My first SWAN Day CT was overwhelming, in the best possible way. More than a dozen great female musicians or female-fronted bands created a huge challenge in how to hear enough of each of them. (This is a great problem to have and a great challenge to fail at.)
What’s a SWAN Day?
SWAN stands for Support Women Artists Now. SWAN Day is an international event under the auspices of WomenArts, and what it involves depends on the local organizers. Connecticut’s SWAN Day is a music and arts festival, founded in 2007 by Jennifer Hill (of Jennifer Hill and Co., now performing as Murderous Chanteuse) and organized by her ever since. On its tenth anniversary, it was declared one of the rare Super SWAN events, so you can figure it’s exciting.
So on Saturday afternoon, I hauled myself to New Britain. Trinity-on-Main is a gorgeous restored church with a theater-style performance space, which means… the holy grail of concert-going… actual seats. For an event that runs over 7 hours, actual seats are da bomb.
Not that I sat for seven hours. There are two performance spaces: the theater and then the rotunda’s smaller stage. The rotunda also houses vendors (so. much. nifty jewelry) and refreshments. So I rotated, or perhaps vibrated, between various places it was possible to be.
The “I Wanna” conundrum
I wanna see as much music as possible, which started out as aiming for 10-minute slices of everyone and evolved into hearing full sets from some locals whose originals-focused gigs haven’t lined up with my calendar, at the price of missing big chunks of acts I’ve seen and loved at other venues. There were half-hour stints of being rapt and 10-minute dives into magic that ended too soon.
My compilation video gives you 10-15 seconds of each act. You click play, and then I’ll give you the bullet list of details. By hanging out in the rotunda, I also got to see Laini of Laini and the Wildfire playing emcee there.
- Lisa Lawrence: Alt-country, being beautifully emotive in the difficult opening spot, when the first arrivals are milling about trying to orient ourselves and we haven’t settled down to be great audiences yet.
- HannaH’s Field: Modern hippie-rasta-folk, with messages of love and acceptance. An absolutely joyous experience.
- That Virginia: Eclectic alternative pop with a tropical feel. The clip is a cappella, to really give you something different.
- Mandala: Nostalgia rock, or the reincarnated spirit of every party from the 1990s that you wish you’d been to. Get up and dance in front of the stage. Have a glow stick, have some flannel, have a guitar solo.
- SCARLETT: The youngest Swan, with an indie sound of melodies and moonbeams, lovely voice, arguably smarter taste in music than I have.
- Tiny Ocean: Americana with psychedelic undertones, which oddly and compellingly adds up to alternative rock as I remember it right before grunge took over. Now high on my must-see-full-show list.
- Primitive Heart: Haunting electronica/shoegaze from Dani Mari of Female Frequency.
- Steph Serenita: Bluesy folk, and I could not pry myself out of my chair–I like her voice, I like her attitude, and she has a song about trains. (It’s anti-train, but we can’t have everything.)
- Audio Jane: Alternative rock goes shoegaze with this compelling band that I saw… half a song from. Oops. Loved ’em at Café Nine in January.
- Dandelyin: Alternative pop, and I’d taken my 15 seconds of adorable “Ice Cream + Memes” before I came to appreciate how brilliant “Gold-Plated” is in depicting Fairfield County.
- Murderous Chanteuse: Jennifer Hill in a more acoustic mode, with some unusual song choices for the fun of showing what-all she can do. The parts I saw were transfixing.
- Eliza and the Organix: Brooklyn rock group (think “punk meets jazz”) goes acoustic, so this clip is enjoyable but not really typical.
- The Haunting Titans: Punk with blues, bringing the traditional portion of the show to a riotous close.
But wait, there’s more…
Following The Haunting Titans… burlesque by Vivienne LaFlamme. I’d never before seen burlesque, so I’m like whoa, the thing with peeling long gloves off is for real, it’s not just a trope. A delightful aspect of this steamy performance is that while obviously LaFlamme is fit because dancers are, she’s fit on a normal woman’s body, not an impossible (or enhanced) Barbie-doll ideal. I’ve steered clear, up to this point, of commenting on performers’ outfits or looks, but here, celebrating that natural women’s bodies are sexy and enticing and mysterious and fun is obviously part of the point, so it’d be rude not to notice.
Visceral Movement, a dance troupe that emphasizes bringing dance into the community, premiered its athletic new dance, “The Future Is Female.” Then it was fashion show time, with the designs of Kristin Costa. One of my basic tenets of reality is that everyone should, at some time or other, get to dress up with the uninhibited flair and flow of a five-year-old who’s found the costume-clothing chest. Costa’s designs capture that delight and freedom, and wrap it in a thoughtful, theatrical aesthetic built around distinct moods — so you can swoop your skirts and also have symbolism. (Notice that, while you’re being a goddess in flowing garments, it’s pretty easy to walk and move in her designs, as long as your posture is good enough to not disturb the headdresses.)
The party was prepared to go on with DJ Breakadawn, but I was starting to fade (seven hours of bliss, y’all) and had to make tracks for the highway back to New Haven. But before we call it a night…
My pretties, I show you them
There were artisans. To my surprise and joy, the handcrafted jewelry included some items that fit my budget (I am all for artists charging big bucks, but I do not always have big bucks to spend). Since moving to Connecticut, I’ve bought vintage jewelry, but nothing with the level of rampant symbolism of my little turquoise bear that I wore for the entire first year after I moved to Arizona. Well. I’ve fixed that gap.
Clockwise from upper left:
- Guitar-string bracelet from Dandelyin. I’d really, really wanted a guitar-string bracelet and had no idea how to get one, since following guitarists around with beads and hopeful looks, in case they dropped a string, seemed time-consuming, if not stalkerish. The only one big enough for my wrist was labeled to promote, which, yay, could use some encouragement there.
- Owl from Verdilune, which does amazing metal work as their real thing (go, click the link). This is one where I feel a little guilty buying the cheapest, non-representative thing, but I really like owls (southern Connecticut is owl-intensive), and when I’ve gotten a substantial raise, then I can fondle their real work and take some home.
- Intuition necklace from Lee Gee Designs. This was the first thing I bought: I was strolling the upper tier of vendors, just seeing what was what, and it wanted to come home. Since I see myself as the least intuitive person on earth, I decided to get it.
- Bracelet from Cup O Jo Studio. It’s hand-stamped and says follow the call of the sirens. (People who remember my suddenly moving from AZ to CT are gonna say, girl, do you really need MORE incitement? Yes. Yes, I do.) If you click the link, there are gorgeous “paint pour” tiles, which I drooled over, but with the kitten, I cannot bring home anything breakable for the next five years or so.
And this is just the selection that fit my narrow aesthetic… there was so much cool stuff. If you were more a glittery person or a skull person or a swirly silver person… it was all there.
This is an annual event, so follow SWAN Day CT on Facebook to be ready for next year!