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Whether or not you start a fucking riot (actually, please don’t), Santa Ana’s Grrl Fair is your best chance to celebrate International Women’s Day in OC
If not for the efforts of Adrienne Santellan, International Women’s Day would pass largely unnoticed in Orange County, as it does in much of the nation. For the past seven years, the award-winning youth organizer has marked the occasion with Grrl Fair, an all-day showcase of female talent in music, art, film and photography, with a healthy dose of feminist-themed workshops.
The day traces its roots back to March 8, 1908, when 15,000 female workers in the “needle trades,” marched through New York City’s Lower East Side, protesting against child labor and sweatshop conditions while demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. This dissent inspired International Women’s Day, which is officially recognized in several countries but not in the United States.
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In its first two years in Garden Grove, Grrl Fair was less about the activist holiday and more about simply being a woman-positive event. Though vendors, exhibits and workshops are important aspects of the fair, music has always been the main draw. The true value of the annual event is the unique space it provides for local up-and-coming female musicians. This quality made a lasting impression on Santellan herself when she worked the first Grrl Fair as a volunteer.
“In 2002, I was just helping bands set up—and it was the first time I really saw any girl bands,” she reminisces.
Now a principal organizer, Santellan, along with her colleagues, has put together a lineup that builds on that sense of purpose. “A lot of people have such a low standard of girl-fronted bands,” she says. “I want to showcase that there are fucking gems out there!” To that end, she has assembled the Lucky Touch, Anus Kings, Mermaid, the Dig, No Respect and Alicia Ortiz.
Powered by blueswoman Sydney Ward, with Brian Rodriguez on bass, Anus Kings back up their provocative name with their blues/folk/punk blend. Ward, a Nashville native, plays accomplished blues licks accelerated to punk-rock speeds; it’s that style that immediately won over Santellan. “They are amazing,” she declares.
Formed last June, the Lucky Touch, fronted by rhythm guitarist Jackie Quintanar, are also worth noting. “As a female musician, I am one of a few among a majority of male musicians and artists that dominate today’s music scene,” Quintanar notes. “Participating in an event like Grrl Fair that acknowledges the few in order to stir inspiration in many is a great thing to be a part of.”
The Dig, No Respect and Mermaid are all outfits similarly influenced by punk, but who nevertheless take distinctive approaches to their sounds. Coming from Santa Ana, No Respect reach for a straight-up punk aesthetic with their intense sonic spasms. The Dig, also from Grrl Fair’s host city, temper their arrangements with indie-garage sensibilities behind the singing of Darla Diggs, while Mermaid clearly take their “riot grrrl” musical cues from Bikini Kill.
By showing girls bands like these, Santellan says, she hopes to create more of them. “I’m really into gearing Grrl Fair toward high-school girls who might not think they can start a band because they’re a girl,” she explains. “They have a platform if they want to in Santa Ana to get out of their shell.”
Singer Ortiz is an example of just that: This weekend’s show will be her first.
Santellan stresses that, at Grrl Fair, “girl-positive” should not be misconstrued as “boy-negative.”
“It’s not really anti-male, but some guys take it that way because their band wasn’t allowed to play,” Santellan explains. “It’s just one day, and I really like it when guys show up and they’re there to listen and learn.”
Eighth Annual Grrl Fair, featuring performances by Anus Kings, the Lucky Touch, Mermaid, the Dig, No Respect and Alicia Ortiz, at El Centro Cultural de Mexico, 310 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana; www.myspace.com/grrlfair. Sat., 4-11:30 p.m. (bands start at 8 p.m.). $5. All ages.