Big Sur Spirit Garden hosts eight-act WOMANSONG celebration.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
In 1997, the fiery folk singer Sarah McLachlan helped spearhead the Lilith Fair, a music festival made up of female solo artists and female-led bands that included bigwigs like Fiona Apple and The Indigo Girls. In Lilith’s three-year run, it raised $10 million for women’s charities.
In the spirit of the Lilith Fair, Santa Cruz singer-songwriter Amanda West and Big Sur Spirit Garden owner Jayson Fann developed “WOMANSONG: an evening in Big Sur” to celebrate women and their music, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Monterey Rape Crisis Center.
“I’ve always wanted to play the Spirit Garden, and Jayson told me to invite other musicians,” West says. “From there, it just kept evolving.”
Seven performers quickly jumped on board.
“So many people have offered to help out,” she says. “I love the feeling of working with other artists for something good.”
In addition to being one of the event organizers, West will also take the stage. She describes herself as a “philosophical folk songstress.”
“I like writing, so my songs are very lyrical,” she says, citing Alanis Morissette’s self-reflective songs as one of her biggest inspirations. On “Fantasy,” West explores the notion of sexual desires: “I am too human to be a fantasy”; in her song “In the Morning,” she takes on truth: “All the truths that created my wounds were dug out today.”
A diverse roster of acts will also appear. Monterey native and musical teen prodigy Lauren Shera has been developing a unique brand of modern folk for several years while earning the respect of some of the most highly regarded musicians in the industry: She has played with Joan Osborne, Billy Bragg and Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. In 2006, Shera was offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to perform at a Bob Dylan tribute concert at Lincoln Center in New York City, accompanied by Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes.
Piano, cello, viola, bass, drums, mandolin and accordion complement Amy Obenski’s silky voice on her new album, From the Deep. One of Obenski’s career highlights came in 2007, when her song “Carousel” was featured on the television show Grey’s Anatomy.
Marya Stark is a green-eyed hippie goddess from Santa Cruz. Her voice is breathy, her music roots-oriented with a heavy metaphysical influence. “Fire the Grid” is a spoken-word piece on the idea of a collaborative consciousness: “Through group meditation we are raising the vibe,” she announces.
Love Wings is an a cappella (not in a Manhattan Transfer way), ambient duo from Long Beach. They’re spacey, trippy and experimental: Think Brian Eno meets Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis.
Jesse Autumn can play just about every instrument including the piano, double-strung harp, cross-strung harp and the banjo. But it’s the harp that Autumn has a real affinity for; she has directed the Santa Cruz Harp Festival since 2001. Her original music yields jazz and classical influences with hints of Joni Mitchell.
Jenny Gillespie is traveling all the way from Chicago to be a part of WOMANSONG. Her dreamy folk music sometimes journeys into gloominess but never becomes overly self-indulgent. “Vanishing Point,” a song from Gillespie’s new album, Light Year, is a poetic ballad on the piano that starts peacefully and builds into a volcanic eruption of cello, fiddle and mandolin.
West hopes WOMANSONG will become an annual event and wants to donate to different women’s charities every year. She emphasizes that the festival is not for women only; men are quite welcome too.
WOMANSONG begins at 6pm Saturday, Aug. 22, at Big Sur Spirit Garden, Highway 1, Big Sur. $15. 667-1300. www.mtryrapecrisis.org.