I spent my weekend hanging out at FOC (Females of Color) FEST, a new Portland-based festival celebrating musicians of color from the West Coast. Two nights of bands in an empty bike shop may sound meager for a music festival, but by the time 2am rolled around on Saturday night I was completely exhausted (in a great way) from the weekend of awesome music. Beneath Christmas lights, bands from a diverse array of genres, from metal to experimental to indie pop played to an enthusiastic audience. We were lucky enough to table next to other awesome organizations like Punk Start My Heart, Rock'n'Roll Camp for Girls, Queer Rock Camp, Talking Helps Records, High Scores and Records, and Tom Tom Magazine. The organizers, Nsayi Matingou (Kusikia), Katherine Paul, and Maya Kiko Stoner (both of Forest Park), also created a free zine which included interviews with many of the artists regarding their experiences and identities as musicians. From the opening page:
Through FOC FEST we hope to bring FOC musicians together and recognize the awesome contribution they make to our respective music communities so that we can all support each other. And by all we mean ALL. It don't matter what you look like, smell like, sex like, or dress like. FOC FEST holds a mission to recognize difference and feel empowered in this recognition.
Matingou said that coming up with inclusive, non-oppressive language for the festival was one of the most difficult parts of organizing it, since no one's identity can be easily summed up in a few carefully chosen words. As the zine ended up saying, "FOC is not intended to be a set identifier for women of color. It is a loose optional name that frankly just sounded good...Identify as you wish or reject it all."
Hopefully what started over the weekend will become an annual tradition. For the rest of the year though, FOC FEST's mission of inclusivity should be just as present. As Nadia Buyse (Tombstalker) said in a panel, it's about creating supportive, diverse, and rad spaces for all musicians. Racism in rock, institutional or personal, is unfortunately a fact—from the white-washed history of rock that has erased the African-American women and men at its roots, to today when women of color in Portland's music scene are often mistaken for one another by white people (yep, that totally happens). On the same panel, Andrea Genevieve (Purple Rhinestone Eagle) suggested more ways to create a paradigm shift in music: seek out shows featuring women of color, buy their albums (bands need money, you know!), hold booking agencies/agents accountable, and of course, start your own band!
And now here's a sampling of some of the artists of FOC FEST!
1. Magic Johnson - La Casa
2. Fat Transfer - Giving Up
3. Jeepneys - Magicvision
4. Like a Villain - Glasswatch
5. Kusikia - Radio
6. Forest Park - Harp
7. Purple Rhinestone Eagle - Sleep, Golden Sleep
8. Fabi Reyna - About Being Brave
There were many other excellent bands who played and who aren't featured on this mix because I didn't have mp3 versions of their work. You can stream many of them online though! Make sure you check out Stag Bitten, Tombstalker, Seed, Forever, Sexhair, Girls of Mars, and Boys of the Storm, who are so new they don't have a website yet—FOC FEST was their first show!
Thank you Mel Mundell for your help with this piece!