Shade from the audience
Local musicians share the sometimes uncomfortable lessons of performing in Sacramento as nondudes
Women and nonbinary-identifying musicians in Sacramento have noticed that the way audiences treat them before and after they perform can feel like the difference between night and day. Oftentimes, an air of acceptance comes only after sharing their kickass musical talents, they say. SN&R asked five artists about their experiences in the local music scene, and their responses just might raise some eyebrows.
Even so, the musicians pay it forward to their community: As a bonus, they also shared with us their favorite local albums or musicians of 2016.
Behind an acoustic guitar, Lauren Wakefield belts original compositions while doing justice to the likes of Etta James and Smokey Robinson. Her music delves deep into blues, soul and rock ’n’ roll, and her powerful, full-bodied vocal range earns her respect. But sometimes, that respect isn’t received until after she unplugs her guitar.
“I do think that women do have to prove themselves to be good musicians because apparently genitals have something to do with what talent you have,” Wakefield says.
“Promoters, bookers or audience members will come up to me afterward and tell me, ‘I didn’t think you were going to be that good.’ I nod and smile, but it’s a little bit insulting. I’ve been hearing that my whole career from all kinds of people and I still hear it to this day.”
Local album pick of 2016: Michael Ray’s Live at Old I EP. “Michael Ray has raw style and skill. I just love the raw passion and everything that he has to offer when it comes to his music.”
The lack of venues for musicians in Fairfield drove hip-hop artist SpaceWalker into the arms of Sacramento. Since developing her genre-fluid music style, SpaceWalker says she mostly received genuine respect and support, but she’s also been told that she looked like a lost girl before she stepped on stage.
“It’s funny to watch people interact with me before I perform and afterward. They see me perform, and I’m a big personality and very dynamic, so it’s always really interesting to see,” SpaceWalker says.
“I feel like there are times on stage when my presence is very strong or masculine, if you will. It’s strange going from someone’s little sister lost at a bar to singing David Bowie and Prince. I’ve received a lot of support in the city, but I’ve also received a lot of skepticism, but it doesn’t usually last very long.”
Local album pick of 2016: “Good People by The Philharmonik. Honestly, it makes me think of if John Legend and Chance the Rapper had a baby, that would be Philharmonik. He’s very soulful and funky. There’s a lot of feel-good music on [the album], for sure.”
Musician and traveler Hannah Mayree released the folk-driven debut album Thoughts of the Night in February, capturing Mayree’s experiences during years of cross-country travel. Mayree, whose preferred pronouns are “she” and “they,” says it’s important to connect with efforts like Sac LadyFest and Please Ask Pronouns. The latter Mayree describes as a modern day women’s circle that supports people who identify as women, trans and nonbinary. The group uses song, dance and storytelling to share experiences and build community, and they meet the Sunday before each full moon every month at Addison’s Bicycle Repairium.
“I think it’s really great that there are people making sure that more marginalized groups are heard. In terms of music scenes, not just singling out Sacramento, but they are all predominantly dominated by white, cis dudes—everything from having the knowledge passed on to having the gear to people assuming if you’re capable,” Mayree says.
“I feel like myself and a lot of folks in town are trying to do what we can to affect certain changes in our community by not assuming people’s gender based on what they look like or what we know about them.”
Local musician picks of 2016: “SpaceWalker, The Philharmonik and Sunmonks. They’re my peers and I always feel inspired by my local community and what others are doing.”
Members of the SAMMIE-nominated, now-defunct teen band Cresca Brianna Carmel and Luis Quintero both identify as nonbinary. Together, they formed a new project called Nezumi Onna. The two also organized an LGBTQ+ Pride house show last year to showcase the talents within this tightknit community.
“I’ve never noticed a lack of respect in particular, I just think they don’t know what to expect from me,” Carmel says. “I’m really small. I’m not even 5 feet tall. They don’t expect me to have a powerful voice sometimes, but I feel like every time I perform, it’s always received pretty well.”
Quintero shares the same sentiment.
“I haven’t had too many difficulties being nonbinary, but I have to acknowledge that it’s a little different because I’m perceived as male,” Quintero says. “I feel like we are just playing music in a community that is a really good fit for us, and we’ve found an audience who is respectful. We’re really happy about that.”
Local album picks of 2016: Devoted by Rituals of Mine and Reanimate Ore by Gentleman Surfer.