It’s an interesting time to be a woman in America. As Saturday Night Live skillfully depicted last weekend, gender equality, sexual harassment and the state of women’s rights are at the forefront of everyday conversation like never before — and yet, somehow, it still feels like women rarely get the mic to themselves.
Which is part of why music shows featuring all-female lineups, still an embarrassingly rare occurrence in the progressive Bay Area in the year 2017, are such a breath of determined, fresh air. This is our room, they say. We are physically going to take up this entire stage tonight, all night, with our bodies and our voices and our ideas.
The Great American Music Hall, once a storied burlesque club and brothel — a kind of, ah, permanent ladies’ night of a different variety? — hosts just such a lineup on Thursday, March 16, with a benefit show for the Bay Area Women and Children’s Center. Headlined by the folk/rock/bossa nova-flecked stylings of Kendra McKinley, the bill also includes the funky collective Rainbow Girls (who in 2015 headlined the first all-female bill at the Fillmore, 50 years after Bill Graham started booking shows there), and beachy indie-folk four-piece Vanwave.
Putting together an all-female bill just felt right for a benefit show supporting women and children, says organizer Brittany Powers, a San Francisco musician who currently sings with a band called The Fell Swoop.
“The inspiration for this event started from feeling really defeated by our current politics,” says Powers. “I wanted to switch that feeling of large-scale defeat to a smaller scope and focus on my community.”
After working in the Tenderloin for the past year, she began researching local nonprofits to get involved with, and soon met with Midge Wilson, the founder of the BAWCC. The organization, now in its 36th year, serves low-income women and families in the Tenderloin through a drop-in resource center, a food pantry, a clothing closet, a parent-child playgroup, and more.
“I was in total awe of [Wilson],” says Powers. “Her tenacity for getting things done against all odds, and her pride in the work she’s doing is inspiring and contagious. BAWCC has created so much space and opportunity for the people in the Tenderloin, which is impressive at a time when gentrification is such a strong force in pushing out underprivileged communities and their resources.”
Powers says 100 percent of proceeds from ticket sales will go to BAWCC afterschool programs at Tenderloin Community School, a K-5 school, with a raffle bringing in even more funds.
It’s a small drop in the bucket for an underserved population, to be sure. But at a time when it’s all too easy to list the problems facing San Francisco — and yes, the country — there’s something to be said for thinking small, says Powers. “Interacting with so many people in the Bay Area who are so excited about this event, the bands and the work BAWCC is doing has given me so much hope for the future of our city.”
Kendra McKinley, Rainbow Girls and Vanwave play this Thursday, March 16, 8pm, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Tickets ($18) and more info here.