How many times have you found yourself in this situation: You’re a full time student, strapped for cash, going through a devastating break up, and your coping mechanism of choice is to organize a two-day cross-genre festival featuring exclusively female-identifying and non-binary artists?
For most, the answer is zero. But it was this exact situation that led the power-duo Mati Cormier and Aly Laube to organize Cushy Entertainment’s inaugural Glitter Ball for May 4-5. The festival will be the first of its kind in Vancouver, where a 2018 Sound Diplomacy study found that 63.5 per cent of music professionals and freelancers identify as male. “When you’re uncomfortable in your community and you have the leadership spirit that Mati and I have, it’s almost instinctive to change that,” says Laube, lead vocals and guitar for the band Primp. Cormier denies that she’s a musician, despite Laube’s kind words about a one-time jam session they shared.
“I’ve been hosting shows from the goodness of my heart, not to make money, since I was 14,” says Cormier. The 19-year-old is now earning her Arts and Entertainment Management Diploma from Capilano University. Meanwhile, Laube, 21, studies journalism at KPU. “Everything we’re doing is personal at this point,” says Cormier. “For me, some of it's directly to spite people who said ‘no you can’t,’ or the opportunities I haven't gotten because I've been underestimated as a woman.”
Choosing the 15 acts for Glitter Ball was personal too, as the duo only booked musicians they listen to and love. Day one of the festival will showcase hip-hop, RnB, and rap music; with DJ Softishan spinning between the sets of Biawanna, Backxwash, Una Mey, Baby Blu, Tonye Aganaba, Nala. Canadian DJ Bambii will be headlining on Saturday, along with Tennessee rapper BbyMutha—a black, single mother to two sets of twins.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this, I really love moms,” Cormier says, rolling up her sleeve to reveal a thick black outline of a heart around the word “MOMS” tattooed on her inner bicep. “I was raised by two radical feminist activist lesbians,” she explains. “Here I am—what did you expect?”
Day two of the festival will feature rock, punk, and indie music from the likes of Babe Corner, Chelsea D.E. Johnson, Syvlia Wrath, Primary, and Strange Breed—with DJ Kookum spinning throughout the day.
The headliner, Portland’s Y La Bamba, hails from a Mexican family and weaves soft indie sound with traditional Spanish folk music and mariachi vibes. “I’m really excited to support another Latina artist,” says Laube, who is half South-American. While she was never taught the language, Laube grew up around it, making Vancouver's larger lack of Spanish culture all the more obvious.
When I sat down with the pair in early April, they were still turning down requests from artists hoping to perform at the inaugural festival. “If the space is there, women will take it. You just need to make that space available,” says Laube. “It feels good to have your voice heard. We wanted to do Glitter Ball so that other people can get that—because everyone deserves it.”
The venue, The Pace at 520 Alexander Street, will be separated into a chill-out lounge, bar, and stage. Glitter Ball might even have a food truck and some adult colouring books to work on. The organizers want to ensure there’s always something for attendees to do , even if they’re relaxing and enjoying being in a community space. “I really hope that this event brings together a community—that everyone feels good and happy to be there and like they’re a part of something positive,” says Laube.
Attendees of the festival will inevitably be a part of something positive, as a portion of all Glitter Ball ticket sales will go to WISH Drop-in Centre. The Vancouver non-profit provides safe spaces and resources for female-identifying sex workers.“WISH is inclusive of all women, so it reflects the values of our festival as well,” says Cormier.
The pair admits that creating a festival themed around something as nuanced as feminism proved to be difficult. “Everyone has a different idea of what feminism looks like and what they want to see. We did a lot of consultation, learning, research, and growing,” Laube explains, adding that the project has been one of both personal and professional development.
While neither of them realized Glitter Ball would end up being the festival it has become, they also never intended it to be a showcase of bands performing songs about being a woman or feminism. “I think that what unites these acts is the spirit behind feminism—that we’re all trying to support each other and share this art,” says Cormier.
Even the choice of the festival’s after-party at Static Jupiter was made with the spirit of feminism in mind. The recording studio is owned and operated by Valerie Kvochkova— a musician herself who also does the sound for events she puts on in the space. “Look for the women behind spaces that already exist and are working really hard for themselves,” Laube says, listing The Black Lab, Girls Rock Camp, Shapeshifter Studios and The Pace off the top of her head.
That’s how Laube and Cormier found each other, and you’d be hard pressed to find two business spouses who work so hard to support each other. “We work so hard because we want to do good for Vancouver—it's not to build our resumes or to make money,” Laube says, pausing so the pair can share a bitter chuckle. “It’s to make positive change in our city.”
Nothing, they agree, would make them happier than if people came out, enjoyed themselves, and talked to the organizers.
“Please come talk to us,” Laube pleads into my recorder. “There are only so many perspectives out there that we can understand without talking to you, hearing what you think.”
Tickets to the first, but certainly not last, Glitter Ball festival are available at $20 per day and $30 per weekend on Showpass.