Rebecca Juliette interviews Amy Reid of GRL PWR
As GRL PWR prepares for a show with DISCWOMAN this Saturday at the Crown, Amy Reid explains the whys and the hows of the music performance movement of self identified female and non-binary artists.
Please tell us a little about yourself. How did you land in Baltimore? How long have you been here?
I was born and raised in Baltimore, so essentially my whole life. I thought I wanted to leave a few years ago for the sake of trying out a new city but realized I had a solid foundation and some things going for me here. I tour with my band Chiffon a decent amount so I get to experience a lot of other cities. By the end I am always pumped to come back to home to Baltimore. I love the people, music, and art scene here. People feel real, and the music/performance scene has a genuine rawness to it.
Photo: Audrey Gatewood
What was the genesis of GRL PWR? How long have you been curating events?
Initially, I wanted to start a platform for self identified female and non-binary artists including established, up-and-coming, and brand new projects. The philosophy being if I book dope established musicians, people will come out and experience brand new artists who live in Baltimore but haven’t had the opportunity to perform yet. In every instance, first time performers wind up getting booked onto other events shortly after. After seeing this pattern, it is a testament that you never know who is going to blow your mind unless you give it a chance.
We all could do a better job listening to each other and taking each other’s ideas more seriously in my opinion.
I also wanted GRL PWR to be inclusive of performance artists and dancers. I try to mix it up so that the performers make sense together but you’re getting a little bit of everything. Through touring, I get to experience a lot of amazing musicians from all over and I try to bring some of my favorites back to Baltimore. Believing that it’s important for a vast feminine spectrum to be visible, I try to keep GRL PWR inclusive and diverse in terms of identity and musical genre. Because of being in a band for a long time, I have been curating and booking shows for about 6 years with my band mate Chase O’Hara, trying to help touring musicians put shows together in Baltimore. GRL PWR is a baby though, only in it’s second year and still evolving.
Realizing I can’t do this alone, I have had support from Luisa Rodriguez (who creates the flyers), Waqia Kareem (who helps promote, provides moral support and has amazing ideas in store for the future), as well as Pangelica (previous GRL PWR performer who also has brilliant ideas of how to take GRL PWR to the next next level).
One criticism I received was that the event didn’t originally benefit an organizations supporting female or non-binary people. Taking this into consideration, part of starting GRL PWR was to help artists make money off of their art. We now try to have donations for an organizations supporting female and non-binary people as well as individuals that reach out for assistance.
Photo: Diamond Dixon
Where have you held events? Name some of your favorites.
GRL PWR started at The Crown, one of my favorite spaces in Baltimore. The name came from a long conversation written in one of the bathroom stalls there so it felt appropriate to have the kick-off show in that space. I have also held them at DIY spaces and one of my favorites was at Penthouse in the Copycat building. I remember working the door, putting wristbands on people. I had bought 200 and in a few hours, I ran out and was scrambling to try to find some sort of stamping or marker scenario. That blew my mind. I was like, “Damn, people really came out for this.” The photos that night were taken by Diamond Dixon and they really capture a night filled with so much love.
Another legendary one was at both rooms at The Crown. Performers from Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, and Boston all came together that night and shared a wide variety of sounds. Waqia had told put me on to this amazing DJ – Tygapaw from NY -who was definitely one of the highlights of the evening. Honestly, it’s hard to choose favorites though because I want to list them all for different reasons.
When and how did you become involved with DISCWOMAN? What brought them to Baltimore?
Earlier in the year, I had reached out to DISCWOMAN as I had learned more and more about their collective and the amazing artists that are a part of it. It didn’t work out with either of our schedules at the time so we said we’d both keep in touch. A few months later I remembered that they were going to perform a boiler room set in NYC so I sat back, put the live stream on, and wound up having a dance party with myself.
One of the DJs of the night, Uniqu3, put on a TT song (she is based in Baltimore) and that’s when it really motivated me to curate a show with them and make it happen. I believe that UMFANG of Discwoman has performed here at a Vague Output party and Haram of Discwoman has come through Baltimore a bunch of times for Abdu Ali’s numerous projects – as well as Queerology. I’m just trying to keep the exchange happening between artists in Baltimore and artists I find inspiring throughout the U.S.
What can attendees to the party expect?
As far as what to expect at GRL PWR, expect to see a dynamic group of women and non-binary folk who I consider to be some of the most talented people making music, DJing, and performing at this moment from Baltimore and other cities. I think there’s something for everyone throughout the night.
If you want to dance, there will most certainly be dancing. If your style is to chill at the bar and take in performances that way, there’s room for that too. If you want something more intense and noisy, someone will be bringing that as well.
Expect to want to come to the next one after you’re first experience. Pangelica stated it perfectly in conversation, “Female-identifying artists are constantly being undermined in their crafts. I have been and continue to be dismissed, talked over, and ignored by male peers. But at GRL PWR there is not even a question or doubt. The female voice is given power, respect, and reverence. The energy is positive and unapologetic.
What is the scene like in Baltimore for female identified, trans, and non binary musicians, DJs, and performance artists? Outside of GRL PWR, are there any other events/organizations that support the community?
I think there are a lot of amazing people in Baltimore curating really amazing events. One of my best friends, Abdu Ali, is the number one hustler in this department I have to say. Kahlon is legendary, numerous performances brought me to tears, I was so moved. TT the Artist, who is performing this upcoming GRL PWR on the 25th, has joined forces with Abdu for a new party SUPA/BENT which I can’t wait for. In the past there has been Queerology, Glitter Thighs, and Trillnatured’s new party Loop Dreams. I hope that this upcoming GRL PWR can provide a space for people to dance it out.
Photo: Diamond Dixon
Would you like to speak about the tragedy in Orlando? How do you feel this will influence your event?
I’m still learning about and processing what happened in Orlando and keeping conversations alive about it among friends. In talking to peers, Waqia said something memorable, “I really just need to cry on the dance floor.” I hope GRL PWR can provide that experience for those who need to do that or whatever else they may need like being with people you’re close to and care about while experiencing amazing music. There are a lot of fundraisers during the month of June and July in Baltimore that I think will also bring people together and help with processing.
What is your day job? And how do you balance your work and your work with GRL PWR?
My day job is a cheese monger. I sell cheese, tell you what is good, and you buy it LOL. I’m super busy but having that block of my day unavailable to put towards my music, organizing my life and projects like GRL PWR, forces to me work even harder and make my time count. I’m finding spending time in nature before I go into work has helped bring balance into my life.
When I get off work, I’m diligent about going to the studio to write and practice with Chiffon as well as my solo work. I try to surround myself with inspiring people who keep me thinking about new ideas and how to see them through. That is something that I am always relearning, I absolutely cannot do any of this on my own. I’m fortunate to have access to spaces that will work with me, people who believe in me and want to be a part of my world and push me to manifest my ideas into realities.
GRL PWR TEAM
Waqia Kareem is a queer mutant, performance artist, activist, farmer, educator, and writer based in Baltimore. Some of their current political/intellectual interests include: afrofuturism, queer performativity, silence, erasure, the body, disidentification, afroecology, queer failure, and afro-pessimism. At the moment they are exploring movement work centered around the black female body; both detailing the ways in which the black female body is disembodied, objectified, commodified and silenced, as well as reimagining what it means to inhabit such a space.
Pangelica is a previous GRL PWR Performer, musician, and artist and is excited to work with GRL PWR in the future bringing a a visual element, materializing fantasy to the physical realm and using her body as art to empower others.
GRL PWR Flyers are created by Luisa Rodriguez, freelance artist and illustrator currently living in Baltimore. She takes inspiration from her personal life, pop culture, and internet culture. www.ripgurl.com
Roster of performers & Projection Artists:
Angel Baby, Effie Liu, TRNSGNDR/VHS, Gurl Crush, Dj Amsies, Genie, Ami Dang, FLUCT, Isabejja, Coral Reefr, Tygapaw, Trillnatured, Book of Morrin, 404notfound, W00dy, Blackwood, Marcelline Mendang & Emilia Pennanen, Killjoy, Pangelica, Macy Rodman, Dj Nova, Hannah Olivegren (zomes), Keenon Brice, T.J. Dominique, Maude Kasperzak.