A community led, human-centered approach to promoting and supporting women & non-binary people in music, the Women’s Work Showcase at Belfast’s Oh Yeah Music Centre was stacked with impressive live performances over the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend. Full of passionate, respectful fans and artists who all contributed to making the space feel as vibrant and as safe as possible, the showcase displayed the eclectic and exciting musical talent of the Northern Irish & Irish music scenes.
As we walked into the venue to the sound of Girl For Sale‘s tender guitar tunes, we recognised so many faces both on and off stage. HAVVK, Party Fears and Problem Patterns were all amongst the crowd, who cheered as self-described “pink pop princess” Susi Pagel performed her bittersweet anthems ‘Pick Me’, ‘Pretty Girl’ and also treated listeners to a cover of Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’, as a nod to the 20th anniversary of the Canadian superstar’s debut album, Let Go.
Split across two stages, we turned to see Clara Tracey clad in a white suit seated behind her keyboard, as she delivered a captivating set filled with her clear, soft vocals and jazz-tinged keys. The sharp, infectious sounds of rapper Don Chi filled the venue next. Though she confessed to feeling nervous between songs, Don Chi continued to emcee with impressive confidence, with tracks ‘Orange’, ‘Angry’ and ‘Dent’ especially leaving a mark on the memory.
Up next were formidable Dublin four-piece SPRINTS. Tearing through a riotous set list that included songs from their recent EP A Modern Job, the band had the crowd hanging on every riff and chorus, with vocalist & guitarist Karla Chubb commanding their attention with truly furious flair. The infectious, radiant alt-pop tunes of Winnie Ama followed, filling the venue with joy and swaying bodies to tracks ‘Here I Go’ and ‘Awe Of You’.
Aoife Wolf brought her brooding “Noise folk from the bog” to everyone’s ears next. Armed with her guitar and enigmatic vocals, the effect of her subtle, yet captivating performance lingered long after she’d stopped playing. GIHE favourites Fraulein took to the stage afterwards, bringing their moody brand of alternative grunge to an attentive crowd. Joni & Karston’s natural charisma made their performance feel effortless, with tracks ‘And I Go (La La La)’ and ‘Belly’ sounding bigger and better each time we hear them. Derry trio CHERYM brought their brand of infectious pop punk inspired tunes next, smiling from ear-to-ear as they did so. ‘Abigail’, ‘We’re Just Friends’ and ‘Listening to my Head’ all stood out amongst a setlist full of energetic guitar anthems that went by in a flash of glee and angst.
Closing the night were feminist punks Problem Patterns. Kicking off their set with ‘Y.A.W’ (‘Yes All Women’), Alanah, Beth, Bev and Ciara firmly established their status as one of the most important and powerful live bands of the moment. Challenging the traditional “front person” set up by having each band member switch between mics and instruments for different songs, their set was full of jokes, joy and rage: all shared and directed at the patriarchal forces that attempt to crush minority communities who are asking for the respect they deserve. ‘Terfs Out’ the gloriously abrasive ‘Big Shouty’ and the wonderful ‘Gal Pals’ all resonated with the enthusiastic crowd.
Despite many artists and fans having to leave the venue earlier than planned due to public transport issues (which Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Charlotte Dryden highlighted in this tweet), the Women’s Work Showcase felt like a truly progressive initiative that proved that safe spaces for women & non-binary artists and fans are vital, and something that can be implemented into the wider music scenes if people are willing to put in the effort.
All that’s left to say is a huge thank you to the staff at the Oh Yeah Centre, the patient and attentive sound engineers, and to Charlene Hegarty, who curated the line-up and invited us over to share in the joy of Women’s Work.