Girls Rock Philly Hold Spring Showcase at PhilaMOCA
Everybody wants to be in a band at least a little bit. Everyone also has reasons, founded or not, as to why they can’t be in one. Whether it’s about not having the time for it, not knowing people to play with or that little detail of actually learning how to play an instrument—starting a band might actually be one of the easiest thing to not do—especially if one is discouraged to do so because of their gender or sexual orientation. That’s where Girls Rock Philly comes in.
“It’s a project I’m very hype about because it’s putting youth at the center of leadership,” said Andrea Jacome, the Community Organizing Director of Girls Rock Philly. The South Kensington-based group offers many programs including LRC, a weekend rock camp for women, trans and gender non-conforming adults aged 19 and up.
“The idea is that adults from across the Philly area, and even beyond […]come here to pick up a new instrument, form a band with people they’ve never met before, write an original song and then perform that song at a Sunday showcase in front of hundreds of people,” Jacome told Spirit News.
All of this happens over the course of about two and a half days. On Friday, the campers arrive, have instrument instruction sessions, form their bands and practice. On Saturday, the campers have a full day of programming from 8:30AM until their last band practice ends at 9PM. Sunday again starts early and is full of band practices before culminating in the big finale: a live showcase at PhilaMOCA (531 N. 12th street).
“In a nutshell, it’s certainly a music camp, but it’s about encouraging people to be vulnerable and work through conflicts […] it’s a really strong community building exercise,” Jacome said.
Sunday’s showcase at PhilaMOCA featured 6 bands from the most recent LRC camp. The lineup featured Weejee Kees, Seltzer, Not So Bad (formerly The Unibrows), One Strike, Just Fucking Joyful and The Friend Zone.
From the time the show started at 7:30PM, the venue appeared nearly at capacity with an energetic, loud and incredibly positive crowd. Every band was given a headliner’s reception and many looked wide-eyed in the face of such immense support. Between sets, the house music would come on and impromptu dance parties broke out among the crowd.
Rachel Hoppenstein, one of the campers that participated in LRC, told Spirit News, “For me it was trying to be expansive, trying to put yourself out a little more. I figured, why not join a band for a weekend?”
Crystal Benner, another one of LRC’s campers said, “It was amazing. Very intense. A lot of practicing, a lot of learning new things. Maybe struggling through some issues with perfectionism. But it was a very supportive environment, very positive. It felt very safe to branch out.”
Nicole Rodrigues of the band Weejee Kees volunteered for Girls Rock Philly last year and did a comics workshop for them. Through those experiences she gained a strong appreciation for the organization. “I wanted to learn to play bass and I wanted to meet people that I can play music with later on,” she said. “I wanted an unintimidating environment where everyone can be super supportive and everyone can encourage each other to play music.”
Joss Lynn Riot, another member of Weejee Kees and one of the camp’s bass guitar teachers expressed the importance of trans woman immersion in women’s environments. “I’m a trans woman, and it’s really important for me to put myself in women’s spaces to kind of remind people that trans women are women,” Riot explained. “I feel like in a lot of these women-only spaces, there aren’t many trans women—if any. So it’s really important for me.”
“I feel like there’s so much power in music alone,” Jacome added, “I think music is a magnetic force that brings people together and brings a lot of opportunity to organize. At Rock Camp, whether it’s LRC or our youth summer camp, it’s the same formula.”
Jacome stressed that the shared, new experience between campers, tethered with the universality of music goes a long way in making them feel empowered both individually and collectively.
“Picking up an instrument, picking up a mic, trying something new, we recognize those are processes that people aren’t necessarily encouraged to do especially as ‘femme’ or trans-identified folks. Society at large makes us feel very small, so we’re trying to carve out a new world in the shell of the old at Rock Camp.”
To learn more about Girls Rock Philly, visit them online at http://www.girlsrockphilly.org/