There's a lot to like about the lineup for Homegrown Music Festival in 2015, announced this week. Now in its sixth year, the downtown Dallas fest landed Spoon as headliner, easily the biggest act to play the Texas-only music festival. Homegrown's no longer the little fest that could; it's turning into a legitimate player that the best bands in the state want to be a part of.
But beyond Spoon, one another thing stands out about Homegrown's lineup: there's only one female on the entire 12-band bill. Her name is Sam Villavert, and she's the bassist for local surf-rock quartet Sealion.
We called festival co-founder Josh Florence, who owns Club Dada, Off the Record and City Tavern, and asked him about his markedly estrogen-deficient lineup. He sounded surprised -- and a little embarrassed.
"You know, I didn't know that. That's, uh, interesting," he said. Florence started Homegrown Fest with Josh Solis back in 2010, and their lineups have usually showcased female artists. Last year's included Sarah Jaffe and Sam Lao, as well as Houston's Wild Moccasins, which is fronted by Zahira Gutierrez.
"That's obviously not intentional," he went on. "But then again, I don't know that we ever intentionally booked female acts in the past. We just kind of grouped it all together."
It's worth noting, however, that in some cases organizers might be able to blame such a gender imbalance on the selection process, since some festivals depend on bands to apply. Not Homegrown, though: their curated lineup is hand-picked by the organizers.
Villavert, who also plays in Son of Stan, was good humored about the news. "When I first heard that, I was just kind of like, 'Oh, well, I guess that's just how it goes,'" she admitted with a laugh. "It's not like that's what Homegrown meant to do by any means."
Florence points out that planning for this year's event, which takes place in Main Street Garden Park, was a little bit different from years past.
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"Honestly, in the past we've been pretty calculated in balancing the amount of acts from the Metroplex and from Austin, and we always make sure we get somebody from Houston," Florence explained. "That's really been pretty formulaic in a way. This year, though, we really didn't even consider that."
That new strategy included going after one of the festival's acknowledged "dream bands" in Spoon, which Villavert said represents its own opportunity for Sealion. "I saw Spoon at Granada Theater probably forever ago and I still think they're one of the best live acts around that are still rocking out," she said.
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Sealion, for its part, has grown into being one of Dallas' most enjoyable live acts, and Villavert is a key part of that. Besides playing bass, she shares lead vocal duties with Hunter Moehring. She also puts a positive spin on being the lone lady at Homegrown this year.
"It's actually kind of cool. When I found out I was like, 'Whoa, no words.' I'm kind of speechless," she said. "[But] I also see this as a way to really represent myself for all the female musicians in the local music scene. I'm proud and honored."
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