Ladyfest 2017

LadyFest Syracuse offers inclusive space to celebrate art, music and community

LadyFest Syracuse provided a safe space for the celebration of music and art on Saturday night with profits going toward Vera House.


This Saturday, while Paul McCartney played in the Carrier Dome, an all-inclusive music-based feminist festival, LadyFest, held its fourth annual social gathering to champion “women, POC, and the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Cara Luddy, a graduate of Syracuse University, organized LadyFest for the second time after Meghan Tamilio started the event in Syracuse four years ago.

Photo: Emily Elconin
Beau Mahdev performs at LadyFest on Sep. 23, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.

“It’s always been open to different gender identities and gender expressions” Luddy said, “I think when I got on board, I wanted to make it really explicit that that was the case.”

She said she wanted to make sure people are aware that LadyFest is an “intersectional feminist festival,” unlike others that may not be inclusive of trans or non-binary people. She also said that the event would be completely music-based this year as the open mics featured in the past did not always go well.

Despite being a community-based, non-profit event, LadyFest events have been held across the globe. The first was held in Olympia, Washington in 2000.

“It’s definitely grown … [and] drawn bigger crowds every year," Luddy said. "I’m expecting a really big turnout this year, just from numbers on Facebook and just because it is more well-known now.”

Money raised at the event goes to support the expenses of out-of-town musicians as well as Vera House, Inc.,  a Syracuse service agency that has advocated for and supported people affected by domestic and sexual violence since the 1970s. This year, the event brought in $260 for Vera House from nearly 100 attendees. Last year, the event brought in $410 for Vera House and had more than 100 people attend. 

LadyFest was held at Spark Art Space on East Fayette Street. In lieu of a strict admission price, LadyFest asked for "pay-what-you-can" donations. As fest-goers entered the building, they smiled and laughed as they met the child drawing clumsy X marks on the back of their hands and tallying attendance.

Flyers were scattered across the admission table, some for a free DACA legal clinic. which also appeared on LadyFest Syracuse’ Facebook. Luddy said she wanted to spread word about Volunteer Lawyers Project, for which her friend Herve Comeau organized a legal clinic the following day to assist in DACA renewal and other related legal matters.

The festival featured numerous local vendors and organizations. From chocolate chip banana bread and puppy-painted art to vintage clothing and creative zines by SU student Darriea Clark, to an array of books exhibited by International Socialist Organization to a table of “No Fur” patches and “Meat isn’t Macho” stickers by Syracuse Animal Rights Organization. There were artists selling paintings on paper and denim clothing to advocates for Black Lives Matter Syracuse NY with sign-up sheets.

The space buzzed with conversation and diversity. People mingled by the tables, by the cooling fans, on the streets, leaning against poles and sitting on ledges. Every once in a while, someone would call out that a musician was playing, and the dynamic of the space would shift. Three punk bands, one hip-hop artist and an alternative act were featured this year.

“I try to choose all these femme-fronted [bands], or people of different gender identities, people of color,” Luddy said. “Punk and hardcore is really liberating. It’s important to express anger … just to get active, and move your body, and feel those feelings.”

Each act was side-lit by neon lights and accompanied by a room full of people nodding and dancing. One ESF student noted that the music felt “younger” this year, referring to the people who performed, such as Dirtybandaid, which is self-described as “another angsty teenage punk band.” 

One of the highlights of the show was female rapper MoeBetta Thagoddess. After she performed three new songs that she wrote for the event, the audience cheered and chanted for an encore. She obliged.

“A bit of 90’s hip hop mixed with a bit of funk and jazz” is how Moe describes her music. She said her lyrics started as just poems until a friend suggested they would sound good to a beat.

She said draws from “real experience and real feelings” so that her rap will make people think.  While trying to keep her music relatable, Moe incorporates social issues by dropping hints in her lyrics. The lyrics to the songs she performed were about strength and releasing negative energy through music. “The Shining” is about “dealing with how people pile up on you, talk about you, and make you feel like crap, but deep inside you really just want to shine,” while “Broken Mirrors” tries to express that, “you look at me, all you see is the brokenness, you don’t see the bigger picture [and] who I really am inside.”

Luddy's choices in musical acts, vendors, artists and more speak to her vision for LadyFest Syracuse. 

“I want it to always be local and built by the people who live in the community,” Luddy said, “I hope it’s always going to stay a DIY, self-produced, community event.”


Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.