Where them girls at? The plight of being a woman outnumbered at shows

Schoolboy Q at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC

It was one of the hottest days Washington D.C. has seen in 2016, 8:30 p.m. and still registering almost 90 degrees. I bopped along V street with an extra bounce that seemed to accelerate with every step I took toward the 9:30 Club. Sporting a t-shirt from Kanye West’s 2014 Yeezus Tour, black jeans, and custom Adidas, I was particularly feeling myself – and a bright red lip tied the whole street style vibe together.

Schoolboy Q was the headliner that night, an artist I’ve followed since before his solo days when he formed the hip-hop collective Black Hippy (S/O to Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and Kendrick Lamar!). I wasn’t an early fan, but when I first heard the group back in 2010 I was hooked. “Setbacks” was a strong start for Schoolboy Q as a solo artist and its follow-up, “Habits and Contradictions” was my favorite album of 2012. “Hands on the Wheel” is still one of my most played songs ever on iTunes. It was that perfect blend of sampling, production, and verbiage. It was immediate and euphoric. I couldn’t get enough of that track. His major label debut, “Oxymoron” maintained the same level of intensity as its predecessor. From “Los Awesome” to “Studio,” “What They Want” to “Man of the Year,” the album was track after track of pure production gold. And now, just two weeks ago, Schoolboy Q released his latest album “Blank Face LP” another critical success.

I had never seen the rapper perform live and I was downright giddy when I made it to the club and got into the absurdly long security line to enter 9:30.

“You can come right this way, honey,” a pleasant security woman said to me. “Oh no, that’s fine. I’d like to stay with my friend,” I replied. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized there were two lines: one for men and one for women. The security was particularly intense that night, perhaps as a result of the tragedies that seem to continue unfolding right in front of us on the evening news every day. Each attendee was frisked so thoroughly that it felt like going through TSA. So, I acquiesced. I waved good-bye to my friend and said “I’ll see you inside.”

My line had exactly zero people standing in it.

Once inside the venue I realized I had quite some time to kill before meeting up with my friend again. I walked around, scoping out the crowd and looking through the merchandise table, when I noticed something that honestly shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. I was one of maybe 50 women in a club with a capacity of 1,200.

Nothing makes me more indignant than listening to smug men try to argue that women have bad taste in music. There’s still so much latent sexism when it comes to this subject, to the point that women who are real fans find themselves having to defend their passion within their own music communities. If you can’t name a specific song from an album (and not just any album, oh no, you must be an expert in special releases as well) you are an impostor that must be exposed for the silly female fraud that you are. It’s insulting and it’s exhausting. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was at a show “because my boyfriend likes the band” I’d be a very rich woman.

I looked around the club and saw a wonderfully diverse crowd – black, white, Hispanic, young, old, hip, not-so-hip – but the gender gap was there, and it was the starkest I’d ever seen.

Schoolboy Q’s performance was fire emoji perfection. Because the show was a “pit stop” and not part of his official tour, he was very loose on stage and openly admitted to having no set list. He frequently engaged with the crowd, asking us what songs we wanted to hear, then going off on the mic. He also bantered with the audience and threw bottles of water into the sweaty, rapturous crowd. “None of y’all are gonna die tonight!” he joked with a big smile on his face. The crowd’s reaction to “Man of the Year” was without a doubt the most hype I’ve ever seen folks get at 9:30 and I was grinning like a moron when he came back out for an encore with “What They Want.”


Maybe Schoolboy Q was too specific of a show to ponder the notion of underrepresentation of women at live music venues. He certainly hasn’t achieved Kendrick Lamar’s level of universal adoration, but hip-hop is no longer a genre exclusive to the male listener. I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason women hesitate to attend those shows is because they worry they will find themselves in my situation – vastly outnumbered by intoxicated men in a crowded semi-public place. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly if you aren’t accustomed to the sweaty, cramped space-invading encroachment that is unavoidable at a place like the 9:30 club, when you see no female compatriots to latch onto should you start to feel unsafe. It makes perfect sense given the statistics surrounding sexual assault and bars. Approximately 25% of women will experience some form of sexual assault in their adolescence or early adulthood, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and about half of those crimes occur when the perp was under the influence of booze. When you start to dig into the statistics surrounding women’s safety, and the circumstances in which these awful crimes tend to unfold, it starts to make sense that perhaps women don’t feel entirely safe at concerts – particularly at smaller venues where alcohol is typically cheaper and there is less security. It may not even be a conscious connection. But rather years and years of gendered (and valid) paranoia.

We’ve come a long way since “On the Equality of the Sexes” but as I stood in that 1% of the crowd at Schoolboy Q, I realized we’ve got a long way to go.

This was the first in a series of essays about women and music.


The Beginner’s Guide to Surviving a Show Alone

Photo by Margaret Murphy

Photo by Margaret Murphy

You’re favorite artist is finally, finally coming to town. You buy your ticket, body pounding with excitement, and suddenly your heart sinks when you realize the show is on a Tuesday night; and absolutely none of your friends will want to go with you.

If you’re a huge live music fan, you’ve inevitably been faced with this situation. Your friends will offer a bevy of excuses for why they can’t go to the show with you: I have a HUGE meeting the next morning, I don’t like them enough to be tired at work the next day, I have a birthday party that night, I have to feed my neighbor’s cat, I hate your face and I just don’t want to go. All perfectly valid excuses.

So, what do you do? Going to a show alone must be so awkward, right?

Well, I’ve conducted that social experiment for you, and the answer is no, no it’s not awkward — actually, it’s quite enjoyable. I had always avoided going to shows by myself for fear of being preyed upon by boys in their mid- to late-twenties still acting like douchey frat stars who potentially have Rohypnol in their pocket. But I really wanted to see Milky Chance at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday night, so I decided to fly solo.

I learned many things during my two-hour date with myself, but most importantly, I figured out exactly how to go to a show alone and still have an awesome time:

1) Go get yourself a drink

Please note, ‘a drink’. As in, get yourself ONE drink. As you walk into the venue you’ll likely feel a little awkward and insecure. After all, you aren’t rolling up with a squad that affirms how awesome you are. So, proceed to the bar and get yourself a bevy. Having something in your hand will make you feel less fidgety and having booze in your system will make you feel more at ease with your solo situation. Treat yo-self.

2) Do not keep buying yourself drinks

This is very important. Don’t be that guy/girl in the back drunk all by yourself. You may think you’re just “doing you,” but you’re wrong.  It’s never a good look. Ever.

3) Put your phone away

I know, I know. Your phone is your security blanket. When it’s in your hand you feel warm and complete. Put it away. Bury it deep in your purse or pocket and don’t take it out again unless you want to take a sweet photo of the show. You may think that being on your phone constantly makes you look less awkward, but actually the opposite is true. If you’re at an amazing show and you’re just on your phone the entire time, you look like the lame person who came to a show and isn’t in the moment, which draws very negative attention to yourself.

4) Be friendly and social

This is one of those moments where basic lessons you learned in Kindergarten, like be nice and don’t judge people, are probably most applicable. If someone is kind enough to chat with you, don’t be dismissive or treat he/she like a creeper. You’re the one at a show by yourself. That being said, if as you speak to said person you realize that he/she may be a serial stalker, feel free to excuse yourself to “use the bathroom.”

5) Move around

One of the best parts about going to a show by yourself is that you have the ability to freely move about the venue without worrying about anybody else’s whereabouts. Everyone has that annoying friend who wants to be as close to the stage as possible or has to pee every 20 minutes (guilty), but when you’re on your own you can pretty much migrate as frequently, or infrequently, as you want. I watched Milky Chance from probably ten different vantage points in the 9:30 Club and it was AWESOME. Plus, the more you move, the more people you’ll interact with. Making it easier to make new friends.

6) Make concert buddies

That is, if you want to. If you’d rather hang out and enjoy the show all on your own, do you. I like making concert friends, even if the friendship only lasts an hour. Most people attending shows are very social and chatty. Remember, these are people who voluntarily paid to be inside a crowded room with other people’s sweat likely pressed up against their bodies — they are not recluses.

7) Remember that nobody cares

This is the single most important thing to keep in mind. I know this concept is difficult to absorb because in our own minds we are the center around which the universe revolves. But seriously, truly, really, nobody gives a shit about the fact that you’re at a show alone — because absolutely nobody is paying attention to you. So relax and dance as if nobody’s watching (because they aren’t).

If you aren’t familiar with Milky Chance, you should be! They’re an awesome German band comprised of Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch, two friends who met in high school and have been making dope music together ever since. Their debut album “Sadnecessary” was released in October 2013 in Germany and one year later in the U.S. Their music fuses the singer-songwriter spirit with upbeat electronic sound — the result is deeply sentimental music that you can seriously groove to.

At one point in time during their show on Wednesday night, just before they played “Loveland,” Clemens and Philipp joyfully asked the crowd, “Is anyone in here tonight in love?” which incited an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Though I couldn’t myself scream and cheer in response, I loved that the band was so in touch with the subject they sing about with such emotion and conviction. That’s what makes them so special. The sincerity of sentiment wrapped in an upbeat package that makes you feel like you can dance through your troubles, until you finally find yourself dancing with the person you love.

Fashion Friday: How to Look Chic at an EDM Show

The transformative nature of music has always had a unique effect on the fashion it yields. From the dirty grunge of rock and roll to the flirty silhouettes of American pop, the music we listen to inevitably affects the way we dress – even if only for one night at an amazing show. As my girls and I gear up to see Dillon Francis tonight, I started thinking about the expressive nature of the EDM culture. Wild outfits planned weeks in advance, neon-colored furry boots, and bold makeup are just a few examples of the sights to behold at these events. But as I inch closer to my mid-twenties, more closely defining my own sense of personal style, I can no longer imagine myself running around a venue in neon spandex and feeling okay about it.

So, what’s a girl to do? Is there a way to look eclectic and fabulous at one of these shows without looking like an old fart that doesn’t belong? Oh yes, there are plenty. You can feel confident, comfortable, and chic as you dance the night away under those strobe lights and lasers. It’s not surprising that most of these compilations are black (or some variation of black) but you really can’t go wrong with a streamlined, modern look. Even at an EDM concert. Here are a few looks so that you can rave for your age:

1) I love the contrast of a sleek crop top and sporty track pants. Full disclosure, I am obsessed with these bottoms, they give the outfit a little boost of kitsch that’s so appropriate for a rave. Paired with a pair of colorful wedge dunks, this look is basically perfect.

2) Layering a sheer top over a simple bra immediately elevates the sophistication of your look. Over a pair of faux-leather shorts you’ll look super sleek. Add a gold chain for a fun effect and boom – you’re ready to take on the night.

3) This one is a bit cheeky (quite literally). The sequined booty shorts are definitely only for those brave enough to bare their bottom. The contrast of textures with a cropped flannel shirt adds a fun element that really stands out in its originality. Personally, I’d pair this with thigh-high leather boots, but it would look just as adorable with a pair of white converse.

4) You can’t go wrong with denim, so why not choose a pair of unique jeans to rock for the night? These are a high-waist, ankle-length, distressed pair that add visual interest to the look. Pair ‘em with a sculptural crop, short silver chain, and leather cap for an updated take on schoolyard cool.

5) Okay, okay. I know that not everyone is on board with overalls. But I love these. Wear a lace bra underneath for a sexier take on this American staple and incorporate a gold choker for even more sex appeal.