Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Willis Show Bar's La Femme (Featuring Scarlet Lies & Kate Hinote)

photo by Sean Patrick

“We want (women’s) voices and their art to be heard,” said Willa Rae Adamo. The local singer/songwriter said she’s always prioritized efforts to expand representation on local stages. “That’s not always going to naturally happen as much for women in our society, or for people of color, or queer folks.” Adamo leads the gothic baroque-rock outfit The Minor Arcana, but her day job (or night job) has been booking shows for venues like the newly refurbished/reopened Willis Show Bar in the Cass Corridor.

Over the summer and continuing into the Autumn, Adamo and Willis Show Bar co-owner Sean Patrick have curated exceptional showcases for women artists. The La Femme music series features solo singer/songwriters or metro area bands led by women.

Making sure those voices are heard has been a theme throughout Adamo’s work in the Detroit music scene. Patrick, meanwhile, is part of a group of L.A.-based bar/restaurant-owners with lots of experience in the hospitality business; they partnered with Dave Kwiatkowski (of the Sugar House) and started to reenergize the classy space at Third & Willis late last year. The Willis doors reopened in the Spring. 

While their weekly programming includes jazz and live burlesque performers, Patrick and Adamo’s La Femme series can tap into talented women from all genres, including the cinematic and gothic-Americana vibes of singer/songwriter Kate Hinote, and the glam-rock/power-pop of Scarlet Lies (led by singer Tamara Marla Laflin).

Click here for info on the next La Femme show

La Femme kicked off May 23rd and has been featuring shining performances from top tier local talents like Musiquie Noire (led by Michelle May) and jazz balladeer Nicole New. Adamo performed her own sets of stripped down jazz-style ballads on July 18. Previously featured artists include Ann Arbor based neo-soul singer Dani Darling, jazz vocalist Hannah Baiardi and then, tonight (Oct 10), they'll feature Motown-inspired ensemble Virginia Violet &The Rays.

The mission of La Femme is to not only feature artists like Laflin (of Scarlet Lies) or Hinote (lead singer of The Blueflowers), but to also have a cohost each night, expanding the spotlight to include a female business owner.  “I’ve had a lot of friends from L.A. tell me, in conversation, that they’re seeing some really badass women getting it done here in Detroit,” Patrick said. “I mean, we’ve got Jackie (Victor) of Avalon Bakery, Rachel (Lutz) from the Peacock Room, and even just the last time we were at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard, there were eight pop-ups there, seven of which were run by women.” 

Patrick said he had the idea and intention for a female-focused showcase of local musicians “since before (Willis) even opened.” Similar to Adamo, much of his life’s endeavors have involved allying with activist and advocacy efforts for inclusion and equality. “I know women haven’t been equally represented within the nightlife and entertainment industries, so it was important for me to see (La Femme) be part of our structure. And while it was my idea and I’m still involved, I’m now pulling back a bit to allow it space to grow and be driven by the female staff, artists and cohosts.”

“Even if women are the ones up front, like we have so many female pop stars, it’s still always typically been men who have been pulling the strings,” said Adamo. “But that’s changing here in Detroit. We have women behind the scenes, we have Virginia (Benson) at Party Store Productions booking these amazing shows, we have Augusta (Rose from Double Winter) with her (NeueHaus Detroit) booking agency. And that’s really important, because that’s really where a lot of the decisions are made—behind the scenes!”

Scarlet Lies photo by Erin Brott Holtzman
“I think it’s magnificent that Willis is spotlighting female artists,” said Laflin. “Probably every woman (in the music scene) can attest that bills are often loaded with male artists, while we find ourselves almost a novelty to many people when we take the stages. It’s not unusual for Noel (Marie-Rivard, drummer of Scarlet Lies) and I to be the only women performing at a given show—and it’s certainly not uncommon for people to comment on that fact. Noel and I have been in bands for several years and had many sexist encounters. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard ‘…you play (insert instrument) really well for a girl!’ It’s like, no! I just play it well! Period!”

Laflin said that, nevertheless, she’s encouraged by the support and camaraderie she’s found with other women in the local music scene—and La Femme, she said, is a great extension of that. Scarlet Lies, meanwhile, are in the studio working on their sophomore album. The Blueflowers (which features the voice and lyrics of Hinote), just wrapped up their next album and are planning to release it in November.

Kate Hinote / The Blueflowers
Hinote is a veteran singer/songwriter with a showstopping voice—she’ll be at Willis next Wednesday, along with a unique acoustic set by Scarlet Lies. Hinote also leads a trio known as The Disasters, and she often appraises her anecdotes of encountering blockheaded behavior from condescending males as just that: brief disasters to laugh at later. “Those incidents are aggravating in the moment, but I refuse to give my time or energy to that because I know what I’m offering, and people will either like it or not, regardless of my ladyness. That said, I’m most certainly grateful for this special opportunity to share space and time with fellow women bosses and perform for the people who support us.”

La Femme is an antidote to some ugly encounters that Laflin can recall--and these anecdotes will likely be familiar to fellow women artists... "...Once," said Laflin, "a male television host was interviewing Noel and I and essentially asked us how we were able to be musicians AND have a vagina. It was cringeworthy. It was so bad that the producers decided to just cut the segment entirely. I remember feeling really weird about the whole situation, but I was glad to have Noel by my side. She basically did most of the talking during that interview, and she’s very intelligent and can be a little intimidating. I think the host could just feel the hole he was digging getting deeper and deeper the more he spoke."

But Laflin says not to get her wrong--because the good encounters definitely out weigh the bad. "One of the most encouraging things that I find is the support that female musicians have for one another. More and more female artists are seeking out other female artists to fill out the bills they’re on, and Willa who put together our La Femme night bill is the perfect example of that."

The Bearded Lady Barber & Beauty Shop will be cohosting next Wednesday (10/17), and DJ Nouveau will be spinning between sets.

Meanwhile, Adamo and Patrick said they look forward to continuing to spotlight talented women—not just singers, but also DJs, as well as members from the local business community.

La Femme
Featuring Scarlet Lies & Kate Hinote
Wed., Oct 17
Willis Show Bar
4156 Third Ave., Detroit
For more information, follow the Willis Show Bar on Facebook or check in to their main site.

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