By Holly Pruett
For a full Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival schedule, visit http://www.michfest.com.
Long before “The L Word,” there was the M-word. Michigan.
To tens of thousands of women around the world, Michigan is more than a state, it’s a state of mind. When it comes to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, that is. Over three decades, the weeklong woodland extravaganza near the town of Hart has attained almost mythic status. It’s an underground legend passed from one smitten festi-goer to the next. It’s the gig performers tell each other, “This, you’ve got to see.” It’s an icon even for those who have never been. For all of the festival’s time-honored past, the secret of its success is that it is totally today. Take “The L Word,” for example. The festival was featured in a flirty exchange between characters played by Annabelle Sciorra and Marlee Matlin. And MichFest now has her own MySpace page (she’s a Leo who prefers impromptu mud wrestling to long walks on the beach).
This year’s Aug. 7-12 performance line-up reflects the best of today’s hip hop, spoken word, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, world beat, dance, folk and comedy scenes.
Melissa Ferrick will be back for more Michigan in her second appearance on the Night Stage after a six-year absence. Also returning to the Night Stage are indie music faves Dar Williams, Laura Love, Catie Curtis and Doria Roberts.
Nedra Johnson’s Fat Bottom Girls will show what can happen when five women get down with their tubas. The beats of God-des and She will get the audience grounded. Divahn’s Middle Eastern Sephardic vocals will blow you away. Brainy punk band Erase Errata and Sarah Bettens, from internationally-acclaimed K’s Choice, will rock your socks off. And when Lez Zeppelin promises “I’m Gonna Give You My Love,” you know you’re going to feel every inch of it … way down inside you. Make sure to pack platform shoes for Saturday night’s show-closing Disco Chix Lix, directed by Alyson Palmer of Betty. And that’s only the Night Stage.
Demonstrating the Acoustic Stage’s cross-generational, cross-genre appeal, Ferron will perform with Bitch, and Cris Williamson will appear with a variety of special guests. Evolution V will create a sacred space with drum and dance from both African and Hawaiian traditions while Faye Driscoll Dance will showcase the power of women’s physicality. Spoken-word and hip-hop aficionados will want to return to Acoustic on Friday for the politically acute raps of Tamil Sri Lankan artist D’Lo. In addition to enjoying full comedy sets by Vickie Shaw, Sabrina Matthews and Karen Williams, campers will fall out of their backpack chairs laughing all week with emcee-in-residence Elvira Kurt.
Buy an all-inclusive ticket before July 14 to get the early-bird advance rate.
If the 40 performances aren’t enough, the ticket price also includes three delicious vegetarian meals a day, camping on a beautiful square mile of oak and fern forest, hundreds of workshops, a film festival, sporting events and crafts bazaar, along with countless dances, parades, open mics and parties. For no extra charge, attendees can take advantage of a full range of community services, from networking for women of color and sign language interpretation to child care, first aid and transportation.
While other feminist events and institutions have come and gone over the past four decades, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival persists. But the Michigan experience is not to be taken for granted. If you haven’t attended in a while, or you’ve yet to make the trip, check it out. And then tell your friends about the real deal: the M word.