Dreamer Isioma headlines FemFest’s return

Indie artist Dreamer Isioma headlined FemFest Saturday night, as the festival made its return to McCarthy Quad for the first time in three years. (Photo courtesy of Calvin La)

FemFest, an annual counter-patriarchal music concert hosted by the Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment, made its mark on McCarthy Quad Saturday for the organization’s first in-person show since 2019. 

With an impressive lineup stacked with artists that truly reflected the goals of the organization — being queer, feminine and loud — FemFest showcased a wide variety of talent that made its return to campus all the more memorable. 

“Our goal every year for all of FemFest is to promote artist identities that are typically marginalized in the industry, so I think we did a pretty good job this year at that,” said Grace Szafara, a junior majoring in music industry who serves as the director of booking and hospitality. 

When doors opened at 4 p.m., entering students were met with clothing vendors, food trucks, women-empowerment organizations such as Gritty In Pink and sounds by DJ opener Girl Online who easily got the early crowd dancing. 

In line with the concerts’ overall theme of defying the patriarchy, assistant director of experience Bridget Bowen, a junior majoring in music industry, said the experience team made sure the booths at the show properly reflected its values. These included the nonprofit TACO, who handed out fentanyl testing strips, and She Is the Music, an organization building a community for women in the music industry. 

CARR, the only other artist besides the headliner, Dreamer Isioma, accompanied by a full band, was the first artist to take the stage and immediately captured the audience with her quick wit and comical stories about each of her songs. Her stage presence and calls to the crowd asking “Who likes to have sex in the shower?” and “Is anyone drunk?” certified the night as an empowering evening that refused to shy away from being provocative. 

“I’m just honored that people thought of me to do this because I obviously love women and I talk shit on men a lot,” said CARR said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “This feels like a safe space.” 

The following act, Tiffany Day, impressed the crowd with her incredible vocals and ability to make the stage her own. In addition to her more-than-enough strength in singing, Day showcased her skills on guitar and was supported by her drummer, Ross Murakami. Closing her set, “CALONE” was undoubtedly the audience’s favorite and served as a perfect segueway for the rest of the night as the sun set. 

The crowd only continued to grow throughout the evening, and after being introduced by her DJ Suga Shay, REI AMI strutted on stage with infectious confidence and was the perfect support for the headliner.  

For its openers, FemFest notably brought in smaller artists, two of which have less than 400,000 monthly listeners on Spotify who deserve recognition and a platform, and in doing so, introduced students to a new catalog of music.

“I saw Rei Ami, and I’ve never been exposed to her music before,” said Mai-Yen Fritz, a junior majoring in neuroscience. “But I love her music now, so I will be streaming it.”

The impressive openers were the perfect build up to the final act of the night. Dreamer Isioma, a R&B/pop artist from Chicago, performed an amazing headlining set that radiated with energy. In addition to “Sensitive,” their brash alt-R&B 2020 track that recently went viral on TikTok, Dreamer Isioma serenaded the crowd with “Stop Calling The Police On Me” and showed off their French skills with “Voulez-Vous Me To…” among others. 

Dreamer Isioma’s ability to get the audience moving to their music underscored their natural talent and the crowd, which was absolutely roaring with adoration, did not take it for granted. 

For the FemFest team, having the show come to fruition is a bittersweet moment. The planning process takes almost a year, and the level of dedication and commitment to the values of the organization are seemingly abundant. 

For Fenner Osmond-Friedman, director of production and a junior majoring in music industry, working on FemFest has been particularly rewarding as it’s necessary to recognize the work women do within music. 

“It is so important to me to be a part of organizations that are amplifying female voices, especially in the music industry,” Osmond-Friedman said. “There’s such a low percentage of women in production roles, so I feel really excited to be making that happen and maybe showing some other people that girls run this shit.” 

Beyond the music, FemFest proved the importance of creating a space dedicated to inclusivity and intersectionality. It was a night created by a team that believes in countering the patriarchy in any way it can and was enjoyed by an audience that believes in the same goal. 

“I think it’s really important to let everyone know any women-identifying people that they matter, their voices matter and that even though [Women’s History] month is over, their voices do not stop mattering,” Fritz said. “I think it’s also encouraging as a woman to see so many people here to celebrate and how many people really do believe that we can rule the world.”