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Early this spring, as multi-day music mega-festivals announced their lineups on social media, a new meme took hold. Fed up with summer after summer of concert stages brimming with dudes, fans and bloggers blacked out the names of every male-only act on the docket, leaving most promo posters conspicuously blank. It’s a handy aid for visual learners and a sharp whack on the forehead for those who’d pooh-pooh allegations of entrenched misogyny in the music industry.
With D.C.’s festival season looming, we compared four area lineups: Sweetlife, Landmark Music Festival, Capital Jazz Fest, and Maryland Deathfest. The bands you see in the altered versions, as far as we could tell, contain at least one member who identifies as a woman. The ones missing—in each festival, it was an easy majority—are entirely composed of men. And, as in the worlds of business and politics, most of the women are clustered near the bottom while men take top billing. The problem, of course, lies not just with individual bookers but in structural barriers to women taking up and succeeding in popular music. It’ll take a lot more than a poster and Photoshop to dismantle that.
Sweetlife Merriweather Post Pavilion, May 30-31 12 of 28 acts (43 percent) include women Sweetgreen’s foray into outdoor entertainment was the most gender-balanced on our list. Still, there are only three all-woman acts on the schedule, and they’re solo artists.
Landmark Music Festival West Potomac Park, Sept. 26-27 17 of 41 acts (41 percent) include women This brand-new event gets an OK score, but most of the 17 include just one woman. The only all-woman band (that is, not a solo act) is local favorite Ex Hex.
Capital Jazz Fest Merriweather Post Pavilion, June 5-7 10 of 29 acts (34 percent) include women On Jazz Fest’s closing day, the entire mainstage lineup is dudes. Chances of the emcee making some stupid joke about that: way higher than 34 percent.
Maryland Deathfest Baltimore: a parking lot, Rams Head Live, and Soundstage 7 of 90 acts (8 percent) include women Anyone surprised? It appears that only one all-woman act will perform at Deathfest: Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation, a grindcore fourpiece from Japan that may also be the only group to smile in its band photo. (Thantifaxath’s three members are anonymous, but I sided with probability and blacked ‘em out.)