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The past few years have been kind to Lee Rickard and Sean Bohrman of Burger Records. Their Fullerton shop is a success, and Burger is becoming a sought-after label and brand. Just before the company's trademark Burgerama concert in March, though, Rickard scribbled an idea in the small notebook he uses to record passing thoughts: What if the label hosted a whole festival dedicated to female-fronted bands?
"I think it's going to be really inspiring to young people to see a ton of awesome female-dominated rock groups," Rickard says from a couch at Burger's headquarters.
Rickard and Bohrman threw out the idea to the Observatory, the site of many Burger productions. Rickard relied on his trusty notebook for his preliminary vision for the show when he spoke with Observatory personnel. The Santa Ana venue's team suggested an Aug. 2 show date; that Saturday was already slated to be headlined by one of the most recognizable female-fronted indie rock bands: Best Coast.
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The band's Bethany Cosentino was already worried about the show. They had scheduled the date as a one-off, without anything to promote. But once she heard more about the event and its ethos, she enthusiastically agreed to Best Coast participating. "We have a ton of really young female fans," she says. "Getting to see something like this and have them get really excited about it because it's promoting girl power and celebrating girls will make this a fun event for girls who love our music and for everybody who's there."
Within two weeks, the show was completely booked. After Best Coast agreed to headline, Burger was able to cultivate a lineup that features a mix of established and lesser-known bands who haven't had the platform to play before a big crowd. "Reaching out to Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and getting her to DJ this thing turns into booking one of her new bands to play, and once this one happens, more people [will] want to be a part of it," Rickard says.
The premise of Burger-A-Go-Go wasn't to change how shows were booked and packaged. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive, Rickard says. He acknowledges that while this could ultimately open up new avenues for the label, initially, the festival just seemed like a really cool—and logical—idea.
"People are excited to play Burger shows because we have a rep for putting on good shows," Bohrman says. "So when we hit them up, they're like, 'Hell yeah, let's do it!' So it's usually not too hard to get people."
As Rickard and Bohrman talk about Burger-A-Go-Go, they can't help but beam with pride. It has been nearly 20 years since the Riot Grrrl movement and the Lilith Fair tour spotlighted female voices in pop music. Although those genres reflected a backlash to the more masculine musical movements of the time—particularly the post-alt rock that ruled the airwaves—they fizzled out before Y2K hit. But at July's Burger Boogaloo, the legendary Ronnie Spector was the focal point of its two shows, even if many of the faces in the crowd weren't alive the last time she had a hit.
Also on the Burger Boogaloo lineup were the Muffs, whose Kim Shattuck played bass for the Pixies on top of her responsibilities with the Muffs for the better part of 2013. She says she never judges bands based on gender, only on whether they have strong melodies and good songs. Shattuck adds that the coolest aspect of Burger-A-Go-Go will be showing that girls can rock just as hard as their male counterparts. "It's nice to be celebrated once in a while for something you can't help," she says.
Although the first Burger-A-Go-Go happens this weekend, Rickard and Bohrman are already coming up with loftier goals for next year's edition. They're thinking of potential female-oriented sponsors who could showcase their companies to the next generation of young rockers.
"Because it happened so fast, the lineup is what we got [together] in two weeks," Rickard says. "Hopefully, we'll have the platform to take it on the road the next year. There's nothing more special and powerful than a woman's voice."
The Best Coast front woman also sees something inspiring in Saturday's festival. "It feels like something like this should take place all the time," Cosentino says. "It is cool to be involved in something like this and to teach girls it's okay to have a voice and an opinion. Maybe they've wanted to start a band but have been nervous or scared, and seeing all of these bands together can hopefully inspire them to go out and do it."