Chicks with Picks

Boise State Women's Center inaugural music festival hopes to grow


Benefit concerts are hot and happening right now, with global success raising consciousness for a wide variety of causes. Women's concerts, however, do not seem to be as prevalent. Wanda Biento, director of the Women's Center at Boise State, is taking steps to change that locally by hosting the Idaho Women's Music Festival, which she hopes will become a yearly event. Knowing that they have to start small, Biento is optimistic that eventually the festival will expand to include workshops, information booths and female musicians from all over the Northwest. But for now, she's happy and excited to see the concert putting down roots.

Boise Weekly caught up with Biento to find out more about the concert, the Women's Center it will benefit, and the musicians involved.

Boise Weekly: Tell us about the acts.

Wanda Biento: Mo Kelly and Niccole Bailey have done some stuff for us before, for women's history month last year. They did a benefit concert that was to help raise some money for the Women's Center. Rochelle Smith is another local performer who has had a long history of doing things for the Women's Center and the Cultural Center of Boise State and she's always one who will come out to support us as well. I don't know [Wendy Matson] personally. She saw our call for musicians and wanted to be a part of that.

What is your vision for the festival?

This is our first year to get it established, let people know that we're trying to do this. One of the struggles this year is that it's not known as an event yet. What I'd really like is to see this become is a weekend-long or a three-day weekend filled with women's music, and possibly branching out into having some educational booths with information or art or those kinds of things ... workshops, things like that. I'm really looking to grow this year after year ... into a very large event that draws women from all over the Northwest.

I really wanted to create something that would be community building, and something that would spotlight women musicians. In the future, I'd like to see big headlining names, but I still want to have a strong spot for local musicians. A lot of times when you go to big shows, women seem to be incidental in the lineup. And I really [want] to celebrate the accomplishments of women in music and to give people something to look forward to, to gather and have some fun and hear good music and really [create] a community where women musicians could network and meet.

What does the Women's Center at Boise State do?

First and foremost is that we're responsible for responding to students who report sexual assault on campus. We assist them through all kinds of reporting procedures, whether it's with the police or they're reporting on campus. We also do a lot of education on campus about sexual assault and sexual assault awareness; people's rights and responsibilities, what is sexual assault, relationships and communication, because I think that's really key. We have a violence prevention awareness fund. We also have a very strong returning women's mentoring program for women who've been out of school for a while. We can set them up with mentors to help them through that. We're also just a walk-in center. Women can come in, and we can help connect them to places that will help them.

Boise Weekly also spoke with the women performers.

What was your primary motivation for getting involved?

Rochelle Smith: I'm just really excited to be involved in the first of the series of these because Boise is so ready for it. And the woman who's throwing it is from Michigan, which is where they have the Womyn's Music Festival, and she asked me if I thought that Boise was ready for something like that and I agreed.

Wendy Matson: It's funny—I picked up a Boise Weekly and [the ad calling for women musicians] was the first thing I read. And I am a very underexposed artist who's been here for a very long time, because I don't do the bars. And my primary motivation because I'm a songwriter was to get my stuff heard in an appropriate venue. And that's like the Holy Grail in this town. It's very hard for an acoustic singer-songwriter, especially for a woman, to be heard over a cappuccino machine, over bar noise—the good venues are just so rare.

Niccole Bailey: My primary motivation would be to support what the Women's Center is doing in regards to assisting other women who've been traumatized in one way or another, or just to help out. They do a lot of things—they're probably pretty unrecognized on campus.

Mo Kelly: My main motivation for this booking was to start up a solely Northwest music women's festival in this area, because that kind of attraction and that kind of solely women's event is not happening in the Boise area. So to bring that here and to draw women artists from all over the Northwest and to make it a big thing

July 13, 6 p.m. at the Special Events Center Theater in the Student Union Building at Boise State. $10 general, $8 with student ID at the door, or in advance at the Women's Center. For more information, call 208-426-4259.