Performers

2016 Performer Line Up

Ferron with~Barbara Higbie & Shelley Jennings

“Ferron writes of love with the relentless introspection of Leonard Cohen, and, as with classic Bob Dylan, her songs’ tough, questioning attitude sometimes gives way to an unexpected.” – Rolling Stone Magazine

Ferron is no diva. She is a real salt of the earth singer who approaches her art with both sleeves rolled up, ready to dive in. She walks her talk with heart exposed and performs with a courage and commitment that few other artists ever muster. The songs don’t sound composed and sung as much as they feel wrung from the sweat and toil of hard fought experience. In Ferron’s world, the contents of her songs appear as if they’re lived out on the canvas of her life and not just inside the confines of her art.

Ferron illuminates human experience in a way that few artists are capable of. Like fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen, Ferron has such self-possession and intuitive command of her material that she can deliver lines that a less experienced singer would never be able to pull off. The weight, poise and gravity that she communicates with each word, each carefully annunciated phrase, is something to marvel at. The words she sings sound ancient, irrefutable and significant.

With a touring career spanning three decades, the legendary Canadian folk singer Ferron made her ‘comeback’ in 2008 with the release of her fourteenth record, Boulder, produced by Bitch (Righteous Babe, Kill Rocks Stars). Boulder includes inspired performances by mentees Ani DiFranco, Samantha Parton (Be Good Tanyas), The Indigo Girls, and Jd Samson (Le Tigre), and helped generate new awareness for Ferron’s music among the younger generation.

Cris Williamson & her All Star Changer Anniversary band

featuring Barbara Higbie, Shelly Doty and Vicki Randle!

Decades before indie labels were the norm, and years before women had any real access to the industry, Cris Williamson was busy changing the face of popular music. In 1975, the twenty-something former schoolteacher recorded The Changer And The Changed, for her brainchild, Olivia Records. the first woman-owned woman-focused record company. Her music and voice quickly became the soundtrack of a movement, and was the cornerstone of what would become known as “women’s music,” music created, performed, and marketed specifically to women. Today, that recording, The Changer and the Changed, remains one of the best-selling independent releases of all time.

For Cris, the music became the vehicle for something larger. Her lyrics appear on a regular basis in books and thesis papers. Her albums are part of the curriculum for women’s studies courses, and thousands of people who may not even know her name join their voices in “Song of the Soul” around campfires and places of worship. She is embraced by women. She is sampled in hip-hop Her music is used by midwives welcoming life into the world, while hospice choirs sing her songs in tender sacred escort.

Barbara Higbie   

Grammy-nominated composer, pianist, fiddler, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Barbara Higbie plays everything from Traditional Jazz, Bluegrass and Irish to New Classical Music, Blues and African Pop. Higbie has 13 solo and group recordings to her name, as well as contributions to 10 compilations that have sold in the millions.

Hanifah Walidah

Hanifah Walidah is an award-winning filmmaker, musician, playwright, educator and social arts activist. Over the past 20 years in the arts she has toured the world and is currently touring internationally as lead singer-songwriter for electro-soul band St.Lô. Her music is a blend of electro, soul and hip hop. Her rich, twenty-year career has taken an ethnographic approach to the arts to create culturally relevant film, music, and stage works that help foster social change. Recent projects include the feature length award winning rocumentary U People and the nationally noted Black Folks’ Guide to Black Folks, a one-woman show and feature-length film imagining and stimulating conversations among queer and straight communities of color in the contemporary U.S. She is a founding member of the well-known New York City women of color theatre cabaret, Rivers of Honey.

Staceyann Chin

Staceyann Chin is a spoken word poet, performing artist and LGBT rights political activist, who has performed On & Off-Broadway and  on stages around the world.  She is the author of The Other Side of Paradise, and is in rehearsals for MotherStruck, a new theater piece opening 10/15, in collaboration with director, Cynthia Nixon and producer, Rosie O’Donnell, chronicling her incredible experiences about motherhood.

Elvira

A Toronto native and alumna of Second City, Elvira Kurt is an accomplished comedian who hosts her own TV program in Canada, has starred in an acclaimed Comedy Central half-hour special, has earned multiple nominations as College Comedian Of The Year, and has countless other TV credits as a comic, actress, host, writer–often on gay-lesbian shows.

Tret Fure

One of the most prolific artists in the contemporary singer-songwriter arena, Tret Fure has released 15 albums and CDs over the course of her 46 year career. In addition to being a gifted songwriter, Fure has engineered and produced countless recordings by a variety of artists, including her own work.

Fure also markets of her own line of clothing named after her popular song “Tomboy girl”. In addition, while not on the road, Tret teaches guitar and songwriting individually and in workshop settings. She paints pet portraits on commission and, an accomplished cook, Fure has also published a cookbook, “Tret’s Kitchen”, featuring her own recipes. Along with bridging the marketing, production, music and art worlds, Tret also serves as President of Local 1000, The Traveling Musicians Association–a union geared toward helping traveling musicians find security and longevity.

Kelly Zullo

Incorporating machine-gun acoustic guitar skills, live drumming and simultaneous ‘foot pedal bass’, Kelly Zullo takes the art of singer-songwriter to a new level.   She breathes fresh air into the ‘one man band concept’ by using it as a vehicle to support her uniquely frenetic acoustic guitar playing, live looped drums and quirky life-bent philosophy acoustic funk jams that take the listeners ears off with her speed, accuracy and syncopation.
In her hometown of Columbus, OH, she was voted 614 Magazine’s “Best Solo Musician” for 2014/15 and most recently was reviewed by Guitar World Magazine, describing her latest release as “An energetic acoustic guitar assault by this skilled, funky speed demon”. Kelly also appeared in the 2014 show “Woodchopper’s Ball” at Kent Stage which features 9 of the top acoustic guitarists from around the country.

Summer Osborne

Summer Osborne is an award winning American singer-songwriter who entertains audiences throughout the US and Canada with her magical brand of melodic and lyrically potent genre-jumping performances. She masterfully amalgamates the human condition, spirituality, truth, love and healing. When Osborne’s kaleidoscope of music is infused with her charismatic stage presence and naturally humorous personality, every show leaves the listener wanting more.

Reina Williams

If Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Pink and Justin Timberlake could miraculously make a love child, it would be Reina Williams.

The Baltimore native is making noise these days with her eclectic acoustic soul hip hop sound with an amazing singing voice to match.

Daughter of an Opera singer and a Sculptor, she began writing music for her own sanity at age 12, dealing with the angst ridden feelings of a young pre teen, inspired by the music of Metallica, Kurt Cobain, Boyz II Men, Sade, and Seal.  At about age 14, she was exposed to Hip Hop, and RnB, artists like Jay-Z, DMX, Lil’ Kim, and Timbaland and this is when she really started taking an interest in MIDI composing and combining it with live recorded guitar.

Currently, Reina lives in Brooklyn, NY and is working on getting back to her original organic sound.  She is writing new music for herself as well as publisher Red Rock-a-Media, and holds a residency at the hip and chill Bed-Stuy hot spot Rustik Tavern.

Skip the Needle

 Born from group of friends jamming: all veterans of multiple bands, tours, recording. Shelley Doty (Shelley Doty X-tet, Sistas in the Pitt) guitar, Kofy Brown (Kofy Brown Band, Sistas in the Pit) drums, Katie Colpitts (Dolorata, Year of the Fist) guitar and Vicki Randle (the Tonight Show, Mavis Staples) bass.

The band is the collective effort of four Bay area bandleaders, each lead singer, multi-instrumentalist, performer and songwriter. Lead singing duties rotate among the members while the others add background vocals. The songs are collectively written to showcase each member’s unique contributions, bringing together rock, funk, soul and fusion in an amalgam that rocks hard and is also musically diverse and complex; carries a strong, socially conscious message but wants everybody to party while hearing it. If Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Chrissie Hynde and Chaka cloned a baby, this band would be the result. Skip the Needle is reckless, eclectic, fearless and fun, dedicated to love, and lIke nothing you’ve ever heard before.

Skip The Needle is a collaboration of four bandleaders: Shelley Doty, Kofy Brown, Katie Colpitts and Vicki Randle. Our mission: to annihilate with love! Born from group of friends all veterans of multiple bands, tours, recording, jamming together. They immediately started creating original music and had so much fun, they decided to go for it. Reckless, eclectic, fearless, if Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Chrissie Hynde and Chaka cloned a baby, this would be the result. Listen out for soul, rock, funk, vocal harmonies and wild instrumental explorations.

Sandra Valls

Sandra Valls is a brash, high energy, smart, outrageously funny, Latina comic… and then some! Voted by Latina Magazine as one of the Top 33 Bad Ass Comics with Latin Roots, Sandra performs to standing room only, sold out comedy performances all over the country. She’ll make you laugh till your face hurts with her frank, no holds barred comedic genius!

Sandra ignites the stage with powerful, electric performances in 2 Showtime hit comedy specials, THE LATIN DIVAS OF COMEDY (nominated for an Alma Award) and PRIDE: LGBT COMEDY SLAM! , hosted by Bruce Vilanch (both available for viewing now on Hulu.com). In a time when gays and lesbians in the United States are still struggling and fighting for equality, Sandra Valls unapologetically takes the road less travelled, celebrates her sexuality, and steps up to the front lines entertaining and educating folks through laughter and plenty of PRIDE! So it comes as no surprise that she was voted one of Curve Magazine’s Top 10 funniest lesbian comics and Top 10 faces to watch in 2010 by Diva Magazine.

Always an activist of human rights, Sandra was just recently honored in her hometown of Laredo with the 2013 International Woman’s Day Award for being a trailblazer and empowering women and was chosen by Unidos-The National Latino LGBT Human Rights Organization to be part of their prestigious list for Project VISIBLE Latinos LGBT in the USA and Puerto Rico: Out in Leadership. GLAAD has honored Sandra’s work at Mun2 with a Special Recognition Award for her groundbreaking achievements in production for promoting fair and accurate representation of the LGBT community in English-speaking Latino television.

Furthermore, The California Senate presented Sandra with a Certificate of Recognition for her relentless support of people in recovery in the LGBT community as exemplified by her leadership in producing “One Gay at a Time”, a comedy show that celebrates people in recovery.

Sandra is also an actor, singer, and a published author. Pick up your copy of Out on the Edge: America’s Rebel Comics and read all about what it’s like to be a lesbian and a woman of color in the comedy world!

Crys Matthews

NC native and VA resident Crys Matthews has been performing professionally since 2008. She has shared the stage with artistslike the Indigo Girls, Dar Williams, Melissa Ferrick, Chris Pureka, etc. Crys was an official showcase artist at Folk Alliance International in 2012. She has also performed at: Out/Loud, FolkFest St. Pete, Charlotte Pride, Savannah Pride, Charleston Pride, Capital Pride, Shakori Hills Festival, Tacoma Park Folk Festival, Virginia Women’s Music Festival, SisterSpace, and many more.

A prolific lyricist and composer, Crys Matthews has penned three full-length albums and has already began working on a fourth. Backroads and Driveways is her debut album and first studio release. Having found her voice in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and her inspiration for most of the album in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Backroads and Driveways is about a journey. From “Traveling”—which was literally written on an airplane—to the title track, these songs play like journal entries along the road to love and happiness.

The album was engineered and produced by recording legend, Karen Kane (who engineered Tracy Chapman’s first demo), and it is available on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, and at various retailers. It is in rotation on Pandora; and it is being played on various broadcasts from Harrisonburg, VA (WMRA’s Acoustic Cafe) to Portland, OR (KBOO Radio).

Heather Mae

An imaginative lyricist with a powerhouse voice, Heather Mae is forging new ground with her newest album—due to be released on June 10th, 2016. Entitled “I AM ENOUGH”, the collection is dubbed a KickStarter Staff Pick, as it smashed through its $15,000 fundraising goal, and has earned early praise by FLURT Magazine as “…every bit appealing to the ears as it is empowering.”

With producer Mark Williams (Sucker Punch Recording Co.) at the wheel, the collection of five songs is a bold breakout from her former years as a folk singer-songwriter strumming a ukulele. Mae breaks ground in “I AM ENOUGH” not only for her interesting indie-pop sound, but also for her musical take on touchy subjects ranging from LGBTQ discrimination, gender stereotypes, body image, and mental health issues. This is what sets Mae apart—she seeks to write music for those that need an anthem and doesn’t shy away from tackling topics not often heard in pop music.

The title track to her new album, ‘I Am Enough’ is an ode to body positivity and breaking away from self-imposed affliction to fit into what society defines as beautiful.

“I see this record as a platform for change. Pop music with a mission.” says Heather, I am inspired by artists who are able to combine both.”
‘Wanderer’ and ‘No Poor Soul’ are reflections of Mae’s own experience of publicly coming out and the relief associated with finding love that accepts you just as you are—externally and internally. ‘Stand Up’ wraps up the entire record with its challenge to listeners to fight against intolerances that so many of us face, such as racism, sexism and other prejudices.
Mae also includes references to the Black Lives Matter movement and the June SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage which destroyed DOMA.

After graduating  in 2012 from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, directly afterwards she embarked on her first project entitled “One Year of Songs.” The collection was an ambitious project which involved writing and recording one song every day for a year. The record received local and national attention as she toured the country in support of the project.

The Washington Post wrote, “Mae’s songs are charming even outside the context of the original ‘One Year of Songs’ project” and popculturez.com noted that the album was “beautifully written, engagingly crafted, and accomplished in execution.”

As her star began to rise, Mae was diagnosed with nodules on her vocal chords. With her future suddenly in limbo, she was forced to re-evaluate her career and life.

“I was told I would never sing again and I went through a very introspective time. It was having to sit in silence that changed me. I hadn’t ever used my voice for good and that became my mantra as I recovered,” Mae says.

Heather realized she had never really written about the issues that meant the most to her.

“I knew that I had been too afraid to put myself out there and be exposed. It’s one thing to write about love, it’s another thing to write about loving your partner – who is a woman. To sing about what life is like as a plus size woman, the self acceptance and right to feel great about myself, and social issues that meant the most to me.  Before I went through this health challenge, and almost lost it all, fear held me back. It wasn’t worth the risk but I got the message that it can be taken away in a second, and I knew it was time to step up.”

She vowed that her new music would not only be different, but sincere and significant. In spite of some of her darkest days, Mae relearned how to sing. She took a step away from her previous folk-heavy style and her new sound is a unique fusion of indie-pop Tegan and Sara meets dynamic vocalist Etta James.

“When people listen to my new music, my mission is that they feel they’re not alone and that they’re moved to rediscover the best versions of themselves,” Mae says. “Two years ago, I was told that the definition of who I was no longer existed. The thing that kept me going was believing that I wasn’t alone in my brokenness.  We all fail at times and it is so much easier if we have more hands to help us up, rather than to point out our flaws. That is what this record is. A humble hand to help you get off your a**.”

Mae was selected as a 2016 Kerrville New Folk Finalist and has been lucky enough to perform, work, open for, and study one-on-one with diverse talents such as Tom Paxton, Paul Reisler, Amy Speace, Ron Browning (Wynonna Judd), Beth Nielsen Chapman (“This Kiss”), Sarah Clanton, Rebecca Loebe (The Voice S1), and Paul Pfau (The Voice S8).

Mae will kick off her East Coast national tour for “I AM ENOUGH” in June 2016. Her record is available on iTunes and on her website:  www.heathermae.net

YOU ARE BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN
YOU ARE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT
YOU ARE ENOUGH

Viva Valezz! & Friends

Viva Valezz! is honored to be performing for the Ohio Lesbian Festival again this year. This marks her 9th year frolicking with her lesbian sisters! This year Viva! brings her most talented and lovely friends from Columbus and Pittsburgh for a burlesque variety show you won’t soon forget! Please stay up a little late (the very last act, after Skip the Needle) and enjoy Butterfly and Vita Valentina of the Velvet Hearts!, and their friends Gigi Coudray and Moon Beam all the way from Pittsburgh. They can’t wait to entertain you!

The Big Girl Burlesque

Is a group of like-minded, self confident, body positive women who know size has nothing to do with sexy!

Wahru

B. “Wahru” Cleveland is considered an accomplished drummer on the Djembe’,ashiko,bongos, congas, and dunun. She the founder, director and leader of Sistah Ngoma, a professional multicultural women’s drum group, and the Columbus Community Drummers, a multicultural mixture of female and male drummers in Columbus, OH, and surrounding areas.