Carla DeSantis Black is spearheading MEOWCON at the Renaissance Hotel October 24-26th. Black, the former editor of the now-defunct ROCKERGIRL magazine (1995-2005) labels herself as a “lapsed musician,” who moved to Austin specifically for the purpose of putting a conference together that would address the unmet needs of women in the music business.
She’s done it before, in 2000 and 2005, but never like this. The one in Seattle in 2000 was actually bigger, with Ronnie Spector as a keynote speaker, and “Heart” receiving the Woman of Valor award. Courtney Love showed up and did a fantastic question and answer. In 2005, it was the 30th anniversary of “Horses,” and Patti Smith was there.
However, there’s never been a comprehensive gathering with film premieres and panels that specifically address the needs of women in not just rock-n-roll, but all genres of music – inluding classical, jazz, punk. There are over 600 music industry attendees expected and there are some hot issues on the table. Equality in music is at the forefront, with over one third of all musicians being female – but they are hardly ever headliners. For example, only 34 of the 287 acts inducted into the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame are women.
Black says “ACL – first woman you see on the list is Claire Boucher of Grimes, the 24th artist. There are lots of women playing, but they’re not the headliners, they are playing at noon or 3.”
The keynote speaker this year is Suzi Quatro, the groundbreaking “queen of rock” still rocking 50 years into the business. She has sold over 55 million albums worldwide. She was cast in the smash television series “Happy Days” as Fonzie’s rocker pal, Leather Tuscadero and had a 1973 #4 hit with the song, “Stumblin’ In,” a duet with Chris Norman.
Presenting the award is Kathy Valentine of the Go-Gos, who was inspired as a fifteen-year old while on a trip to London with her English mother in the early `70s. Valentine turned on the television and saw Quatro performing. “The only women musicians I had ever seen played acoustic guitars, and there she was in black leather, singing Can the Can,” says Valentine.”
THE INTERVIEW with CARLA DeSANTIS BLACK
AMFM: WHY AUSTIN?
A lot of Austin people had come to my other events. I knew Margaret Moser (honored this year) before I moved here, Rosie Flores, and also Kathy Valentine (the Go-Gos’). I felt like I knew enough people. Also, Austin seemed lateral and sunnier. It’s a forum for an opportunity to talk about the issues that we cannot discuss in polite company. This is a difficult business for anybody but there’s a narrow age and looks gap. When we talk about what it’s like being a mom etc… it’s construed as complaining. We want to smash that window for everyone.
In the early ‘80s it wasn’t so vanilla. It wasn’t one look and one type. Now that young people now are extremely focused on video, there is an issue – young girls that are set up for failure and success simultaneously. That concerns me.
AMFM: MILEY RAY CYRUS
Yes, exactly. the sexualization of very young women.. hit me baby one more time. pretty baby syndrome. it’s harder and harder to become scandalous. Madonna was doing it before, but they were grownups. The newest big star is Lorde, they’ve been grooming here since she was 12. So much bedroom eyes, and come hither look. It creeps me out.
AMFM: SO THIS TOPIC WILL BE COVERED
Yes, one of many. We have some great panels. On Thursday there will be a dinner where we will present Suzi Quatro, who’s coming from England, the Women of Valor award – women who have broken ground for other women. She will be performing five songs. She is the role model of Joan Jett. No woman before her was on the cover of Rolling Stone, and that was before she was “Leather Tuscadero” on Happy Days. Next year 50th anniversary in show biz, and she says when she turns around and shakes her ass and no one applauds she’ll quit. So she’s in her ‘60s and they’re still applauding.
We will also honor Margaret Moser from the Austin Chronicle, Director of the Austin Music Awards… she’s very ill, in stage four cancer. She’s been one of my biggest champions. The best press I ever got came from herand the Chronicle, it was a deciding factor in coming here to Austin.
I wanted to do something for her, she was the first one to help, she’s such a bright light, and has done so much for so many.
AMFM: SHE’S AN AMAZING WRITER
Yes she is! Her writing reminds me of Cameron Crowe. She started all this while dropping out of school, and returned to get her G.E.D. She was a groupie, and very proud of it, she’s a super intelligent woman.
On Friday Suzi will speak, and there will be three different tracks of panels, we’re calling it ICE. The “I” is for “Impact.”
Women like Suzi Quatro, Kathy Valentine, Fright Wig (a pioneering punk band from San Francisco), Patricia Knealy Morrison (married to Jim Morrison), first editor at Jazz and Pop magazine. She’s just done a book of her old columns.
The “C” is for “Career.” How to get into film, be a better guitar, make better videos, website, etc. The last is “E” for “Equality.” How do women really get a handle on their career and compete? Like “Why Do Girls Go Bad,” “My Anonymous,” which is how girls are treated on blogs, and how you can combat that. That’s timely, considering the Sinead O’Connor Miley Ray Cyrus fracas.
How do we combat that? Is there something we can do as female artists, do we need Affirmative Action, or a Title IX?
But we’re also having a happy hour, and 92 performers on five stages. So it will be fun.
AMFM: THIS IS A TREMENDOUS UNDERTAKING. THE PANELS ADDRESS PROBLEMS THAT BIND US TOGETHER AS WOMEN.
There’s also a classical panel. (I put the classical and jazz together for this conference). A woman at UT emailed me and told me she was in music composition at UT. Her dream is to be a classical composer, and she was the only woman in a class of 30 – so she dropped out.
They’re all having the same problems. The jazz musicians are having conversations here, the punks are talking over there, let’s put them all in the same room. How do we take a minority and make it a majority? Women’s voices are being completely lost in the conversation. Women aren’t even writing their own songs.
Yes. We are not seeing all female bands, we’re not seeing female drummers where it’s not a novelty. It’s still a novelty. I’d like that to go away.
AMFM: THIS BRINGS TO MIND KELLY CLARKSON – SHE’S DOING IT HER WAY AND SUCCESSFULLY
In spite of the fact that she is from a small town, and was the first American Idol winner – she took on the caste system and Clive Davis. She’s got balls.
AMFM: GOOD FOR HER. MAYBE SHE CAN PAVE THE WAY AS AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW.
And there are a few women like Grimes, who did a whole thing about how she was being bullied online, and sexism. Also Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches, who addresses online misogyny, bullying and how its not acceptable. When you go into the belly of the beast and realize what’s going on, how unfairly you’re treated – as if women aren’t real musicians. nobody goes into this thinking that they’ll be treated like a piece of meat.
AMFM: TO BE FAIR, THE BOYS GET TREATED AS MEAT TOO.
It’s still unfair. You can get away with being Meatloaf, you can get away with being any of the Rolling Stones. But women? Take Ann Wilson for example – she gained weight. The main music writer of the Seattle times wrote article after article of how awful it was how Ann looked and how dare she. But he was not attractive – he was heavier than Ann, and had a pock-marked face.
AMFM: IT’S ALWAYS THAT WAY. THE MOST REPREHENSIBLE TROLLS ON THE INTERNET SURFACE BECAUSE OF ANONYMITY. WHAT ABOUT THE FILMS PREMIERING?
There’s also six films. All the films are about women in music. We have some amazing filmmakers coming with She Rocks,About women guitar shredders, and many of these women will actually be here – Patti Quatro, Suzi Quatro, Jennifer Batton, June Millington. It’s a world premiere. My son is actually working on the film, he’s an editor in Los Angeles.
We’ll have The Winding Stream, about the Carter family. It’s got the last interview with Johnny Cash. We are just showing parts of that because it’s still in process.
WORLD PREMIERE – Guitar Girl Magazine is proud to present She Rocks, a feature-length documentary film that showcases high-caliber female guitar players both past and present, from June Millington to Orianthi, and explores the gender disparity that still exists in the world of professional guitarists.
THE WINDING STREAM
Lady Be Good – women in instrumental jazz
Rock N Roll Mamas – juggling music and motherhood
When Things Go Wrong – The Robin Lane Story
Rock, Rage & Self Defense: An Oral History of Seattle’s Home Alive – When a beloved local singer is murdered, a community responds.
For more information on MEOW services and staff visit www.meowonline.org
REGISTRATION PRICES (Full access to panels, keynote, films, performances, workshops, trade show)
$225 – September 30, 2013
$275 – October 1, 2013 – October 20, 2013
$325 – October 21, 2013 – Walk-up
WRISTBANDS – EVENING SHOWCASES ONLY
$45 through October 20th
$70 – after October 20th
WOMAN OF VALOR AWARD OPENING NIGHT BANQUET HONORING SUZI QUATRO
(with a special performance by Suzi) $125 – Thursday evening, October 24th (7:00 PM) No tickets will be sold at the door.
$50 – VIP pre-show cocktail meet and greet with Suzi (5:00 PM)
$375 – VIP PASS (Registration, preferred seating at WOV banquet and VIP Reception) available only through September 30, 2013
Austin Music Bus Tour
$35 per person – Take a 2-hour tour of Austin’s sights and sounds on Sunday after the conference. Busses leave at 10AM and 1PM – tickets must be purchased in advance.
They are instantly recognizable, the music and albums that have shaped popular culture for generations. ICON explores the inside story of the most memorable albums that you know and love – with those that were there.
Your hosts Paul Doty and Roman Guzman “take a swing” at Molly Hatchet with bass player Banner Thomas on October 26th.