Is happiness gained in helping others? Is it found in creativity? Is it self-centered? Is it achieved through order and effort, or anarchy? Through total freedom, or adherence to particular ethics?
An effective higher-consciousness festival should raise such questions; enter LadyFest. LadyFest is, after all, a festival with the purpose of highlighting the creative, artistic, activist, and communal efforts of women in our society through dialogue, display, and performance. Outstripping its roots in Olympia, Washington, LadyFest has spread throughout the nation, reaching all the way south to our San Antonio - a great distance (geographically and culturally) from the Pacific Northwest. Women exist everywhere, as do the marks we make over time, and my spirits were raised by the talent, effort, and sheer movement of women who are stronger and bolder than most people of either sex. Through this movement, they move others until, even on a small scale, the lyrics of one of my favorite Ani DiFranco tunes ring true: "We can do something bigger than any one of us alone."
In the documentary Everyone Their Grain of Sand, shown at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center as part of LadyFest, the revolution for the mostly lady-led community of Maclovio Rojas in Tijuana is the fight to simply be recognized by its government, so that its members may continue to live on their land, pay teachers for their self-built school, and have access to running water (as opposed to having to steal water from the local aqueduct).
For songstress PJ Harvey (I was thrilled by the opportunity to see a documentary, also at the Esperanza Center, containing live footage from the tour for her '04 album Uh Huh Her), the revolution was in maintaining control of her tour schedule in order to exist as a public musician within the context of her own personal beliefs. I was awed by her grace and her vulnerable-but-unapologetic quest for centeredness amongst the chaos of touring (though the cool collectedness she was somehow able to maintain whilst slashing her electric guitar atop spindly-muscled legs and pink high-heels and cooing her deep-throated guttural chants and melodic screams gave me goose-bumps).
At Ruta Maya on the Riverwalk, respect for the revolution against oppression ("Anyone here got someone in prison?") took center stage in performances by Invincible, a solo white rapper from Detroit, and the sensual spoken-word/hip-hop duo Climbing Poe Tree ("Self love is something you can't get from your lover,"), from Brooklyn. Their collective cause was honored not only by their bravery - when's the last time you saw a white, female rapper telling the crowd to repeat after her? - but by their commitment to spending their non-touring hours working with youth in their communities.
And just when I thought LadyFest had shown all of her faces, my prejudice against tattooed teeny-boppers overly smitten with their boyfriends was assaulted by one of same when she took to the stage and kicked my ass. The band Silverlined Tragedy, recently transplanted from McAllen, had not one, but two female lead guitarists, one of whom sang while the other (my new hero, Tiffany) ripped it up. Her onstage energy moved me from a table near the back to the one closest the stage, and I was ashamed that I had not yet learned my lesson about exclusionary mindsets.