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All Things Go Music Festival continues its commitment to women and queer artists

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Check out the psychedelic poster listing the headliners from last weekend's All Things Go Music Festival, and you notice something right away. They're mostly all women and nonbinary artists. NPR's Lilly Quiroz attended the two-day event, and she reports on how that one fact changed the entire experience.

LILLY QUIROZ, BYLINE: More than three-quarters of the acts at All Things Go included at least one woman or nonbinary musician like Lana Del Rey, Maggie Rogers, boygenius, MUNA, Carly Rae Jepsen and Tegan and Sara.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) It's not just all physical. I'm the type who won't get oh so critical.

TEGAN QUIN: I don't think I have ever played a festival in the 25 years that I've been in Tegan and Sara where the headliners for both days were women, except for Lilith Fair, which we played the Village stage in 1998.

QUIROZ: That was Tegan. Lilith Fair was revolutionary for its time. It was a festival where all the acts were fronted by women. But after its final staging in 2010, the opportunities for women performers were scarce. Sara remembers how bad it could get.

SARA QUIN: When we first started playing festivals, like, for example, in Germany, they have troughs out in the main field where men just stand en masse peeing. You're, like, on stage watching, like, hundreds of men peeing.

QUIROZ: The crowd at All Things Go this weekend looked much different. But when the festival started nine years ago, it was mostly men on stage. In 2018, co-founder Will Suter says they started talking with singers Maggie Rogers and Lizzy Plapinger about changing that. It wasn't just a foster community. There's a lot of demand for a festival like this.

WILL SUTER: It's not like we're just booking women to book women. It's because that's where our audience takes us, our polls take us, and that's where the music kind of leads us.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Hello.

QUIROZ: At the festival, there's a table set up by an organization called Calling All Crows. They help prevent sexual violence in the live music scene. That's where I met festivalgoers Kelly Higgins and Jillian Solomon.

KELLY HIGGINS: I think they really have started tailoring it to a certain audience, like queer people, women.

JILLIAN SOLOMON: I tell everybody it's a place like no other. Like, when I came here, it was, like, the first music festival that I actually felt, like, safe in.

QUIROZ: Calling All Crows researched the problem of sexual violence at concerts. Here's senior engagement manager Lena Charity-Shapira.

LENA CHARITY-SHAPIRA: Six hundred and eighty-six respondents who had attended a show or a festival in the last five years reported over a thousand incidents of assault or harassment, many of them which had gone unreported.

NAOMI MCPHERSON: I've experienced weird stuff happening at festivals to me personally.

QUIROZ: This is Naomi McPherson of the band MUNA.

MCPHERSON: Let's just say for one reason or another I fell ill due to an attempted poisoning from some freak.

QUIROZ: MUNA is well known for representing all things joyful and messy in the queer community. Josette Maskin of MUNA says people should watch out for one another, and having a community like All Things Go allows for this.

JOSETTE MASKIN: I think when an artist looks like you and represents you, hopefully people in the audience feel, like, a sort of, like, kindredness and hopefully will treat each other with more respect.

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KATIE GAVIN: When we wrote this, we were just, like, three queers in a college dorm room. We were full of a kind of hope that we could find a space where we could feel totally safe to just express ourselves. And that is totally contingent on everything you guys bring here, so thank you.

QUIROZ: Lilly Quiroz, NPR News, in Columbia, Md.

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MUNA: (Singing) I know a place. I know a place we can go where everyone going to lay down their weapon, lay down their weapon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lilly Quiroz (she/her/ella) is a production assistant for Morning Edition and Up First. She pitches and produces interviews for Morning Edition, and occasionally goes to the dark side to produce the podcast Up First on the overnights.