Iceberg Alley Gives Cold Shoulder to Women Artists

The lineup for the 2018 Iceberg Alley Performance Tent was announced on Wednesday, March 21, and many people are not pleased.

This disdainful attitude isn’t just coming from the misplaced notion that Billy Talent are a worthwhile headliner for a show in 2018 – the public is pissed because Billy Talent, like the vast majority of the festival’s lineup, are all male.

In having another conversation about gender disparity and lack of diversity in the music scene, I’m not just beating a dead horse – its bones have picked clean by fellow vultures who have already critiqued this ongoing issue.

I critique a lot of music in St. John’s. I review live events for The Telegram, write arts/entertainment features for multiple local media outlets, and have sat on the jury of the MusicNL Awards and The Overcast’s Borealis Prize.

This breadth of work got me invited to the lineup launch this morning at the Jag Hotel. Unable to attend, I heard the news a little later in the afternoon.

I took one read through the event roster, and immediately had to re-read the listings. My first thought: Where my girls at?

The nine day festival has 17 acts, and the only women listed by name is Ria Mae, an ECMA winning and Juno nominated singer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mae is sub-headlining for Shawn Hook – whoever the fuck that is.

I pored over the roster again, more intently. There are two more women involved – Steve Earle’s bandmate, Eleanor Whitmore, (though one can assume Earle was the performer booked, not Whitmore) and multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Trainor, of Celtic Connection. Neither of their names were listed anywhere on the festival website.

On social media, women have been quick to point out the lack of female representation.

Just hours after the lineup announcement, local musician, Co-Director of St. John’s Women In Music (SWIM) and Program Director at Girls Rock NL Joanna Barker announced on Facebook that she would discussing Iceberg Alley’s gender disparity and lack of diversity on live radio with the CBC Morning Show on March 22.

The comment thread responding to Barker’s initiative to raise awareness for this issue was filled with praise, and brought an onslaught of comments like “Absolutely friggin’ brutal,” “Enough is enough,” “So tired of this,” and “Didn’t this happen last year?”

In 2017, Iceberg Alley’s lineup was also comprised of mostly white men and that issue has clearly shown no signs of improving.

In June of 2015, CBC’s Andrew Sampson wrote basically this same article about about gender disparity in festival lineups – albeit more eloquently.

Sampson pointed out that all fourteen headliners for that year’s Salmon Festival, Confederation Hill Music Festival and George Street Festival were male.

These festivals could glean some insight from the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, who snagged a woman headliner for their 3-day festival in 2017, and featured a plethora of women musicians throughout the long weekend. I started counting, but gave up around 40.

Lawnya Vawnya also strives to showcase women musicians. Last year, woman fronted Dilly Dally headlined the fest, with Helena Deland, April Aliermo (one half of Phédre), Klarka Weinwurm, Charlotte Cornfield, and Chloë Doucet sub-headlining, among others.

If two of the province’s festivals have come to understand the need for gender equality in the music scene, why can’t some of the biggest music festivals wake up and follow suit?

This question has been asked again and again in media worldwide, and for some reason, it isn’t reaching the right ears – deafened by an overabundance of Billy Talent, I guess.

Or maybe these people just hear what they want to hear. When Sampson asked Salmon Festival promoter Darren Finn about the historic lack of women representation on-stage throughout the years, Finn is quoted as saying:

“I don’t feel like I have any obligation to think like that, I only have the obligation to look for artists that are available.”

One could only imagine what Finn – a white male, in case you haven’t guessed – might have said if someone asked him about the obvious lack of indigenous, people of colour, or transgender acts.

Those are questions I’d like to pose to Iceberg Alley Performance Tent, Salmon Festival, Folk Fest, and Lawnya Vawnya – but that’s another topic for another day.

At the moment, we’re clearly having enough trouble trying to get women – who literally constitute half of the global population – on a fucking stage in Newfoundland and Labrador.

8 thoughts on “Iceberg Alley Gives Cold Shoulder to Women Artists”

  1. That Guy says:

    “Ria Mae, an ECMA winning and Juno nominated singer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mae is sub-headlining for Shawn Hook – whoever the fuck that is.”

    Shawn is also a Canadian born, Juno nominated singer who has been releasing music for over a decade, is on the Canada Walk of Fame, with two platinum singles, and tens of millions of YouTube video views. Would have been real easy to find out with a couple extra minutes of research instead of worrying if Steve Earle’s bassist has a vagina or not.

    1. collarboneplatitudetattoo says:

      Wendy, an observed inequality is not evidence of inequity. To make the (somewhat) veiled accusation that the organizers of this fest are somehow discriminatory, aren’t ‘trying hard enough’ (as you said on NTV this evening) or are even straight up sexist because the amount of women headlining is not to your standards is irresponsible, particularly so as a public journalist.

      You’ve made a joke that one of the organizers, Finn, is of course a white male, as if that would be indicated by his aforementioned bigoted behavior. I do not doubt, considering what I’ve heard and read from you on this topic, that you believe sexist, racist prejudice is okay so long as it is targeting people you are ‘bored’ with, i.e. while males. Your apparent brand of pseudo-apathetic gender critical bigotry is not productive or effective. Perhaps that is the reason why the organizers are not pressured by your public whining (which was absolutely cringe worthy, by the way) or this article which is, self admittedly, beating a dead horse.

      As I am writing this, the article comment section is filling up with people who do not appreciate your regressive ideology. I have no doubt you’ll dismiss them all as being part of the problem, or just ‘white males’. Truth of the matter is, you’re the cancerous type of feminist who’s cushy existence leaves you for want of actual problems so you hold your victim-hood over people like a club to beat them with. You’re not oppressed anymore than the guy you publicly slandered this evening for booking bands you don’t think are ‘cool’ enough or consist of enough females. Also, you do not ’embody the local scene’ because you work at Freds and hang out with band memebers, you embody the local hipster who is too far up her own arse to realize how cringe inducing she is, and no one cares what bands or artists you have or haven’t heard of.

      This town need less misinformed axe grinders and more honest journalists who don’t fancy themselves a scene queen.

  2. Mary Hibbs says:

    I came across this opinion, and I’m going to share mine. Like the man said, his only obligation is to get acts that are available and I’m sure cost effective. If they are man woman or beast, it doesn’t matter to him. Face it the acts booked are not exactly top-notch, highly sought after acts. So it doesn’t look like they have a huge budget for this 7-day event. Perhaps all the woman performers, indigenous, people of colour, or transgender acts were all too expensive or the ones who were not too costly were unavailable. Could be many factors which play into which artists were booked. Quite frankly get off your high horse! Stop making every god damn thing a “gender, race, religion” issue. It’s JUSTa concert. There are far more important things going on in the world and our province alone. Also the use of profanity, not very professional.

  3. Support. says:

    I fully agree with your article. There are plenty of artists who could’ve been dropped to have great female artists. LOL-ed at shawn hook comment though, he is a platinum artist. Arguably one of the most currently famous people coming.

  4. One Agitated Reader says:

    Personally I believe the person writing this editorial clearly has an axe to grind, as well as their own biases that are showing through loud and clear. Your ignorance and lack of research in your writing is laughable and makes me wonder how any publication with any sense of self worth lets you publish an article on their website.

    Business is business. Good artists bring in good money, regardless of what is or isn’t between their legs (which I find your obsession with counting that off putting) or what color their skin is or what they identify themselves as. You need to cater to the demographic as an event planner and it doesn’t matter who comes in as long as people will pay to see. Sure, Carrie Underwood,Pretty Reckless, In This Moment or Beyoncé would draw a crowd but they’d be hard to get to come to our neck of the woods. Availability, tour schedules clashing etc etc are also an issue. Personally I think the larger issue here is people not being supportive enough of the music industry to make these big ticket artists people want to see feel like it’d be worth it to come to the island. Not fufilling some mental checklist you have in your head of “1/4 trans, 1/4 women, 1/4 indiginous, 1/4 men”. You further the divide yourself in expecting festivals to be segregated like that. I could rant on and on about how I believe your opinion is one based outside reality, but I’ll cut it abruptly short and reiterate that it’s laughable you manage to be published at all.

  5. Bill Boneya says:

    Your story sucks and you should feel bad.

  6. John says:

    “Pink-haired feminist angry with “the system”.”

  7. scenesterarrogance says:

    Poorly written, poorly researched, sexist and racist rant which relies on the reader also being a regressive gender nazi.
    You don’t speak for the public, people clearly disagree with you. Your prejudiced views and slandering of fest organizers is disgusting.
    I am sorry that you are apparently so indoctrinated that you thought this kind of ignorance was valid to publish online.

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