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Shor-T, DJ

DJ Shor-T is spinning for this Friday’s Art Party with Women’s Center for Advancement at House of Loom (9pm-2am, see below for details). She shares with LFF about making mix tapes since she was a kid, her favorite kind of music, taking potentially degrading song lyrics lightly and more…

background/from Ne?

I am from Omaha, been DJing in clubs since 2001. I lived in Denver for 3 years, but came back a year and a half ago.

How’d you get into music/DJing?

I’ve always been really into music. Been making mix tapes and in charge of music at parties since I was a kid. I worked at a CD store in high school, and started radio in college. After college is when I really started DJing though. I took the slow nights for very little pay and learned how to read and work a crowd. When I met all the other DJs at Hot 107.7/97.3 back in 2003, I would watch, listen, and learn from them everyday. They had been doing it a lot longer than me. I took every DJ gig that came my way, and sometimes worked 5 or 6 nights a week. I get better everyday, I’ll never stop trying to improve myself as a DJ.

Tell me about your style/what inspires you?

Although I feel like I am very versatile, and with preparation I could DJ almost any genre, I know and love hip-hop more than any other genre. Especially old school. Mostly 90s. I feel like that’s when hip-hop was at it’s best, and to see people’s reactions to those songs is so fun and addicting. It’s like I’m bringing back good memories. I love hip-hop. Not just the music, but the entire culture. I’ve been in love with hip-hop since I heard the Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill back in 1986. My style of DJing is very smooth, I like to mix and blend songs into each other as smooth as possible.

Does feminism play a role in your work?

I don’t really get offended by much, I know that hip-hop can be very degrading to women at times, but I honestly never felt like those lyrics applied to me. I figured, yeah, there probably really are some women that don’t act right…men too. Maybe that isn’t the right way to look at it, but I don’t take those songs too seriously. I’m more into music for the way it sounds. If it makes me feel good, I’m going to want to play it.

Any hints on what you’ll be playing Feb. 1?

I’ll most likely spin some old school hip-hop mixed with r&b, and throw in a few jams from today. I’ll be sure to include some of my favorite female emcees, such as Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott & Lil Kim.

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See DJ Shor-T spin Friday, Feb. 1, 9p.m.-2a.m., House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th St., fo: House of Loom X Brooke Masek X Les Femmes Folles host
An Omaha First Friday Art Party Fundraiser for
The Women’s Center for Advancement.
$5 minimum door donation / 21+ / 9pm - 2am; details here.
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║ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE DOOR DONATED TO WCA ║
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▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ About WCA ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
http://www.wcaomaha.org/
The Women’s Center for Advancement’s mission is to help women and their families build lives of strength, growth and self-sufficiency.

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V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls inspired by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues. With a variety of city-wide events leading up to V-Day on Feb. 14th, we’re starting things off early by hosting an art party fundraiser for Omaha’s local charity, Women’s Center for Advancement.

The night will include …
▼ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
▷ Les Femmes Folles Open Art Show
▷ Live performance from Mallory Finch & Company
▷ Live visual art
▷ Dance party w/DJ Shor-T
▷ Representatives with info from WCA

▷ Debut of the #DecencyCampaign: House of Loom announces the launch of its new campaign to promote respect and decency toward all individuals, regardless of gender, orientation, politics, or race. Come prepared to answer the question: What does decency mean to you? What tips can you give to be a better person to other persons?

my house of loom story

In light of recent serious situations, I wanted to share my story about House of Loom (what is House of Loom? See below). I don’t make any money off of this blog or for that matter, my art or heck mothering, either, but I want to use it to spread awareness for feminist good and sometimes it happens if even a tiny bit, so here goes!

In August 2011 I was searching for a new place to host my little underground nude reading event, “Lit Undressed.” I found House of Loom online and thought it sounded really great—their purpose/mission of weaving arts and creativity to connect all communities. I emailed the info and got in contact with Brent, and we made an appointment to give me a tour of the place.

When I got there I realized it was the old Goofy Foote! I know this place, I watched Jazzwholes numerous times here—it was always crowded, dark, smoky and fun (this was before having kids, of course; now I rarely get out past 10pm).  But now, gone was the leather and old video games; gone were the clunky chairs and darts; it was open; low velvet covered antique couches with bohemian adornments made it inviting, peaceful (I later learned, when I was out one of the handful of times past 10pm while participating in Harouki Zombi (a feminist [my words] DJ/performance duo) at House of Loom, that the women involved in starting the place had a major hand in the interior décor, making it the homey, sensual place that it is. There is always more than meets the eye!).

Anyway, of course I knew it was perfect, and Brent was totally open to letting me curate/produce however I liked; and we realized we were both Westside grads (he of course much younger) and his dad was the beloved chemistry teacher! Wow! Of course my crush was with Mr. Hall but I digress…

That fall, Lit Undressed: Fashion in Literature (in conjunction with (downtown) omaha lit fest) was awesome; to note, again, this is an event including nude readings by both men and women. The House of Loom staff was accommodating, respectful and genuinely interested in our craft and story.

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artist Dan Richters at Drink n Draw, 2011…photo by g thompson higgins

From there I moved another of my little creative nude events to House of Loom; Drink n Draw. For those of you who don’t know, this runs like a figure drawing class without instruction, and with music and drink. Professional male and female models pose for artists who draw, paint or sculpt them. The upper lounge of House of Loom with its sort of 1940s flare, mood lighting and their choice of music usually something French and artistic, has proved totally inspiring for artists and models. We have never experienced any squabble from House of Loom (side from a model who ‘forgot’ his robe once, my fault!)—only the most accommodating experience, from locking the upper door to keep our models warm, to giving the artists an extra hour for Happy Hour.

Of course, perhaps my main creative baby is Les Femmes Folles; as a responsive community member/supporter and friend, Brent invited me and encouraged me to bring my conversation outside of the blog with whatever I imagined—forum, reading, performance, or social hour.

It was perfect timing, after producing two successful Les Femmes Folles visual exhibits (RNG Gallery, April 2011; Peerless Gallery, July 2011); other people had expressed interest in this, as well.

So I did; December 2011 five artists who are women (Eddith Buis, Leslie Diuguid, Wanda Ewing, Amy Nelson and Emma Nishimura) participated in a panel about their careers and art, being women, feminism, how to deal with letdowns and whatever else the audience asked. Read more about it here. The audience was about 30, but passionate, diverse and meaningful nonetheless.

This was great, let’s do more! Brent encouraged, so we did; I partnered with X-Rated: Women in Music in February 2012 for  “Women in Performance Roundtable“ (with Laura Burhenn of the Mynabirds, Anna McClellan of Howard, Susann Suprenant of aetherplough, singer-actress Kirstin Kluver and Felicia Webster of Verbal Gumbo). It was inspiring “on a whole new level” I remember Brent telling me. The women of diverse backgrounds spoke about their experience with discrimination or not, feminism or not, and ended with performance. Audience was small but again inspiring. I wrote about it here; Kevin Lawler, an audience member/performer, kindly wrote about it as well, here.

March of course is National Women’s History Month; without a blink, Brent invited me to host a series of films about the very subject. I then invited women from the community to pick a movie that was inspiring to them to share; “Soup n Cinema Celebrates Women’s History Month” included Women Art Revolution! presented by the Nebraska Feminist Network; Who Does She Think She Is? presented by LFF (including a book release/reading of my first Les Femmes Folles book); Desk Set presented by librarian Amy Mathers; and Shut Up and Sing presented by X-Rated: Women in Music. Each filming included soup donated by a woman-owned business (Patricia Catering, DOLCE Café and Belle VUE Café), and a discussion led by the host. Attendance for some was sparse; but we chalked that up and moved forward. If even a few attended, it was worth it.

April was Les Femmes Folles: VOICE exhibit at The New BLK; a huge deal for me and co-curator Megan Loudon Sanders who had been planning for months, and all of the women artists exhibiting. It was a huge success with an outpour of excitement and support (read about it here). I remember seeing Brent there and joking that he was “my biggest fan.” Of course I knew he attends most art openings to support the community, but it was delightful seeing him outside of House of Loom nonetheless. Again at the very opening, he was talking to me about more we could do artistically and with LFF. This man does not stop for his community!

I was still having Drink n Draws at House of Loom, already planning for the next Lit Undressed, and decided to have a mother-artist panel with Momaha.com in June.  “The Act of Creation: A Momma-Artist Panel/Performance” included insight from Jamie Pressnall of Tilly and the Wall; visual artist Kim Reid Kuhn; spoken word artist Michelle Troxclair; fashion designer/entrepreneur Megan Hunt; visual artist Rachel Mindrup; playwright Ellen Struve; dancer/photographer Julian Adair; musician Kendra Campbell; with the emcee, Josie Loza, editor of momaha.com. Phew! As you can tell, this subject was close to my heart—the lovely women talked about their work, experience being mothers-women-artists, feminism and more. The artists brought work to share/show, the performers each gave startling performances from dance to poetry to reading to live music. It was awesome! Read more about it here.

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Momma-Artist Panel, June 2012

Attendance was pretty good, but the outlook and connections were the best; new connections, new perspectives, all in good love that is Loom!

I was honored to host a conversation about feminism during Loom Weaves Joslyn in July; a small crowd came together in a circle to hear poet Katie F-S, artist Wanda Ewing, Leigh Ellis of Omaha Creative Institute; and community activist Angela Lapin talk feminism and the Omaha community. It was one of the most inspiring conversations we’ve had because of the brutal honesty not only of the panelists but of the audience, some of whom shared their personal struggles and coming to feminism.

So onward another roundtable with X-Rated in September 2012; DJ Lauren J, Jenna Morrison of Conduits; singer-songwriter Rene Gosch; Jasmine Reed of Prototype XX; singer-songwriter Wendy Jane Bantam with host Hilary Stohs-Krause of X-Rated came together and shared very personal accounts with discrimination, others more about their careers and artistic perspective. Performances afterward continued to inspire showing the true talent of these women. Read more about them here.

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Jasmine Reed & Y’Shall Davis of Prototype XX performing at Women in Performance Roundtable 2, September 2012

Sadly, this one lacked presence; maybe 5 people had shown up to hear these upstanding women; I was disappointed and quite honestly tired. I wanted to make a difference but how could we? Brent and I agreed there was something missing; I remember him positively saying “we could assume people in the community don’t care, but let’s not.” He said, think about another time, maybe even another venue, or another method.

If you know me, you know I’m full of ideas and methods, too many—I spoke and asked around about a night of women in comedy; an academic presentation on feminism and the community—how to help or get help; a more gritty Twat Talk, Feminism for those Who Aren’t Feminists; one of my favorites was Bra Gong Show- bring a bra (or any item of clothing/toiletry to donate to Lydia House) and share your art/story/idea in 5 minutes —but no one really grabbed on, wanted to move forward, so it wasn’t the time. Brent continued to encourage me, but I wanted to step-back, try and spend my time writing or just going out for fun.

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me and Brent planning something major I’m sure…photo by g thompson higgins

Now maybe is the time—a public conversation about human rights, feminism, sexual assault including the whole community—Brent is doing it! I will join, and hope you will too.

For what its worth, with all of my crazy events which include some very potentially vulnerable situations, nothing has ever gone down outside of waiting too long at the bar for a drink (to be sure, they take pride in their lofty craft cocktails, but some people just want a quick beer—or a Shirley temple with rum, if you’re paying). Also to note, all of the Les Femmes Folles events have been free with donations encouraged for Lydia House home for women.

In regards to the recent happening, it’s horrifying that situations like sexual assault happen in our community—but they happen everywhere, in every area of the city. It is always good to express and share those situations and figure out what to do next.

House of Loom has shown courtesy and respect for me and Les Femmes Folles; to me, their community focus and inclusive intent (see below), generosity and follow through, exhibits true feminist spirit.  So I echo that respect to them.

What’s your House of Loom story?

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House of Loom, as per stated on their website: House of Loom is a place of respect and self expression. If was founded on the belief that dance can weave people from all walks of life.

House of Loom is a safe haven for cultural enthusiasts, gay, straight, old, young, women, color, foreign and the like. We expect tolerance and respect for all from our staff, talent using the space and all patrons. Disrespect to another’s safety, privacy or rights to express themselves within Loom will not be tolerated and abusers will be removed from the establishment. We have a zero tolerance policy on this matter.

We do and will continue to better ourselves in ensuring our core beliefs are met.

We feel blessed by all your love and support.

- House of Loom

Roundtable Preview!

So much has happened since my last mini-column in July. Today being my son’s first day in kindergarten, and the week of Les Femmes Folles & X-Rated: Women in Music’s second Women in Performance Roundtable (Thursday, 6pm, FREE, House of Loom, details below), I thought I’d write a few things down…

Indeed! The last partnered Roundtable with X-Rated: Women in Music in February was awesome. We knew we wanted to partner again for another. In June, I/Les Femmes Folles partnered with Momaha.com to present a momma-artist roundtable/performance, and now its time for another public chat on women in performance—this time with Lauren J, a DJ, and four other women in music. 

For my previous roundtables, it has been requested that I tell a little about each artist and why they were selected. Well, they are always all talented in what they do, and also upstanding, strong women, and I try to vary their backgrounds, whether that’s age, travel experience, art style, race, philosophy…to try and get the “roundest” roundtable we can.

This Thursday, these women will grace your presence…

DJ Lauren J. otherwise known as Hypoxik. I featured Lauren on Les Femmes Folles when she was DJing with her sister in Polari Step in June of 2011 (see interview here) and Lauren solo in January 2012 (here). Lauren is also a mainstay DJ in House of Loom’s monthly Dames Hit the Decks, which actually starts right after our Roundtable Thursday! As a DJ who is a woman, she has faced unique challenges in the industry that is dominated by men. But she stays positive and continues to prove herself.

 

Lauren J. (right)

            “We believe that being girls is the biggest thing that impacts our career both in a negative and positive way.  Positive because people like seeing girls DJ. It’s new and exciting and really helps us get our foot in the door. Then when they see we’re actually talented they get really excited. So we don’t have problems getting gigs or fans. But that appeal also affects us in a negative way. DJing is not a competition for us, it is an art form we love. We believe you can learn from other DJs regardless of their level of talent.  Shannon and I are talented and work hard. You just have to develop a tough skin.” ~ Lauren J., June 2011

Jenna Morrison, lead singer of Conduits, was interviewed on LFF in October 2011 (interview here). She has been singing “before she could speak” with encouragement from her mother and has been the lead in Conduits since 2009. They’ve traveled the US performing. She has also sung with experimental group Mummy Train. She has been a teacher with Omaha Girls Rock and feels strongly about the impact of the social stigma placed on girls growing up.

Photo of Jenna by DP Muller Photography.

            “Are things this way because I am/she is a woman? Having listened more to other women’s struggles, and thinking about my own past struggles in working with people, it really is hard to deny that these things effect the way people look at us and treat us. Especially in the arts. And, I feel like denial of this problem is one of the biggest obstacles that women of all walks of life in this country deal with, daily. Gratefully, I was granted the opportunity to co-teach a class on self esteem and stage fright at the Omaha Girls Rock! Camp this past summer (‘11 with Rene Gosch of Blue Rosa and Sara Wilch), as this particular subject is very, very important to me. “ ~Jenna Morrison, October 2011

Jasmine Sha’Vonne Reed of the duo Prototype XX (with Y’Shall Davis) was introduced to me via Felicia Webster of Verbal Gumbo (which by the way, is celebrating their first anniversary Sept. 20 details here). As previously stated, I ideally like to have as much diversity as possible on the roundtables, on all fronts, to provide the most perspective on the topics covered. I asked Felicia if she knew of a woman in music of color who might be interested in sharing her story at the roundtable and she suggested Jasmine and Y’Shall—and after viewing the hip-hop’s duo stellar website and introductory video (prototypexx.com), I knew they would be awesome and was thrilled when they were willing.

Prototype XX (Jasmine Reed and Y’Shall Davis)

            “…we meet a lot of men who want you to barter your body for contacts. Or you’ll see them invest money into guys not wanting to financially back a woman. We respond by investing into ourselves and studying the business aspect of the industry…We do what we do to empower women giving them a voice as well as utilizing music as an opportunity to tell our story. “ ~ Jasmine Sha’Vonne Reed & Y’Shall Davis via email, 2012

I was so honored when René Gosch and her band, Blue Rosa, played during the Les Femmes Folles Presents: A Curated Show Featuring Wanda Ewing and Kim Reid Kuhn in July 2011 at Peerless Gallery. Her intense singing with the alternative experimental rock music performance was moody and strong and awesome. I featured her on LFF in September 2011 (here) and enjoyed reading about her childhood bands, living in Chicago and Seattle and experience as a woman in music.

Photo of Rene by Jess Ewald.

Being a woman in music in Omaha, NE is super tough. It’s such a male-dominated area of the arts. If you look at the MAHA music fest, there isn’t one band (to my knowledge) that even has a female in it! But I also feel a power & strength that because there aren’t a ton of female musicians getting props in Omaha, that I’m responsible for making that happen. I’m one voice, but my voice is loud & I know how to use it!” ~ René Gosch, September 2011

I met visual artist, writer and ballad singer/songwriter Wendy Jane Bantam when she was exhibiting her work in Omaha in March 2012 (interview here; my Reader review here). I was immediately captivated by Bantam’s passion for each of her crafts, education and community.  Wendy Jane Bantam has been performing in Nebraska since 2004 with her band: Wendy&The Lost Boys. She is a ballad singer/songwriter and travels to Shropshire, England to perform in a world music festival August 2013.

Wendy Jane Bantam

The whole event will be hosted by X-Rated: Women in Music’s Hilary Stohs-Krause who founded her radio show featuring interviews and playlists of Nebraska women in music, in 2008 with a column in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln newspaper. Along with the radio show (KZUM Lincoln Thursdays, 1-3pm), she contributes photography, reviews and articles under the X-Rated project to Hear Nebraska, hearnebraska.org. I was so thrilled when I came across X-Rated: Women in Music in the summer of 2011, and finally partnered with her early this year. I featured Hilary on LFF in October 2011 (here) and enjoyed reading about her experience as a female journalist (also a male dominated field), and her perspective on the environment for women in music in Nebraska.


Hilary Stohs-Krause

            “From my perspective, the atmosphere for and reception to women making music in Nebraska is spectacular, all things considered. Does that mean we couldn’t do better? That there aren’t still issues? No. But by and large, I would say Nebraska is a pretty great place for lady musicians. “ ~Hilary Stohs-Krause, October 2011

Reading Hilary’s columns, I’ve always been impressed with the photographs she takes herself from the performances she reviews. And guess what? She takes more, too, and is showing them together publicly for the first time THIS FRIDAY (day after the roundtable!) in Lincoln’s SP CE Gallery in the Parrish Building, downtown Lincoln. Check out more details here.

Personally, I get tongue-tied around microphones. To quote another interviewee on LFF, I relish my role as the in-between. (Rachel Jacobson, director/founder of Film Streams, interviewed August, 2011.) However, as of late, people have been inquiring to my personal experiences as an artist, art model, journalist and arts activist…I spoke with KVNO journalist Lindsey Peterson (along with Jenna Morrison) to air tomorrow (Wednesday Sept. 5, 8:30a.m. and 3pm, 90.7 FM) a little about my experiences, feminism and how the roundtables got started. I spoke with Karen Javitch and Jody Vinci Saturday on their a.m. cultural radio show “It’s the Beat!”  which will be posted later today, about my art modeling, writing and activism with women in art. I have never done a q-and-a myself for LFF but here’s a little quote:

            “Feminism, to me, is the belief and interest in the end of sexism. Too, personally, it is a celebration of women and their achievements.” ~ Sally Deskins, 2012

The conversation won’t stop Thursday. I’m in the planning stages for the next roundtable featuring women in comedy and poetry set for November 1, before Dames Hit the Decks. Stay tuned.

Join us Thursday, September 6, for Les Femmes Folles & X-Rated: Women in Music’s Women in Performance Roundtable Vol. 2 at House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th St. Panel discussion will start at 7pm followed by free mini-performances at 8:30p.m. and Dames Hit the Decks with DJ Lauren J. at 10pm. This is all FREE and part of Omaha Creative Week

Female DJs turn the tables on stereotypes | X-Rated: Women in Music

by Hilary Stohs-Krause  | X-Rated: Women in Music  | HearNebraska.org

This story by Hilary Stohs-Krause of X-Rated: Women in Music, about Nebraska DJs Lauren Jeffrey and Ema Strunk, was originally posted on HearNebraska.org January 3. The DJs will be back spinning for another “Dames Hit the Decks" all-female showcase April 5, 10p.m. at House of Loom.  Read on for more about what it takes to be a woman on deck…

Dj Hypoxik

DJing has exploded in the Nebraska scene in the last few years, but the majority of the players are still male, from BASSthoven to DJ Spence to Dustin Bushon to Depressed Buttons.

The minority status of “shejays” is why Brent Crampton with Omaha’s House of Loom organized “Dames Hit the Decks,” an all-female DJ showcase happening Thursday, Jan. 5 at 10 p.m.

“I wanted to just take a night out to celebrate [more women DJing], to put the focus on that, and to bring attention to women DJs and hopefully inspire others to get involved,” he says.

Lauren Jeffrey (stage name Hypoxik) and Ema Strunk (stage name Ema Marco) are both playing on Thursday, and each followed a meandering path to DJing. The former listened to classical music and took piano lessons when she was younger, until the she discovered Daft Punk, DJ Testo and the early creators of electronic music.

“I was home-schooled through junior high, and my mom didn’t really like us listening to Britney Spears or that kind of stuff on the radio,” Jeffrey says.

She and her sister, with whom she used to DJ as duo Polari Step, were first introduced to DJing through her sister’s then-boyfriend and his roommate, who taught them the basics.

“I started doing it for fun, and it’s kind of like a fever,” Jeffrey says. “It’s just the funnest thing ever, and it’s amazing, and it kind of just takes over your life.”

As Hypoxik, she generally plays house and electronic music, depending on the venue and event, and says she has been getting more into dubstep.

Strunk, on the other hand, says she didn’t even used to like music very much.

“The radio annoyed me,” she wrote in an email. “It turned out that I had robot ears and I’d just never heard techno. I finally discovered electronic music when I was 17, and instantly became obsessed.”

An empty room in her apartment became the impetus for taking her love a step further.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about turning it into a techno dance room,” she says. “I had never met a DJ at this point and I didn’t know anything about dance culture, but I got online and ordered my first set of turntables.  When the giant box came in the mail, I had no idea how to even set them up, but it turned out that my dad had been a DJ in the ’70s.  He brought out his old disco records and showed me how to set everything up.”

Those days of trial and error and YouTube tutorials have evolved into “a puppet freak show,” as Strunk describes her DJ sets.

Ema Marco

Given Strunk and Jeffrey’s success, why are there so few women behind the tables?

Crampton hesitates before responding.

“It’s a complicated thing,” he says slowly. “It gets into gender roles, history of gender expectations …”

Both Strunk and Jeffrey have witnessed those expectations firsthand, and often with negative implications or results. In fact, Jeffries says she usually shies away from all-female DJ showcases.

“Depending on who puts it on, it can just reinforce the stereotypes,” she explains.

What kind of stereotypes?

“Ever Google ‘girl dj’?” Jeffrey asks. “Don’t do it; it’s horrible. Just a bunch of scandalous, slutty stuff.”

And while Jeffrey says audiences tend to be more receptive to women, perhaps because they’re so rare, she’s played gigs where she knows the male DJs were paid more.

“Guys who aren’t professional think they can take advantage of you,” she says, referring to recent incidents where venues didn’t want to pay her the fee they agreed upon. “They think they can push you around. And sometimes you have to be up front and in their face.”

She also finds she has to prove herself, prove her skills, because of her gender.

Strunk relates.

“There have been a few times when I’ve been carrying my equipment when club workers referred to me as a DJ groupie or the DJ’s roadie before they realized that I am the DJ,” she says.

But at the same time, both Jeffrey and Strunk acknowledged they’ve been given certain gigs because of their gender.

 “I mean, there’s a certain novelty to it,” Crampton says. “[Women DJs] are not a typical thing.”

He echoes Jeffrey’s comment about the stereotype of the “sexy” DJ:

“It’s really important  … that (female DJs) don’t exploit their sexuality,” he says, “because that demeans the whole field.”

And because male DJs are the norm, Crampton adds, women sometimes have to work harder than they do already, just to be taken seriously.

“I think women almost have to be overly prepared, so they [can] show, ‘Yeah, we can do this, we can do this well, and we can get booked for our skill, and not just our looks.’”

Overall, Jeffrey says that while many people from Omaha have supported her, Lincoln’s scene is much friendlier to women DJs.

“I think a lot of the DJs in Omaha see it as a competitive market,” she says, while she thinks that people should support each other more, whether it’s filling in last-minute for a gig or sharing techniques.

“I think that that’s way more prevalent in Lincoln,” she says. “It’s a more tight-knit community.”

Strunk says while male DJs in Omaha “definitely have control of the limelight,” but says they’re supportive of women in the scene.

“About six months into my DJ career I got recruited into a DJ collective called Duke DJs,” Strunk says. “It’s a group of electro/house/dubstep DJs who share music, mixing techniques, and gigs.  They showed me some turntablism moves and how to phrase songs.”

For women interested in DJing, Jeffrey says that it’s first and foremost a career, not a hobby:

“It’s a really big responsibility,” she says. “People pay money to go see you, money they worked hard for, and they want that feeling. If you’re going to be a DJ … you have to respect that. And you have to be selfless. A lot of DJs I see fail are DJs that play what they want to hear. It’s not about you.”

She says people interested in trying their hand at the tables should do their homework — read books, watch DJs, go to dance parties — and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You also have to be able to evolve, to keep up with current music and technology.

And it’s about much more than merely queuing up records.

“Any musical training in the past definitely helps,” Jeffrey says. “You have to know how to count music, phrasing, the time [signature] … you have to know what key to mix music in.

“It definitely takes a lot of work.”

But she says the payoffs are more than worth it.

“Being a truly great DJ, I mean, just for a moment, you can make a whole room fall in love,” Jeffrey says. “Being a DJ isn’t just choosing a few different songs to play and pushing play. It’s about generating a mood in a room.

“The economy is bad, people are in a bad mood, you just broke up with your girlfriend, whatever — if you have a really good DJ, those records become tools for you to take them to a better place,” she continues. “And that’s powerful.”

Hilary Stohs-Krause brought two huge bins of books home from her mom’s house in Wisconsin over the holidays … so don’t count on seeing her out and about anytime soon. She gets her local music fix through HN and as a cocktail waitress at Duffy’s Tavern. For more on Nebraska ladies making music, tune into the “X-Rated: Women in Music” radio show every Thursday from 1:05 to 3 p.m. CST at 89.3 FM KZUM in Lincoln or streaming live at kzum.org. Find X-Rated on Facebook at facebook.com/xmusicnebraska, on Tumblr at xmusic.tumblr.com, and occasionally on twitter at twitter.com/hilarysk.

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Visit http://www.facebook.com/houseofloom for details on Dames Hit the Decks on April 5.

Women in Performance Panel/Show 2-29-12

This is a somewhat brief review by Sally Deskins, Les Femmes Folles creator. There will be a follow-up piece from another POV posted soon…*

What an evening. As House of Loom partner/co-owner Brent Crampton told me after the Women in Performance Panel/Show, Feb. 29, 2012 at House of Loom, it was “fantastic on a whole new level.”

Last fall Hilary Stohs-Krause of X-Rated: Women in Music and I decided to team up to put together this panel to discuss being women in the music and spoken word/performance arts industries, feminism and general womanhood with a live performance following the talk. Stohs-Krause invited Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds and Anna McClellan of Howard for the music end, and I invited Susann Suprenant of aetherplough, singer-actress Kirstin Kluver and spoken word artist/poet Felicia Webster for the performance art end of the table (little bios below FYI!).

When it finally came together last night, Stohs-Krause and I admitted our nerves; I gave the mic to her to host, as she has experience with it DJing for her weekly radio show on KZUM and as such, as I nervously put it is “a good talker” (this unintentionally snarky comment of mine evidence to the fact that my talents do not lay in the verbal).

Anyways, Stohs-Krause asked invigorating questions to the panel that ranged from beginning careers (Anna, age 19), to “a chunk older” (as Susann self-described herself), to successful in the biz inside and outside the area (all of them, notably Kirstin, Felicia, Susann and Laura), to pertinent POV of being a black feminist (Felicia).

The panel delightfully didn’t hold back; Susann recalled her 4th grade story being told to study Egyptian make-up over hieroglyphics and her recollection of women being ingrained not to express themselves. Kirstin spoke about not using womanhood for manipulation and learning to assert herself. Felicia discussed her specific black feminism, as it is an everyday necessity, how she handles it professionally and “as a barracuda” in her head, and being a mother-artist. Laura recalled trying so hard to prove herself to where she literally hurt herself, and accepting the beauties of being a woman and asking for help. Anna spoke about the casualties of her hanging out with mostly guys.

All of the women expressed realizing and appreciating the Omaha community as being an artist and woman artist. Kirstin talked about her experience in big cities being a dime-a-dozen waitress/actress, the joy of being in the Omaha community where she is so appreciated. Susann recalled when she first moved here immediately planning to move back to a large city, but finally accepting it and even loving the vast open field there is to offer here while also getting out to gleam new perspectives. Felicia also recalled living out of the area in Philadelphia, more of her peers were out there doing creative work, and more of them here are also mothers so must first deal with getting food on the table, but the ample opportunities available in Omaha. Laura boasted the warm community of women musicians and her new website that will feature inspiring women, The New Revolutionists. Anna spoke about her enjoyment of her time playing around the area and excitement for what is to come.

For advice for artists wanting to get out of their shell, the women agreed on being assertive if/when discrimination happens, and just get out there and do it.

Felicia performing at VeRBal GuMBo

“Surround yourself with those who love and support you,” said Felicia Webster, “there are psychic vampires out there who will suck the creativity out of you, so stay away from them.”

Susann Suprenant

“Omaha wants culture and for artists the community holds great opportunity to make that happen. There is no excuse not to create here, so go out there and Do It!” encouraged Susann Suprenant.

Kirstin Kluver

“Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself and say exactly what you need or how you see it,” noted Kirstin Kluver.

Laura Burhenn

Laura Burhenn echoed the thought, “Sometimes you want to just put up with stuff, put your head down and work to prove yourself….but before you put your head down and work, make it known that you won’t be pushed around.”

Anna McClellan

All mentioned the importance of getting to know yourself. “I just realized the other day, I’ve been tense all my life, and I am now relaxing and loving it,” said Anna McClellan.

The outcome was positive, with all around agreement on coming to terms with what it means to be a feminist.

Thereafter Felicia performed an original poem that started with a beautiful acapella of Sukiyaki, the room silent in awe, she went through the ups and downs of a relationship in the piece entitled “Rebound.”

Following that were Susann, Kirstin, Thom Sibitt and Kevin Lawler doing a reading of Susann’s chamber reading time.laughs, adapted from a play she originally produced in 2008 at Shelterbelt Theatre. The title aptly appropriate, the reading took us through anxious thoughts of childhood and life; Suprenant generously offered me a copy of the script (which I should have had her sign), and gave me permission to print this excerpt, which sort of sums up the piece:

“…and our redemption, even as we struggle to dodge it—

seeking that which we believe we are after—

arrives silent as a snowflake.

Oblivious to the flurry,

Nonetheless falling,

Falling to form a snowfield—

Nearly enough to cover the slaughter—

And then a slant of sunlight strikes one crystal,

That unique form,

Unearned,

Enchanted,

Ephemeral.

What we have is…grace.”

So enthralling hearing the four esteemed actors read from this poignant script in this perhaps single performance of the reading.

Laura Burhenn and The Mynabirds followed with a few of their lovely tunes, getting ready for their big tour to promote their new album which Burhenn noted was “distinctly feminist” lyrically.

The next performance of theirs will be March 23 with Howard and Big Harp.

And Howard followed led by Anna McClellan, reminiscent of the fun 1980s with an indie-vibe.

It really was a significant evening— so encouraging and hopeful to hear the women’s varied experiences with discrimination (or not), life, feminism and getting to know each of their own voices, and letting them out.

This was the third of X-Rated: Women in Music’s roundtables, and Les Femmes Folles second (the first was in December 2011; review can be read here.)  No doubt there will be more!…

Starting with next Wednesday, March 7, the first in House of Loom’s Soup n Cinema celebrates Women’s History Month series—-each Wednesday at 7pm, a different not-for-profit organization hosts a film to celebrate the holiday with soup and a post-film discussion, all FREE with donations encouraged to benefit the Lydia House for Women and Children (women’s toiletries, baby items).

Schedule:

March 7, I Read About My Death in Vogue Magazine

Host: Nebraska Feminist Network

Soup sponsor: Patricia Catering

March 14, Who Does She Think She Is?

Host: Les Femmes Folles with special guests artists

*Book Release Party, 6pm for Les Femmes Folles: The Women, 2011

Soup & Cake Sponsor: DOLCE Café

March 21: Desk Set

Host: Amy Mathers of Whatever Mathers!

Soup Sponsor: Patricia Catering

March 28: Shut Up and Sing!

Host: X-Rated: Women in Music

Soup Sponsor: Belle VUE Café and Marketplace

More information click here.

Keep up with House of Loom events at houseofloom.com.

Hear more from X-Rated:Women in Music at facebook.com/xmusicnebraska.

Laura Burhenn
Singer and songwriter for The Mynabirds, a collection of musicians based in Omaha. Their debut album, “What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood“, was produced by Richard Swift and released to critical acclaim by Saddle Creek in April of 2010. The Mynabirds are putting the finishing touches on their second album, hitting the road for a short US tour in March 2012, including dates in the midwest, on the west coast, and down south for SXSW. Themynabirds.com.

Howard
A young trio from Omaha, playing “keyboard-driven dance rock.” The group hasn’t been around long, but they’re already making major splashes in the Nebraska music scene. They recently released an 8-track debut album. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Howard/153554351389913

Susann Suprenant
Co-founder of ætherplough, a nonprofit troupe that creates, produces, and presents contemporary performance in Omaha, Susann holds PhD in Theatre from University of Oregon and is Dean of the College of Communications at Metropolitan Community College. For the Feb. 29 performance she performed in and directed time.laughs: a chamber reading for four voices, an original performance composition written by herself. Actors Kevin Lawler, Kristin Kluver and Thom Sibbitt joined her. http://www.aetherplough.com/

Felicia Webster, aka WithLove
Felicia, is a teaching artist, visual artist, poet and live performer and co-founder/host of VerBAL GUMbo, a spoken word event that promotes our rich diversity of culture and style. Bring your spoon to the House of LOOM every 3rd Thursday. She performed original spoken word poetry at the Feb. 29 event. Facebook.com/withlove.felicia

Kirstin Kluver, a Creighton theatre graduate, has made a impact on the theatre and music scene, starring in Omaha Community Playhouse productions such as “Intimate Apparel” (2008), Guys and Dolls (2011) and Chicago (2011); she won a Theatre Arts Guild Award for her role in Guys and Dolls, and another in 2008 for Angels in America Part 2: Perestoika, which she starred in with SNAP! Productions. She recently won the 2012 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for best actress in a musical for her role in Guys and Dolls. She’s also a hit on the music scene with late-night solo performances with aetherplough and various other productions. She actied in Susann’s time.laughs performance for the Feb. 29 event.

Anna McClellan, singer/songwriter

Anna McClellan of Howard is getting amped for two upcoming Omaha performances—tonight at 21&Over’s Encyclopedia Show, and the upcoming LADY ROUNDTABLE and PERFORMANCE brought to you by Les Femmes Folles and X-Rated: Women in Music at House of Loom Feb. 29 (details below). She generously shares with Les Femmes Folles about being a foreign exchange student in Denmark, opening up with herself, being in Howard and more…

Tell me about your background.

I was born and raised in Omaha on May 29, 1993. I went to Washington Elementary, and then Lewis and Clark Middle School, and graduated from Central High School in May 2011. There was one year though, my junior year, that I spent as an exchange student in Denmark. That was a pivotal year for me. Being on my own for the first time, I began to realize that I can live life however I choose. There is no schedule you have to follow or order of doing anything. We’re making it up. Hahahaha. It’s wonderful.

As a kid I took myself way too seriously. I was always bored and restless. Deeply unsatisfied, but why? What problems had I to speak of? None really. I was an extremely fortunate child. But something was numb inside. I felt lonely. I was so scared of everything! But underneath that fear there was a sort of intelligence, an understanding I had/have with the world. I can’t explain it really. I bet everyone feels it, they must on some level. We feel it toward each other too. It’s very deep, there’s no way to touch the bottom. It’s love with no connotations. It’s the idea that everything is pure simply because it exists.

How’d you get into music?

I started taking piano lessons when I was 8 at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. I had the best teacher ever. She is one of my greatest role-models and inspirations. She taught me that good piano playing takes equal amounts of discipline and emotion. The details are the most important things. I just quit taking lessons last October. Playing classical piano is a great joy of mine, but I really don’t have the discipline. The ten years of experience though is priceless. Countless recitals and competitions. Without them I wouldn’t be nearly so comfortable on stage now.

I started singing/writing my own songs in Denmark. I would skip class to go to the music room and play for hours. Spending time in there made me feel at home in such an unfamiliar place. My first songs were pretty good. I lacked the confidence I have now, which is really the most important thing. Singing was scary. I felt so vulnerable. How do I know when the words are right? Is this melody too busy? What will people think? and on and on and on. But that was really the first time I was able to express myself in any way that I felt meant something. I had been keeping it all inside for so long, it was really something big for me.

How would you describe your style/inspirations?

My biggest inspiration would definitely have to be myself. I am my best friend. I do everything with myself. We get along great. Hahahahah. But it’s really true. I had to open up to myself first, before I could open up to anything else. And really my body and mind are just the medium through which I experience. I feel very united to everything. I feel ready. I’ve been working on making it so that my style includes everything and I can be inspired by anything. The smallest details. Like a seam in my jeans or the shape a spill forms or the sound of two people trying to talk at the same time. It’s all magic. And it can’t stop! It just keeps going and going and going. And we keep running around in these circles every day pretending like what we’re doing is super important when really we keep moving just to keep everything else moving. It’s beautiful. I can’t get enough. And I have no idea where this is going but it is going to be big so everybody better be ready! I have so much hope for us. I think everything is just getting messed up enough to where it can really explode.

Can you tell me anything about what you’ll be performing on 2/29 or anything else coming up?

I’m in this band called Howard. It’s a three-piece with me on keyboard and vocals. Corey plays guitar and also sings. And Daniel plays drums. Howard is great proof of how magic exists in nothing. We don’t have much to say. We are very low-key people. But when we start playing, man. We just can. I can’t explain it. I don’t really understand it. The music speaks for itself. It’s so much larger than just three people with instruments. And I am very amazed at how much we have improved in less than a year of being together. Our sounds intermingle with such ease now. Come spring we will be releasing our first full-length album! So stoked.

Does feminism play a role in your work?

I just believe that everything and everyone is good. I am a woman and I exist in this world. The songs I write come from somewhere much deeper than anything about men and women. They come from the stream of life which can’t find separation in anything. The intention is to have no intention. I just let it out however it wants to come.

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Fan Howard on Facebook here. Hear more at howard-angel.bandcamp.com.

Come hear Anna talk about her life & music and then hear her sing! at Women in Performance: Lady Roundtable Discussion & Show, Feb. 29, 5-10p.m at House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th Street. FREE.

21&Over Encyclopedia Show is TONIGHT, Feb. 20, 7:30-10:30pm at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. FREE.

Reflections from the first LFF forum

Me (Sally) at House of Loom, photo by Greg Higgins

(This image was taken at the last Drink n Draw. We didn’t get any good images from the forum so I’m using this one—because it is relevant to our discussion which touched on using the female form in art.)

About thirty women—and men!—came to the first Les Femmes Folles discussion forum to talk feminism and art with us Wednesday at House of Loom. Discussion ranged from the artists’ latest projects to feminism and minority, to using the female form in their work, and ended with inspiration to keep the conversation going.

I’d like to give a run-down of the discussion, but I’d like to keep some of it special for those who attended the event live…so…here’s a taste of what panelists Eddith Buis, Leslie Diuguid, Wanda Ewing, Amy Nelson and Emma Nishimura got into:

Views of the label “feminist” vs. “artist who happens to be a woman” or “woman artist” ranged from not wanting to limit audiences who shy away from “feminists” but use feminism as a platform; being of a minority race as another prominent factor in showing work; accepting the “feminist” label and relishing celebrating being a woman and being “on the fringe.”

As far as showing work in Omaha vs. outside, it seems it isn’t easier or more difficult, just a different audience that sees your work much differently than your hometown and this change of perspective is good to help you grow as an artist.

Doubting Wanda, Reductive woodcut, 22” x 30” by Wanda Ewing

Advice for young women artists is on the same mark: “Leave,” advised Wanda Ewing, “It gives you a new perspective and you can discover great things, or find what you need back home with new eyes.“

Sculpture by Amy Nelson

“Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid.” Amy Nelson’s brief but wise words for up-and-comers to let your voice out.

print by Eddith Buis

Eddith Buis stressed the importance of education and humility; “I didn’t consider myself an artist for fifteen years…it takes a lot to be an artist.”

Mixed media by Emma Nishimura

Getting to know your area was at the top of Emma Nishimura’s list: “Throw yourself into the community. It is critical to staying dedicated.”

mixed media by Leslie Diuguid

Leslie Diuguid also spoke about the importance of being an instigator.  “Be over-active….go to First Fridays, start networking right away.”

What of using the female form in their work? It is said by some it can be objectifying, but how does the woman artist stray from that perception?

Eddith stressed her intent of honoring women by using the nude female form in her work. Wanda and Leslie agreed that it was a celebration and about having fun with being a woman via their artistry.  Noted Leslie, as long as the artist isn’t using the woman for misogynistic purposes to make themselves look good, it works.

Towards the end Wanda asked everyone – “where is the feminist fight today?” to an emotive and challenging response on local and national issues from politics to misogynists—not just men, but women too.

The lively conversation continued after the panel, and will likely, too, at forums to come.

What would you like to talk about? What sort of artists would you like to hear from? Please do post or email me with any insight to your experience of this panel, or ideas for the future.

_____

Many thanks to my dear friend Fran Higgins for taking notes during this discussion and her continued support for my creative projects (along with her husband Greg who took the photo above). Higgins is a nonfiction writer based in Omaha who is currently working on her memoir.

And endless thanks to House of Loom for encouraging and hosting the event for Les Femmes Folles!!

Felicia Webster (aka WithLove Felicia), artist

As Felicia Webster preps for her next Verbal Gumbo show this Thursday (Fashion Edition, at House of Loom, details below) she shares with Les Femmes Folles about her evolution as an artist from elementary school to now, how being a wombman impacts her career and art, her many supportive friends and family, being a mother and more…

Tell me about your background.

I was born and raised in Omaha I am the oldest of three. My mom is from Liverpool England. My dad is from here but his folks are from the South.

How did you get interested in the arts and the spoken word?

I have always loved the arts since I was in elementary(drawing, dancing, singing, rapping, acting, writing, music, poetry). By junior high I was rapping the daily message over the intercom with my crew, was on a dance team and writing poetry(the pre form to rapping). I also got involved in ACT-SO and the poem the GOAL I wrote won the state competition in poetry so I was blessed to compete nationally in LA. I continued to write, rap, sing, dance and draw up until now(dancing is a leisure at this point lol-but who knows).

I was blessed to have left Omaha and go to school at Temple University and live on the east coast where I was apart of some amazing poetry assembles, open mics and social change work using the arts.

I also had a deep love for youth so I majored in Early Childhood Education and am currently finishing my Masters Program in education.

Coming back to Omaha I gathered all those experiences artistically and so on and created InForthymz and Poetic Fusion in the late 90’s.

I left again traveling out East with motherhood in my knapsack and life on my shoulders to learn more about me mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and artistically returning once again in 07 to support my Nana. (Miss her)

And so now my dual passion has allowed me to be an educational specialist who coaches teachers and a teaching artist here in Omaha with the Nebraksa Arts Council, Why Arts?, Healing Arts and the Humanities Council.

Tell me about Verbal Gumbo.

The upcoming event Fashionpoetry is a blend of 2 things I love in my life: poetry and fashion. Michelle Troxclair, creatress and poet and who I co-host with, coupled up with local African American designers Aissa Natrualist, Au Natruel Diva, Kotero and Nayjo along with some incredible spoken word poets to bring their designs to life.
This event gives these designers a fashion voice that is not always recognized in mainstream traditional fashion shows because their designs although universal also cater to wombmen that are full figured. Not a model size 2.

Felicia (right) with Michelle Troxclair (left) and Brent Crampton of House of Loom.

Does being a woman impact your career and/or art?

Yes being a wombman has impacted my career because as a wombman, an African descendant wombman, I am moved and motivated by issues that affect, infect and effect me.

My vision is to use the arts to disseminate information, heal and edutain.

So my work in the world is a representation of the issues that plight blackwombmen first but extend into the plight of all women as we share a common thread that surpasses racial identity - being female in a male dominated society.

Is Omaha a good place to be a woman in the arts?

Omaha has been a blessing for me as a wombman artist to hone my skills, go into my creative womb space and wo-manifest work.

And unlike the hustle n bustle of the East, in Omaha, I can also slow down breath and just be Mommy only, sometimes.

Note: I give much thanks to many folks who supported and loved me artistically. I am very very grateful especially to Michelle Troxclair for always finding me artistic opportunities that have truly taken a life in and of themselves. Big ups to the House of Loom for believing in creating a space for VeRbal Gumbo and change!

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Check out the next Verbal Gumbo show Thursday, December 15, 7-10:30p.m. at House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th Street. $5, 21+ for details and future events visit houseofloom.com.

Jenna Morrison, artist/musician/vocalist

Image by DP Muller Photography.

Jenna Morrison performs with her band, Conduits, Thursday November 3, at House of Loom (details below). She shares with Les Femmes Folles about growing up in Council Bluffs and Harlan, Iowa, the influence of an encouraging substitute elementary school music teacher, getting her start as a back-up vocalist with Son, Ambulance, her next creative projects, the societal walls that surround women as artists and questioning the world around her, and the importance of standing behind our female musicians and artists…

Tell me about your background.

Well, to be perfectly honest, my growing up was not boring, in the least, but I will spare you all of the really nitty gritty details, and just give you the bones…

I grew up in Council Bluffs in a little blue house on Stutsman. My mother was an artist and a business woman, and my father an actor/musician/dreamer. I also had a little brother, Neal, to keep me company/use as a life experiment (he is now, like me, a musician and an artist). As cliche as it may sound, the apple really did not fall far from the tree, and I am grateful for it.

When I was about 8, my parent’s decided to divorce, and my mother, brother and I left our little house on Stutsman - including my life long friends and next door neighbors, the Moons -You may know Cooper Moon of Dim Light, whom I actually played drums for for a short stint. We moved in with my loving grandparents until my mother was able to get us on our feet. By the age of 12, I was growing up unusually fast and I was already rebelling and branching out to people who truly can only be described as shady characters. Luckily, my mother met a man who lived in Harlan, Iowa, and as much as I fought it, we were soon living in the small town of 5,000. I didn’t realize then that despite my ability to find the troubled anywhere, the move to Harlan may have saved me a lot of trouble in the long run. Despite that, we moved back and forth between Harlan and Council Bluffs throughout the remainder of my adolescence. High School in a small town was not fit for me, so at 17 I graduated early, moved back to Council Bluffs on my own, and started college for graphic design at Vatterott in Omaha, having not been able to afford the art institutes in NY that I had been pining over.

At 18 I had already been venturing over the river regularly to see shows in Omaha, as there really was no scene for me in Council Bluffs, to speak of. By 19 I had gotten a job doing graphic design at The Daily Nonpareil. I later started bartending on the weekends in Omaha, and doing backup vocals for other local musicians - All of which lead up to where I am, now.


Image by DP Muller Photography

How did you get into music?

My mother still jokes that I was singing before I could even speak. With all honesty, my first vivid memory of music was my mother carrying me around the house in my diaper, and we were singing Diana Ross songs to each other (or, at least, I was attempting to). I really do see this memory as the first true inspiration for my desire to be a vocalist. In fact, I still have the same exact cassette tape, to this day, and listened to it non-stop growing up.

I also remember that later in elementary school at choir class, we had occasionally had a substitute teacher. I truly adored her. She was blind, and played piano and sang beautifully. Whenever we had her, we didn’t practice any of the songs that we had been working on in class regularly, which made it sort of a treat. She would bring sheet music and have the class pass it around, and she would play us the songs that she knew on piano. One day I was singing her songs, and one of the little boys in my class complained to the teacher in front of all of the other students that I was singing too loudly and that it was bothering him. She quickly said in return - “I think that her voice is very pretty!”

Her encouragement, I think, inspired me to pursue singing further. I took it and ran with it, and never stopped singing/writing. I took violin for awhile until we couldn’t afford to rent one anymore, and then my mother gave me her clarinet, which I never was able to appreciate the sound of. But my voice, I could control the tone, the notes, the tambor, and it just never stopped appealing to me. I could do it pretty much anywhere, and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit of a show off. Any excuse to perform in front of the class or at talent shows, etc, I took it. I would even sing for family members, friends parents, and other adults at parties.

I started singing as a backup vocalist in a couple of bands in 2001. In 2003 or 2004, I began a basement project writing with Joe Knapp called “Menagerie.” A few months later, Joe asked me to write and sing on a 1 minute song (C Minor Interlude) on the Son, Ambulance album “Key” - I then joined the band as a backup vocalist fairly quickly after that and spent the next 5 years playing shows and touring with them, on and off. I suppose this is what would be the start of my professional and touring music career.

Tell me about your creative projects, inspiration, style, etc.

Obviously, my main creative endeavor, these days, is Conduits. Conduits consists of members of The Good Life/Neva Dinova, Eagle Seagull, Cursive, and The Golden Age A.K.A. Nate Mickish, Roger L. Lewis, Mike Overfield, J.J. Idt, Patrick Newbery and myself. We began writing together late 2009 and played our first show July 2010. We have a pretty wide array of influences, but some of the more obvious are shoegaze, prog rock, and even a touch of 70’s/80’s. I can truly say that this band had been my proudest endeavor, and working with the musicians that I play with is incredible and inspiring. We all share in the writing process, and we all have some similar tastes, so everything seems to come together fairly seamlessly, though obviously not without labor. We’ve finished our first album, and are working to release it this February in the US and Europe. Recently, we signed to a record label in Europe called Beep Beep, Back Up the Truck and also signed on with a booking agent in the US - Autonomous Music. I’ve heard that getting a booking agent these days is almost harder than getting a label, so we’re all pretty stoked.

J.J. Idt of Conduits and I have also started another project. The working title is “Mummy Train” and it is basically pre-recorded beats, distorted bass and bass guitar, and 2 looping stations, one with me layering vocals, and the other with him layering bass “sounds”. It is obviously far more experimental than Conduits, and has allowed the two of us to kind of just let loose and have fun with the music. We played our first show this last summer at the Omaha Women’s Art Collective's first art show, which is another artistic endeavor I am involved in. I’m really looking forward to doing more with both of these projects in the future.

As far as other music goes, I am actually working on singing vocals on a few tracks for an electronic group called Enso - I have been itching to get my vocals on some electronic music for some time, and I am really honored to be working with Derrick Dorian Calloway on this, even if it’s just for a couple of songs.

Tell me about your upcoming event at House of Loom.

Well, this particular show is going to be much more intimate than other shows we have played in Omaha. The space is beautiful, and I have a lot of love for the owners of House of Loom. It’s so nice to have another venue in Omaha - Particularly one that doesn’t mostly cater to just one style of music or one type of crowd. It is definitely adding color to the horizon on Omaha’s music scene, and I am proud to be involved in some aspect. We hope to get more exposure for our band to people who normally wouldn’t go out and see a rock show, and also some exposure for House of Loom, itself. The opening band is Omaha music veteran, Craig Korth’s newest project, Pony Wars. I’m especially excited to see what they have up their sleeves, as I haven’t had an opportunity to hear them yet - A consequence of being someone who bartends at night to make sure the bills get paid (order a drink from Jenna at Brothers Lounge, 3812 Farnam).


Image by DP Muller Photography

Do you think being a woman impacts your career or craft?

I truly think it does. I feel that society in general is not always kind to girls/women. We grow up with so many social stigma’s placed on us - How we are supposed to act, what we are supposed to look like, what paths are socially deemed as acceptable. Not often do people go out of their way to tell young girls that it is perfectly okay for them to just be themselves, emotionally or physically. I feel that it sometimes makes it difficult for women to feel confident with fully expressing themselves in art and music, the way that they really want to. The craft is subjective enough as it is, without all of these walls that were built for us before we ever had even spoken our first words. It’s almost as if we are expected to be pretty or provocative, but don’t be sexually open or emotionally aggressive - Have something interesting to say, but don’t overstep your boundaries, or people will look down on you. You see it in the media all of the time - Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Sinaed O’Connor… Even Sarah Palin. The public demonization of women is far too socially acceptable, and in some cases, celebrated, even woman to woman. It really draws a confusing and confining diagram for us throughout our lives, and it takes work to move past all of that.

Working with and talking to the girls in the Omaha Women’s Art Collective has really made me see the bigger picture. I now often find myself questioning things a bit more - Are things this way because I am/she is a woman? Having listened more to other women’s struggles, and thinking about my own past struggles in working with people, it really is hard to deny that these things effect the way people look at us and treat us. Especially in the arts. And, I feel like denial of this problem is one of the biggest obstacles that women of all walks of life in this country deal with, daily. Gratefully, I was granted the opportunity to co-teach a class on self esteem and stage fright at the Omaha Girls Rock! Camp this past summer (‘11 with Rene Gosch of Blue Rosa and Sara Wilch), as this particular subject is very, very important to me.

Do you think Omaha - or the Midwest is a good place to be a woman in the arts?

I feel like it is continually getting better. I am seeing a lot more support here for female artists in Omaha than I used to, from both sexes. Things are definitely looking up. We all just have to keep up the good work, and stand behind our female artists and musicians. And I, as a female artist and musician vow to do just that, equally.

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Conduits with Pony Wars perform Thursday, November 3, starting at 8pm, at House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th St. Visit the Facebook invitation here.

Nina Barnes, artist/performer, Harouki Zombi

Image by Nina Barnes

Visual and performance artist Nina Barnes opens her solo show at The New BLK Friday, and follows the night with a Harouki Zombi performance at House of Loom (details below).  She shares with Les Femmes Folles how Harouki Zombi came to be with collaborator Orenda Fink, the emotional nomadic statement of her artwork, and putting herself out there, just “adding craziness to it all”…

How did you and (Harouki Zombi collaborator) Orenda Fink meet and start Harouki Zombi?

Orenda has been friends with my husband Kevin and all the band members of of Montreal for over ten years.  She moved away from Athens, Georgia, before I moved there, but by the will of faith we ran into each other in Los Angeles. A couple of months later she moved to Athens, and we would hang around in bars, have lunches and ride in the back of pick-up trucks during midday – talking and mostly laughing. We had very good chemistry right away, so when she and Todd moved back to Omaha, we were desperate to start a project so we could stay close in touch.
 

And that is how Harouki Zombi came to be. We had been pondering what to do, and on Orenda and Todd’s last night in Athens, Orenda turned around as Todd was DJ’ing a dance party, her eyes shining with that light you have when you know you’ve come up with something and she exclaimed: Let’s be dj’s! And I replied, yes, but as Geishas and with performance art! And here we are, ready to roll it out, ha ha.

Photo by Jason Thrasher

Tell me about what you do with Harouki Zombi, and this Friday’s event at House of Loom.

We are trying to incorporate something more than just beats to a party- a sonic, visual and tactile dimension to an already existing formula. Basically just pushing the limits of what a DJ event can be.  It’s a big challenge actually, cause our main focus is for people to dance and have a good time, but at the same time we are trying to slide in something peculiar and awkward. It’s a balancing act! Orenda DJ’s our tracks and others and I VJ self-made visuals. And then there’s our girls, who basically are whoever wants to perform and be weird with us.

Tell me about your show The Tilted Series up at The New BLK Gallery.

The prints at BLK do not have a direct connection to the Harouki Zombi event, though I think my aesthetics shine through in both. I feel a strong connection with Asia (my Mongolian heritage?) and I think it comes through a lot also in my drawings.  The Tilted series came to be after years of working for of Montreal making album art, music videos, theatrics, merch – you name it.   After the release of False Priest I had my daughter in school and no upcoming album to prepare for the first time in years.   It was very liberating to have no one dictate the creations, and the series just came to be organically. There isn’t a lot of intellectual capital in these works, it’s rather an emotional statement- the longing for belonging but no where to belong.  I think it’s the nomad in me, and our lifestyle- always an alien, always moving – and the impossibility to find peace in one place. But now I am rambling- I think there’s a sadness to them all.  It’s the Scandinavian melancholia I can never shake, no matter how chipper I am on the outside.

Image by Nina Barnes

What’s next for Harouki Zombi?

Harouki Zombi is not touring per se yet, but our main focus is to make as many original tracks as possible. If it turns into an album, well, then we of course will look into touring, but now we are just doing DJ gigs.

Photo by Jason Thrasher

What do you think of being a woman in the arts?

I have no idea what it would be like to be a man, so of course everything I do comes from the perspective of being a woman- a mature woman, who doesn’t really give a fuck (can I say that) what people may think or say – just out there to add some craziness to it all and hopefully something good as well!

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The Tilted Series:  Original Art by Nina Barnes opens Friday, September 2, 6:30-10p.m. at The New BLK Gallery, 1213 Jones Street in Omaha.  Following at House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th Street, Harouki Zombi will perform from 9p.m.-2a.m. For more information on Nina Barnes visit geminitactics.com.