not enough fest 2015

First-time musicians rule at Not Enough

Participants will be female, queer, transgetimage.jpg

Stephanie Olsen, left, and Jenna Turner are two of the organizers of the Not Enough Festival this weekend at the McKernan Community League.

Edmonton’s music scene can seem like an insular and intimidating secret club to join. You need to know where to play, how to get a gig, attract paying (or beer-drinking) customers, and THEN you have to impress the distracted (beer-drinking) crowd with your unique vision and prowess. Needless to day, testing the waters as a new musician might feel even more daunting than your first day at high school.

Especially in a scene filled with guys. While there are more women on local stages than ever before — including Switches, Lad Mags, Sister Gray, Nature Of, Lyra Brown, Nuela Charles, BMBSHL, Tang Twinz, Faith Healer — there are still not enough. Enter Not Enough Fest, a movement to encourage more “women, queer, trans, and non-binary people” — those who don’t identify as male or female — to pick up instruments and be heard. After months of preparation, including mixers, workshops and a gear drive, 17 first-time acts will perform on Saturday at McKernan Hall. (Organizers don’t have precise numbers, but say there about 30 to 40 participants and “a lot” are queer, including a few men.)

“We’re trying to diversify the music scene and encourage new voices, create a more supportive atmosphere for new musicians,” says violinist Jenna Turner, who will play with Slains, an instrumental noise-rock outfit.

Turner took lessons as a child, but didn’t even think she could play in a band, until a friend asked her to join a short-lived group, The Quails, a few years ago. “It was just so supportive being with other women who were trying things for the first time as well,” she says. “But once I was in that band, I moved onto other projects, so it really opened a door for me.”

Turner wants to open doors for other newcomers as one of seven organizers of Not Enough Fest, inspired by similar events around North America and a how-to guide posted on indie music site, weirdcanada.com.

The Edmonton festival got its start last year, with a series of mixers to raise awareness, plot out schedules, and let aspiring musicians meet potential bandmates. Then came a gear drive/bake sale — where people donated 40 different instruments, pedals, speakers, cables to some of the festival’s musicians — followed by months of rehearsals at Black Box Studios and various workshops.

Stephanie Olsen, another organizer, learned how to play drums and joined three bands for Saturday’s show — Feed Dogs, a pop-punk project; Teeth, a doom-punk act; and Fell, a more grunge-flavoured band.

“I had tried playing some other instruments before, like guitar and keyboard, but I just didn’t find them that fun, so I wanted to try something different,” she says.

“It was very immediate that I realized that drums are the most fun instrument. I found it much easier to pick up and it was really exciting to improve …. This is something I want to continue for the rest of my life.

“I feel more people would have the same experience but drums aren’t super-accessible — especially to women, queer and trans people. It tends to be a very male instrument.”

Think about it — how many female drummers can you name off the top of your head? There’s the now-reclusive Meg White, or Prince’s former percussionist, Sheila E. (Cram this one in your cranium for future reference: Jenni Roberts. She drums for Edmonton’s Tee-Tahs and Jom Comyn, when she’s not playing bass on tour with TOPS.)

Thanks to Not Enough Fest, Jacqueline Ohm made the switch from acoustic to electric guitar, and learned how to use a loop pedal, which allows her to create haunting layers of melodies, rhythms and vocals, like a one-woman band. The artist, model and mother of one says the festival came at the right time in her life — she had just gone through “the worst breakup” and was craving an artistic outlet and empowerment.

“Not Enough Fest made me start picking up my music again because I had let it die during my last relationship,” she says. “It wasn’t well supported and then, through this festival, I was given a community of support. That was exactly the energy I needed.”

Making music accessible also applies to audience members, ensuring all ages, abilities and income brackets can attend gigs.

With the help of a crowdsourcing campaign through Indiegogo, Not Enough Fest was able to rent McKernan Community League, a wheelchair-accessible venue near an LRT station. Saturday’s show will be open to all ages, with admission by donation and “safe(r) space” guidelines in place.

“We encourage people to contribute to a respectful environment,” explains Olsen. “Be mindful of the way you’re impacting the people around you, in terms of offensive language.”

Even with all their bestlaid plans, Not Enough Fest organizers might face one major accessibility issue — not enough space. McKernan Community League can only hold 145 people in its main hall, but more than 650 people say they’re attending Saturday’s show, according to the event page on Facebook.

This potential conundrum has led to some spirited discussion on social media — should certain audience members take priority over others? — but it also underlines the need for more Not Enough Fest events.

“We’ve had so much support and interest in the community, I think it’s safe to say Not Enough Fest will continue on in some form,” says Olsen.

“Not Enough Fest made me start picking up my music again because I had let it die during my last relationship.”