best of both worlds. She plays about half her shows solo and the other half with her band, The Probiotics. Sophie does most of her solo gigs at more intimate settings, such as cafes, and then teams up with her band at bars and clubs. She says that this is a good way to reach two different kinds of audiences.

Many of these solo musicians are doing all-girl shows together. Scaffidi, Sophie and solo musician Kate Cotter all booked a recent show together at Esoteric Coffee House and Gallery. Scaffidi calls it the best show she’s ever played.

Such shows are small potatoes, however, compared to what might be in store. Connolly recently approached some of the solo artists with an intriguing idea: This summer, why not put together an all-girl mini-rock festival in Wingfield Park? Connolly says that the responses were enthusiastic.

“I think it would be amazing,” Scaffidi says. “Not just to play out on a sunshiny day at the park, but also to hear and see other [female musicians].”

But of course, there are permits to be obtained and money to be raised. Connolly is now looking into getting the necessary permit, and Connolly and Scaffidi have several ideas on ways to raise some cash. Connolly is considering getting sponsored by local art-oriented businesses, or perhaps doing the festival as a fundraiser for a local charity.

"If we have to sell brownies at the supermarket or panhandle in the streets, [we’ll do it]," Scaffidi says.