Aerin Fogel saw the need for greater diversity in Toronto’s music industry so she did something about it. She created Toronto’s first feminist music festival, Venus Fest.
Labour Day is upon us, and summer sure seems like a blur. To ease you into the fall and help you reflect on the labour movement’s important role in advancing women at work, LiisBeth is pleased to bring you this amazing playlist curated by Toronto musician and Venus Fest founder, Aerin Fogel.
Venus Fest is a one-day festival held at Artscape’s Daniels Spectrum building on September 30 with a lineup and staff composed entirely of women, genderqueer and trans people. Ticket prices are based on the honour system and range from $37 to $52. More than 40 musicians are involved.
“The festival has a lot to do with healing and creating spaces where we can come to celebrate and be joyful together,” says Fogel. “I don’t think it should be a novelty that women and non-binary people can come together to do that.”
In her 10 years in the music industry—her new band, Queen of Swords, will release an album on September 17—Fogel saw the need for greater diversity in Toronto’s music scene. “I noticed trans women, women of colour, and women in general had a hard time getting their work out,” she says, adding that connections are everything, and while the Internet has made it easier to get material out, it has also made it more challenging due to increased competition and noise.
Fogel says that as a feminist, her leadership style is open, collaborative, and not top down. The festival is entirely structured around the artists’ interests and fair pay for everyone. Strengthening this community, creating opportunity, and fostering connection is what it’s all about.
“What we do is not easy,” says Fogel. “Carving out your own path in the world as a feminist goes against the grain of most cultures. So sometimes we need a little reminder of why we do what we do, why our strength matters, why it is actually making a difference somewhere, and inch by inch creating change. So here’s a playlist of some of the most inspiring artists out there right now, pushing the boundaries and the edges of our hearts and our consciousness. At Venus Fest, we loved them so much that we invited most of these artists to play at our festival and be the voice of the change we’re driven to create.”
Now sit back and enjoy the music.
With the raw and honest power that singer Jasmyn Burke wields so well, “Shithole” shares the unraveling of an identity. The relatable struggle of adapting and discarding different personas makes this track a standout from Weaves’ debut record, and it places Burke at the forefront of indie front people.
U.S. Girls, “Damn That Valley”
Influenced by Sebastian Junger’s book War, “Damn That Valley” explores the anger and distress of a young widow whose husband died fighting for his country. As always, Meg Remy is able to locate the powerful emotions of an individual lost in the greater context of political and systemic restraint.
Phèdre, “In Decay”
Known for their intensely erratic and psychedelic pop, Phèdre brings us this vivid NSFW mixture of lovers in decay, in colour, in goop, and chains. Singer April Aliermo holds down an active role in countless Toronto community initiatives. With Daniel Lee, she brings a joyful and liberating live set.
Y La Bamba, “Libre”
On her fourth album Ojos Del Sol, Y La Bamba creator Luz Elena Mendoza returns to themes of searching, metamorphosis, shared humanity, and a faith that is greater than just religion. “I am thankful for all of my hardships. They have guided me to find rest in my soul time after time, over and over again,” Mendoza says. “Libre” is about universal love and about resting in freedom from chaos.
Lido Pimienta, “Agua”
Lido Pimienta has built a steady empire with her powerful words, poetry, and voice of strength and justice. “Agua” speaks about water as a basic right of all beings, and the hope and innocence that lies in our younger generations to carry a brighter torch into the future.
Madame Gandhi, “Her”
Known originally as the drummer for M.I.A. and the free-bleeding runner at the 2015 London Marathon, Madame Gandhi has quickly launched an explosive career with a mission to celebrate and elevate the female voice. “Her” is inspired by Margaret Atwood and was released while Hillary Clinton was still in the running to become the U.S. president. It’s an ode to female leadership.
Austra, “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself”
In this video, singer Katie Stelmanis takes on the complex story of Lisa Nowak, former NASA astronaut who experienced a psychological break and was charged for the resulting course of events. Austra’s third album, Future Politics, envisions how we might lean into a more utopian iteration of our world, while songs like this account for the distance we still stand from our utopia.
DIANA, “Born Again”
This is a line we need right now in our world: “Now’s the time for believing / Lay your hands on me I need healing / Born again tonight.” Front woman Carmen Elle has used her platform in DIANA to share her vulnerable struggle with anxiety and its relationship to her work as an artist. Time and again their songs let music be a moment of healing and a way to connect people through shared experience.
Emel Mathlouthi, “Ensen Dhaif”
After her music was banned in Tunisia when it spurned its own revolution during the Arab Spring, Emel Mathlouthi brought her magnificent force of healing and truth to New York for the release of the album Ensen. The video for “Ensen Dhaif” explores the revolution from varying states of oppression, be they circumstantial or internally imposed.
Ice Cream, “Material”
This standout from the debut album Love, Ice Cream show the molecular pop duo assembling supplies for a ladies’ weekend at a casino on the moon. Like the album, “Material” confronts the narrowness of a plastic culture while managing to embrace some of its edges.
Venus Fest is still looking for sponsorships. Contact Amy Saunders for more information.