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Flip Fest

Flip Fest - Illustration by Janay Baade
Touring Canada as a musician is no joke. Mind-numbingly long drives between shows, sketchy road stop food, unfamiliar sleeping situations, inevitable interpersonal band drama, and stretched finances are often the costs of getting to be on stage and sharing music with new audiences. An extra challenge is added on top of all these stressors for women and gender non-conforming musicians; in most cases, the majority of performers on stage, show promoters, and venue staff are male.

When Kristin Krein started going out to see live music in 2012, they wanted to feel inspired. Krein is a mainstay in activist and community-building circles in Lethbridge; they started the Fourth Wave Freaks collective, co-ordinated volunteers for Electric Eye Music Festival from 2014 to 2016, and volunteer annually with Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp. Krein’s experiences with organizing motivated them to address the lack of diverse gender representation in the local music scene. “In Lethbridge, there was just a lot of dude bands,” Krein says. “And the dude bands, whether they thought they did or not, they ran the music scene. I felt like ‘I want to see more bands come through! I want to see more women on stage.’ And if you see different people on stage, then you think ‘I can do that’.”

With a collective of 12 other organizers, Krein founded FLIP Fest in 2017. The festival aims to create an encouraging and inclusive music and arts scene for women and gender non-conforming folks, featuring local musicians and touring bands. In its inaugural year, the FLIP Fest collective co-ordinated two days of live music at four venues throughout the downtown, along with a panel discussion on women of colour in music, an anti-oppression training session, and a handmade market. The event provided opportunities for local musicians and music lovers, while also sending out the message that Lethbridge can be a viable stop for touring musicians. “People on cross-Canada tours rarely stop here,” Krein says. “So I just wanted us to be a stop. We could put a festival on, pay people well, work on creating a larger community with the whole of Canada and southern Alberta, and say ‘we are here, and we will pay you! Please help us help each other.’”

Krein hopes that FLIP Fest is able to contribute positively to the touring environment for musicians in Canada, especially for those that face added challenges. “We can lighten the load a bit, and carry each other up. Especially if you’re marginalized, if you’re a person of colour, if you’re a mom, if you have any other alternating intersection other than the status quo, it’s harder.”

For its second year, FLIP Fest organizers are busy sifting through musician submissions from as far away as Nova Scotia and Texas. Krein believes this demand for the festival demonstrates a broader desire for new and varied voices in the music scene. “People have said to us, ‘This is a political thing.’ It may be political in nature, because representation [of diverse voices in music] is nil. But this is just one weekend of the year, with femme-fronted bands. People want to see their friends, their loved ones, themselves on stage. We hope we can provide more and more opportunities of seeing each other on stage.”

FLIP Fest runs August 24-26, 2018. Visit facebook.com/flipmusicfest for details.
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