Indie Women Unite at GoGirls Fest

Remember Cinder Calhoun?

A feminist comedienne, she was the opening act for the Lilith Fair in the '90s. She was fond of corduroys and vests. Her favorite joke was the "old classic" about the shaman stuck in a menstrual pit. She was fond of the ladies too, except for a brief, intense crush on Garth Brooks, during which time, she said, "Sappho high-tailed it back to Frisco." She had an extremely deep voice, somehow reedy and bass-heavy at the same time, a rolling, sonorous monotone.

She also, thankfully, was a made-up character. Saturday Night Live's Ana Gasteyer invented her as a guest character on "Weekend Update," and it was one of the best satires I've ever seen.

I couldn't help but think of Cinder Calhoun when I spoke on the phone with Madelyn Sklar, founder of, "the oldest and largest online community of indie women musicians," and the GoGirls music festivals. Sklar's voice sounds exactly like Cinder Calhoun's, which is funny, considering the pro-female bent of GoGirls.

Sklar, who's from Houston, began GoGirls "out of frustration of going to the guitar shop and being ignored," she says. "I thought, well, it'd be cool to talk to other musicians and see if they're going through the same experiences."

They were. So Sklar started the Web site in 1996, when the full potential of the Internet as a networking tool had yet to be tapped, as a way to connect with other female musicians, ranging "from piano to punk." At first she thought it would only be a little hobby—she was learning Web design as a career at the time—but soon felt her calling was expanding GoGirls. Sklar has built a whole empowering empire around the site, including annual GoGirls music festivals that take place in different cities.

The Dallas version of the GoGirls fest takes place at Opening Bell and features a number of female (obviously) performers from Dallas and other cities: Our own folkie Leah Marr, who's only 15, and R&B goddess Rhonda Nicole are two of the featured acts, for instance, and a former local now living in Los Angeles, Annette Conlon (her hubby drums for Rawly Punt), put together the lineup. Conlon has worked with GoGirls almost since its inception.

Sklar is also a "music business coach." I wasn't aware those existed. So, of course, in my head I made fun of it. It's not the most rock 'n' roll thing I've ever heard, unless one of her coaching tips for band success is, "One of you needs to die in a pool of your own vomit."

After watching a YouTube video of one of Sklar's seminars, I don't think that's one of her strategies. She sticks more to the "Believe in yourself" and "Set your goals high," kind of stuff, which, when I was interviewing her on the phone, for some reason made me feel kind of like Steve Blow.

It could be the earnestness, or maybe the fact that the term "coach" should only be applied to people with whistles around their necks, that gave me that Blowian sensation. Said sensation is marked by a certain docile character, rendering the empowerment of female musicians duller than a Vincent Gallo movie. Fuck earnestness, screw moderation—let's get all riot grrl, ladies! I want to see Kathleen Hanna covered in pig's blood a la Carrie, jumping over the counter at the music store and bashing the salesman in the face with a Les Paul. I want to see Joan Jett surrounded by dozens of male groupies, helping her don her bondage gear so that she can whip their asses. I want to see the Gossip's Beth Ditto stomping on someone's head, her fat jiggling gloriously, yelling "Riots, not diets!"

Instead, the whole thing feels as tame as a housecat. Getting treated like a nobody by dick-y music dudes is such an obvious metaphor. An appropriate reaction to shitty boy behavior like that requires more than grabbing the closest acoustic guitar and writing a real intense song about it. It requires more than a Web site, though that helps. Call me cynical, but it requires a more sinister environment than Opening Bell. I feel like a real jerk calling out Sklar and Conlon—their hearts are in the right place, and the show benefits Operation Kindness. Both Sklar and Conlon seem, from my conversations with them, like really nice people. Maybe that's the problem.

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Jonanna Widner
Contact: Jonanna Widner

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