“My guitar is my weapon, music is my power tool,” sings Connecticut’s HannaH of HannaH Fields, the Rasta-folk duo that uses music as a path for healing and empowerment.
Fusion terms like Rasta-folk, jazz-punk, and acoustic alternative pop come up a lot in the musician roster for SWAN Day CT 2019, a showcase of trailblazing women in the regional arts scene, taking place March 30 at Trinity-on-Main in New Britain. Started in 2007 by Jennifer Hill (frontwoman of Murderous Chanteuse and of Jennifer Hill & Co.) and facilitated by WomenArts, SWAN Day CT is an event for people who are eager to step outside narrow boxes.
“SWAN Day is more than just an event—I feel like it’s a philosophy,” says Kiersten Sieser, frontwoman of psychedelic folk-rock band Tiny Ocean, another of this year’s performers. Gracie Day, an alternative-country singer-songwriter who’s performed at past SWAN Days, explains: “It’s all about uniting and lifting one another up.”
This year’s line-up of 15+ regional music acts, 30+ visual artists, dance, and burlesque includes:
Audio Jane, the grunge/shoegaze alternative rockers who won the Indie/Rock and CT Best Album categories in CT Now’s 2018 Best of Hartford.
Dance company Visceral Movement, premiering “Future Is Female.”
Fashion designer Kristin Costa, who creates dramatic, romantic designs and who’s worked on projects including Ugly Betty and Enchanted.
Body painting by Kaylee Doll , Lake Compounce Haunted Graveyard special effects artist and pro MUA
Onstage Art created by artists Kerry Kennedy and Lee Goodwin
With the level of talent showcased at SWAN Day CT, it’s almost a shock to remember that:
Only 22.4% of musicians are women, according to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
About one-third of visual art exhibits at commercial galleries are by women artists, per The Art Newspaper.
Women are only 2% of music producers, and similarly under-represented in the technical aspects of music creation.
“This show is to show that we as women can do all that, and we're doing it without ego and we're doing it on our own,” explains organizer Jennifer Hill, who is also performing at the event with her dark cabaret rock band Murderous Chanteuse. Making all-female-created music is the mission of one of this year’s performers, Brooklyn’s Dani Mari (performing as eerie shoegaze act Primitive Heart), whose Female Frequency community released its first album in 2017.
If girls don’t see women in art-creating roles, it’s easy to assume that there’s just no reason to be interested in those roles, as Billboard writer Melinda Newman pointed out in a January 2018 article on the absence of women at the mixing board. A “boy’s club” can end up staying a boy’s club less through conscious exclusion than through sticking with a network of friends and industry mentors.
Long-term friendships are the root of both nostalgic alt-rockers Mandala (fronted by Morgan Fasanelli), honored as one of Bandcamp’s Five Best Underground Albums in 2017, and “badass weird rockers” The Haunting Titans (fronted by Sarah Murphy)—both of which include males. SWAN Day CT is a woman-centered space, rather than a women-only space. It’s also not a rock-centered space (despite the great rock acts, which also include the raw, aggressive jazz-infused punk of Brooklyn’s Eliza and the Organix). The spiritual sensuality of Natalie Hamilton, the indie rap with orchestral effects of Joanna, grunge tinged rock of Princess Randallina, and indie folk-blues from Steph Serenita are also performing.
“Once I knew how to play, I learned how to create,” says genre-bending folk-pop performer That Virginia. It’s a common story among musicians—the first guitar, the first piano lessons, the first drum kit—yet a powerful one in making art possible. Girls who see women creating see that women can create. A prime example is SCARLETT, who was the youngest performer in SWAN Day CT history in 2017: the daughter of Jennifer Hill, SCARLETT is developing her own powerful and haunting pop vision.
The visions shared at SWAN Day CT run the full range of women’s experiences—from the body-positivity of burlesque artists Vivienne La Flamme and Victoria Van Layer, to the powerfully sweet, retro-rueful songs of ambient alt-pop artist Dandelyin, who makes it fun to confess “the truth is, I’m a mess.”
Support for women artists thrives on recognition that life can be messy—not just in providing experiences to transform into art, but also in making demands that male artists often have the option of delegating. “The fact that SWAN Day [CT] has lasted this long is just a testament to the amazing support and dedication Jennifer Hill has put into this, and the fact that women want to come together and work together,” says fashion and jewelry designed Ebony Amber, who participated in 2017.
Come together to celebrate women creators—leave with a new favorite musician or artist. Tickets are $25 at swandayct.com