This weekend in Portland, Oregon, a house off East Burnside will be packed with folks coming out for two nights of amazing music brought to you by FOC Fest. Featuring women of color musicians from the Pacific Northwest, FOC Fest (short for Females of Color) started last year and was a total blast. As their 2011 zine stated, "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....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." This inclusive, all-ages show is local, DIY music organizing at its finest, and you're invited!
This year means a whole new lineup of acts, from the post-punk of Old Wars, to the genre-bending mariachi of Edna Vasquez, to the experimental sampling solo work of Amenta Abioto (and yes, a compilation album will be available at the festival!).
I spoke with Katherine Paul, one of the organizers and founders (and a member of Forest Park) about why FOC Fest is important, how she feels a year after the first one, and more.
Why did you start FOC Fest? Why is FOC Fest such an important (and awesome) event?
Katherine Paul: We started FOC Fest because we wanted to be recognized in the music community. I have grown up surrounded by people of color, [so] living in a city such as Portland—where race and ethnicity are not the dominant jams—made me want to be a part of a community where they are. I think that also being a woman of color is a very important thing in Portland. First off, you are a woman in a music community where there are still a lot of dudes who make up the majority of the scene. Adding onto being a woman, you are also a person of color who doesn't necessarily make up most of the scene. This is why we wanted to start the festival: to make a space where women of color can be acting agents. And this is why the fest continues: because it must live on.
Now that it's been a year since the first FOC Fest, any thoughts in retrospect?
KP: Last year was great! I feel like the community really supported the festival and really reacted in a positive way. It felt like it was what Portland needed and still needs.
What are you most excited about this year?
KP: I'm super excited to have the festival in a house. I'm a huge advocate of all-ages spaces—be it in a coffee shop, bookstore, house, venue, or whatnot. I think that everyone deserves a chance to experience live music. I think that the Portland house-show scene has taken a turn where it is more of a party rather than a show; I want to bring back the "show" feel of a house show and not have a ridiculous, cop-called party.
What have you seen outside of Portland that has inspired you in terms of music, and musicians of color, and inclusive spaces?
KP: I grew up in the Anacortes, Washington DIY scene. I was introduced to music at a young age and that has really inspired me to be active in a music community. It's super important to me that everyone feels included because if that doesn't happen, you won't get that kid who wants to start a rad label and put out his friends' band, or you won't have the girl who learns drums and teaching drums becomes her profession. I think that the Pacific Northwest is unique in the way that there are communities throughout Washington and Oregon that have that supportive nature to them, where anyone feels like they can do anything. Myself, coming from an Indian Reservation, I haven't seen very many Native people involved in the music scene but when I do, it makes me so sooo happy. And I think that having ties to your heritage and ties to multiculturalism in music just makes it even better.
What would you tell folks who want to start shows similar to FOC Fest elsewhere?
KP: My friend Maria (of Ragana, who are playing the fest) is going to make a Microfest for women of color in Olympia, Washington. I think that people should do these kinds of festivals or shows everywhere. I believe in the South, where the ladies of the New Bloods live, there's some festivals like this. But in short, I would say PLEASE put on your show because it will be so cool!
Lastly, what are you listening to right now?
KP: I am listening to a lot of Beyonce and Destiny's Child. I also am listening to Mount Eerie and revisiting my Cat Power phase.
FOC Fest is at Goat's Head Manor, SE 15th and E Burnside in Portland, Oregon. It starts at 8pm and is a $3-5 sliding scale donation. To get you in the mood, here's a compilation video from last year's festival, featuring music by Stag Bitten.
Here's the lineup!
11:05—11:30 the Ghost Ease
9:45—10:10 Edna Vasquez
9:05—9:30 Blind Lovejoy