When Abigail Mlinar read in Rolling Stone that Brandi Carlile would be launching an all-woman music festival, she was able to proudly announce, “Duluth did it first.”
Mlinar is one of the organizers of Femn Fest, which seeks to correct the gender imbalance of contemporary music festivals to present a lineup of musicians who are women, women-identifying, genderqueer, or non-binary. Now in its second year, the fest will stretch over two days this weekend at Duluth’s Sacred Heart Music Center.
Among the performers announced are Venus DeMars, Gender Confetti, Lunch Duchess, The Von Tramps, Good Night Gold Dust, FLOWTUS, and the Nat Harvie Trio. But you won’t see these acts arranged according to importance on one of those Coachella-like graphics, with the big names dominating and the lesser known acts relegated to fine print.
“Even if we have an artist who would be considered a headliner at another event—which we do—we’re not calling anyone a headliner,” Mlinar says. “It’s a non hierarchical structure. Hierarchy, and the idea that someone is above someone else is in line with the structures that have held women back from the industry in the first place.”
And the festival’s spirit of inclusivity isn’t just centered on gender. “We realized we needed to make the fest even more accessible than before,” Mlinar says. “Last year we offered free tickets to anyone who send in a few sentences to say they wanted to come. But a lot of folks didn’t realize this was an opportunity. We wanted the fest to appear as open as possible. So we dramatically reduced the cost of entry.”
Femn Fest also recruits on female vendors and relies on women in all areas of operation—or at least tries to. “We’ve found a challenge in identifying women-owned businesses who rent event equipment,” Mlinar says. “Fortunately in Duluth, we have a rockstar sound company, AVR, that is women-owned, and a sponsor. But some badass women really need to get into the tent and fencing realm.”
Where: Sacred Heart Music Center, Duluth
When: Fri. Sept. 21 and Sat. Sept. 22
Tickets: $15-$100; more info here