The ladies of Siren Nation are on their way

Because the last truly great women’s music festival I’ve been too was the very first Ladyfest in Olympia the summer of 2000 I’m tempted to compare Siren Nation to that life-changing week. But it ain’t 2000, it’s a weekend fest, and we ain’t in Olympia anymore Toto. And yet, though I may be more jaded than I was at 19, Siren Nation, now in its second year, has the same potential that Ladyfest did, to truly inspire queers and ladies…and even me.

Swan Island

Though technically a fest celebrating women both Friday and Saturday headliners are seminal queercore bands. Ok, so Swan Island is pretty new school but they’re influential as hell and regulars on Logo’s Click List. But despite this queer bent, Siren Nation goes far beyond the Northwest alterna-rock, and is a quite diverse event. For a taste of some of the sounds check out the SN podcast by my colleague at The Oregonian Luciana Lopez.

In fact the fest kicks off this Thursday with a dance party at Holocene (1001 SE Morrison). Unfortunately this means that the younger members of our community can’t attend opening night but maybe it’s a good time for the grownups to have a rap session and alone time. Actually, I’m rationalizing. I liked to dance just as much pre-21 as post, but alas, I appreciate a bar as much as the next lady. But with or without drink the sounds of Djs Beyonda, Anjali, Tahoe Jackson and Ms. Su’ud are bound to be smokin’. Beyonda’s skilled mixing always gives my feet the urge to move, and Angali busts out the Bhangra like no one else in PDX.

But Friday is my day. There’s just nothing quite like seeing the band that shaped your adolescence reunite with equal talent and fervor. You’ve heard me go on and on about them, and their reunion shows. And though its a long time coming, I gotta believe more music, more shows and perhaps a new album are on the horizon. I gotta give them extra props, too, for filling in for the currently high demand The Gossip. Their sound has been infecting my brain much more than TD lately, but they still can’t quite match the cred that Personal Best seems to evoke with its continual appearance on top 10 lists of even the most mainstream publications.


Joining them will be the indescribably cute popsters Swallows. I’ve also heard great things about the vocally talented Liv Warfield and Alela Diane. The evening begins with Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers, Sugar ShortWave, and Blubird at 7p at the Wonder Ballroom (128 NE Russell).

Daytime Saturday switches the focus to film with an epic set down at the Clinton St Theater (2522 SE Clinton Street) beginning at noon and continuing with a 1:30, 2:30 and 4 o’clock show. But each one is different so you could settle in at 12 and not get up for 5 hours. All the shorts have potential and I think folks are especially likely to be excited about the Binary Dolls. I’m most enthused to see the feature length documentary, Boy That I Am, that I keep missing at film festivals and which promises to touch on issues surrounding FTMs that may not be covered elsewhere, especially those concerned with feminism and positioning within queer communities.

But as night falls you’re gonna want to head back up north to the Wonder for the rock. Headliners Swan Island have come to the forefront of the Portland indie music scene with the deeply layered yet catchy “Crumble.” And the close to maniacal movements of lead singer Brisa Gonzalez make their stage presence as well-crafted as their riffs.


Of a much more eclectic and mellow angle comes sweet yet saucy Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn. Born in Pennsylvania and schooled in Oly, Portland can finally claim her as our own. It seems like she’s got about a million albums at this point and each one has a slightly different personality, even if we tend to think of them as a girl and her guitar. But Mirah has always complicated her music with lyrics of humor and intensity and diverse instrumentation.

Siren’s Echo, Tracy Grammer, Marisa Anderson, Jamie Stillway, Ashleigh Flynn, and The Flat Mountain Girls will also take stage Saturday.

And if you’re not burnt out by Sunday that’s when the learning begins with workshops held from 11a-5p at the Kennedy School (5736 NE 33rd Ave). At an hour and 15 minutes each the workshops should be just enough to get a taste of the topic without bogging you down after a busy weekend. As a former college Dj I hope not to miss “Boldly Airing the Female Voice: Church of Girl Radio” although “Women in the Literary Arts” with the publisher from Bitch Magazine is also quite tempting. There are also slots on breaking the gender binary, bike repair, fighting the encroaching police state and all kinds of mind-expanding goodies.

At the same time a community marketplace will also be adding to the hubbub. There will be art from QuArt PDX: Queer Artist Collective, projects from Sarah Dougher’s Cherchez la Femme record label, Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls, Planned Parenthood and more. If you didn’t feel overwhelmed yet, you will now. But what a great way to be inundated…by women.

Make sure to stay tuned for updates from the fest throughout the weekend.

2 comments to The ladies of Siren Nation are on their way

  • Kristan

    For the record and because you should all attend tonight, opening festivities tonight include local favorite DJ Anjali (with a ‘j’). SO as not to be confusing.

  • alley

    My bad. In my haste to get this post up I misspelled Anjali. It’s been corrected so no more confusion. Can’t wait to see you all there.