Girlschool is one part music festival, one part ideas festival, and an all-around community/celebration of female-identified artists. Back for its third installment, Anna Bulbrook’s (Airborne Toxic Event) three-day festival took over the Bootleg Theater. Two stages and multiple rooms of bands, DJ’s, art installments and merch booths – it was essentially a labyrinth of badassery.

Saturday’s music lineup included electric pop duo Lesser Pieces, who got the crowd moving with their dreamy sexy synth dance party vibe. Up next was Pinky Pinky on a neighboring stage. A trio of teenagers with some serious head bopping, hip shaking upbeat tunes. In a word – fun. In three words – fun as hell. The silver tassel curtain behind them made it feel like the school dance of your dreams. Another stage swap for Mary Lattimore with her gigantic grand harp. The crowd was so entirely still, the music washed over the room as she artfully picked out melancholy melodies. Back at the other stage, a large crowd was forming in preparation for Nick + Navi. The reggae fusion duo had the crowd dancing with periodic shouts of “woot woot!” between lyrics. A.W. delivered whimsical anecdotes between “lovesick pop” songs. All the best things about power-pop fused with indie rock. Amber Coffman (formerly of Dirty Projectors) was the last act to take the main stage before the headlining event. They played to a packed room with tunes seeped in classic girl group doo-wop blended with a generous serving of rock, for a tasty musical cocktail.

The day also included a panel on turning social media activism into real change, led by Whitney Bell, featuring Ashlee Marie Preston, Vera Papisova, and Ivan Ceja as well as live art installations rounding out the event as a true celebration of women in the arts.

The crowd was essentially impenetrable as the main stage was prepped for rock legend Shirley Manson + The Girl School Choir. The all-female orchestra took the stage and Manson made her entrance. They wowed the crowd with stripped down versions of Garbage hits “Stupid Girl”, “I’m Only Happy When It Rains”, “Bleed Like Me”, and “Cherry Lips”. The combination of Shirley Manson, the orchestra and the choir made for some beautifully chilling renditions of old favorites. Manson was entirely gracious and eloquent, thanking everyone for supporting and the importance of ensuring opportunities exist equally across the board.

As she introduced surprise guest Fiona Apple, she talked about how she picked up Apple’s debut “Tidal” while on tour in Australia and listened to it non-stop, having truly discovered the voice of the Gods, “the voice of an angel”. As Fiona walked out on stage, the crowd collectively lost their minds as the two embraced and began to sing a duet of Dusty Springfield’s anthem “You Don’t Own Me”. Two powerhouse performers belting out a powerhouse refrain, the energy that filled that room was beyond measure.

Shirley summed up the evening best when she said “Our daughters deserve to have the same crack at the world as our sons.” Amen to that.


Photos: Angel Melanson


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