Women of Rock Tribute: Stronger Together

An unprecedented super-group of over 20 female and non-binary performers will take the stage at The Pyramid Scheme on June 22 for a first-ever event for the West Michigan Music Scene.

Featuring Jennifer Barlett of Lokella, Grace Theisen, Erin Zindle of The Ragbirds, Hannah Rose Graves, Kait Rose, Dani Darling, Carolyn Striho, Cailtin Cusack, Rachel White of Lighting Matches, Kanin Wren, Fay Burns, Shelby Leigh of Nathan Walton & The Remedy, Melissa Dylan, Suong Nhu Pham, Miranda McAllister of Deep Enough, Clare Crumback aka Empress Eyes, Meg Hainer, Rosie Cusack, Hals Smedstad, and Elle Lively, the show brings together professional and aspiring performers of all ages, backgrounds and genres to celebrate women in rock music. 

From longtime performers like Striho, who has played with the legendary Patti Smith, to new artists like Kanin Wren, who is just breaking into the music scene, the show welcomes women from around West Michigan and across the state to share their talents and their love of music equally.

“Building this community of women who support and celebrate each other is super rewarding,” Elle Lively told Revue. “It isn’t common. Especially in this business, we are almost pushed to tear each other down to get a leg up. We are taught that there is only room for so much talent and that is just not true… We’re building a longer table! We’re stronger together and this show is embodying collaboration over competition.”

A Music Collaboration Facilitator and Music Business Consultant for Crooked Tree Creative, Lively began what has become the Women of Rock Tribute Show back in 2019, before the pandemic, when she brought together a group of 14 women to cover Fleetwood Mac’s classic “The Chain” in 2019.

“Having been in the industry a few years, I had experienced firsthand some of the struggles that are unique to being a woman in music,” Lively said. “I wanted to bring some visibility to impressive talent and send a message that we are powerful together.”

Confronting how easy it is for women to compete for gigs and other opportunities rather than lift each other up, Lively hoped the collaborative project would foster a community for female artists in the area. 

Third Coast Recording Company in Grand Haven shared her vision, and helped record the cover, which the group later performed again live at the WYCE Jammie Awards.

Following the massive disconnect caused by the pandemic and social distancing, Lively sent out a call in 2021 to cover Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Earlier this year the group gathered together again for a rendition of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which they shot on video and shared on social media. That led to talks of how to further showcase all of their collected talent.

“I am of the belief that when you get a group of driven women together to work towards one goal, things can happen really quickly, and this process has only reiterated that notion,” Jennifer Bartlett said.

Bartlett and singer/songwriter Grace Theisen soon joined on with Lively to organize the Women of Rock Tribute as a live show featuring the large ensemble all together onstage.

“Initially, our main goal in doing this was just to pay tribute to the women who have come before us and paved the way for us to ‘rock’ onstage and have a voice in the industry,” Theisen said. “But then a lot more people wanted to be a part of it, so we decided to broaden our horizons and try to get as many people as involved as possible, even if they didn’t identify as a woman. At the end of the day, men are still dominating the industry, so this show has become one in which we get to highlight some of the marginalized groups who aren’t getting enough representation. I always say, if someone doesn’t invite you onto their stage, go and build your own, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Lining up schedules, rehearsals, photoshoots, and sponsors, and paring down the show to 27 songs, complete with costume changes and countless collaborations, the Women of Rock Tribute took a lot of time, and a lot of work, from a lot of women behind the scenes.

“If we had gone with our original set list full of songs that warrant being considered, it would have been an eight-hour show,” Lively said. “There is no shortage of great rock music from female icons.”

Making sure to include songs by legends like Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Carly Simon, Tina Turner, and Kate Bush, the show will also include favorites by Shania Twain, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Paramore, No Doubt, Alanis Morissette, and more. 

“I certainly hope that this project helps to give women and non-binary folk a push into music, but if it only helps to support even one person’s confidence in their journey, it’s a win,” she said. “There is so much more work that needs to be done, but we can only move one step at a time.”

Helping take that first step are the event’s sponsors including key sponsor Nutrl Vodka Seltzer, which will be the official beverage of the show, as well as Broad Leaf Brewery, Morning Belle, Stan’s Tacos, and ProCare Unlimited.

A portion of the proceeds from the show will go to Girls Rock Grand Rapids to help fund their summer programs, where young women go to learn an instrument and find their voice. 

“Women average $0.70 to every male $1,” Lively said. “Female artists earn 88 percent less in their bonuses compared to male artists. Women deserve equal pay. Our goal is to pay every artist involved a fair wage for their time and talent. We hope this sets an example for future artists and organizers who want to support women in music in our area.”

Crooked Tree Creative presents Women of Rock Tribute
The Pyramid Scheme, 68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
June 22, 7 p.m., $15, All ages
pyramidschemebar.com, crookedtreecreative.com