Erika Libero and Sarah Shook are back for another year of Manifest, an intersection feminist festival in Chapel Hill that only books bands featuring at least one woman or non-binary musician. Leading up to the festival this weekend, we’ll be interviewing the bands and giving y’all a snapshot of what’s in store. But, first, we asked Erika Libero to share some Manifest history, the ideas behind the music, the highlights, and this year’s lineup.
Full disclosure: Auntie Bellum is a proud sponsor of Manifest.
Tell me about Manifest!
Manifest is an intersectional feminist music festival. The goal is to elevate the voices of women and LGBTQ folks in music and to build a music scene inclusive of all genders. It is a two-day music festival at three venues in downtown Chapel Hill, NC, featuring 24 local and touring bands.
How is it different from other music festivals?
We purposely select a lineup where every band has at least one member who identifies as female or non-binary. It is our way of creating a space in music where women and LGBTQ folx’ voices are equally as present as their male counterparts. It is a demonstration in gender equality. We flood the music scene with these bands to MANIFEST a more inclusive space in music.
What are some highlights?
I love all the bands because I booked them! Highlights include watching Ashley Arnwine smash some drums in Pinkwash, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers’ first show home in a loooong time, Tomboi is back with a special set for Manifest and their new album Spectrum in tow. The Muslims, a local punk band is releasing their first music video on Friday the 13th and have a special performance planned to close out The Cave for night one. Post Pink will be in town from Maryland on the same stage as Pie Face Girls from Raleigh, and everyone needs to see how Michelle Sontheimer from Henbrain plays bass. Even now as I am listing the bands I love them all – genres may vary but they are all punk in spirit! We have purposely staggered sets so different venues start at different times and you can float between all of them to catch the shows. Venues are all within the same two blocks on West Franklin St. in Chapel Hill.
What’s different this year?
We are very excited that this year is the first year that Manifest is ALL AGES at every venue. It is so important to us to make the event as accessible as possible because we want this festival to be for everyone. That is why we work with local sponsors whose donations help us keep the all venue festival pass at a low $25 for both nights.
How did you and Sarah come up with the idea?
Sarah and I began meeting up about two years ago. I sent her a facebook message saying I wanted to team up with local female musicians to build more inclusive spaces in music. We met weekly at a coffee shop to talk about our feminist awakenings, how alienated we feel from the other female musicians in town, and how we yearned to foster and grow a community where being “the one chick in that band” isn’t a thing. At this time there was an article flying around the internet highlighting the lack of female musicians at major music festivals from Coachella to Bonnaroo. It was the article where they took lineup posters from these festivals, took away the bands that had only men in them to show that bands with women make up but a sad 15% of performers at festivals. We wanted to throw a festival where every band had at least one female or non-binary member to counteract this and usher in a new era where all genders can participate in music and anyone can be a rockstar.
It was important to us as well that we did not coin this the whole thing as a new “women’s festival” because, to us, this is still just a music festival – just like how all those other music fests with all male lineups were never sold to us as men’s festivals. We wanted to build a music festival that was truly inclusive.
Why is there a need for Manifest?
Because so many girls, including myself, grow up thinking that they can’t be the rockstar they can only be the rockstar’s girlfriend. For me, this is completely due to the lack of gender representation in music. By building a representative music festival we prove to the next generation that there are many kinds of rockstars of all genders and manifest a world where our artists are not limited to one gender and everyone is able to have a unique voice.
How does this help women, trans, non-binary and queer musicians?
When you are a minority in a scene – you will be left out because you are not in the group of men who own the venues, run festivals, have established bands, etc. Everytime you walk into a room and you are the only female/queer musician there – people make judgements about you, make you a novelty and somehow this limiting stereotype makes them unable to see your art. We wanted to build a space where you couldn’t say “I liked that one band with a chick in it” because that would be every band. Last year – after Manifest, people were not talking about all the women and non binary folx on stage – they were talking about the art they made. It was like finally people were able to see beyond the novelty of having different genders on stage and could see and hear their voice. I think that is something special that an environment like this is able to create.
Also, Manifest being the first festival of this kind in this area, it helped to introduce and create a community of women, trans, non-binary and queer musicians who have each others backs. If the dudes won’t book us we will book eachother. Many of the bands didn’t know each other, even the local ones, and since Manifest, bands were able to foster relationships with like musicians and continue to throw shows together, support each other’s touring efforts, and promote each other on social media. We no longer need the boys club. We have each other. We don’t have to be an other in their scene. We can belong in our scene.
Are there any additional resources related to the festival that folks should know about?
We have a facebook! www.facebook.com/manifestmusicfestival/
Website with band lineup and links to music www.manifestmusicfestival.com