Reported by Women: May 4
From the indie rock festival that took over the city to Laila Hameen's powerful one-woman show, it was a busy week for Cincinnati. Check out the sights and sounds reported by our incredible team below.
The National's Homecoming Fest
Reporting and photography by Kelsey Johnson.
“Okay, let’s party,” said Matt Berninger, The National’s lead singer, kicking off the band’s Saturday night set.
And party we did.
Music fans from near and far converged at downtown Cincinnati’s Smale Park April 28 and 29 for The National's Homecoming Fest in association with MusicNOW. Hometown heroes, The National – the Grammy-winning rock band consisting of Cincinnati natives Matt Berninger, twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf – hosted the inaugural indie rock music festival, headlining both nights with high-energy, two-hour performances, plus other sets by the Dessners’ side project, Red Bird Hollow, and solo collaborations.
The band brought some of their favorite musicians to Cincinnati to give them a taste of the city that made them. The lineup featured musicians from Ohio and beyond – some from as far away as Germany and Ireland. Local performers included members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Artist-in-Residence Ben Sloan, a 2016 People’s Liberty grantee. The Breeders laughed about how nice it was to finally stop in Cincinnati after commuting between Dayton, Ohio and Dayton, Kentucky while recording their latest album. The 32 acts also included Future Islands, Julien Baker, Big Thief, Sam Amidon, and more.
One thing all performers had in common was a deep appreciation for The National bringing so many musicians and fans together. Nearly every set started out with a heartfelt thank you to The National, with Father John Misty quipping, “How nice of the Dessners to finally notice their long-lost Dessner triplet,” and Alvvays’ Molly Rankin joking, “We are The National – thanks for coming to our festival!”
Lanz Projects, Lord Huron, and Mouse on Mars all commented to the crowd how nice Cincinnatians are, manifesting one reason why The National was so eager to convene in their hometown. The Queen City has a beautiful mix of Midwestern friendliness and acceptance, made apparent by the wide range of festival goers, all bobbing their heads along to the beat Saturday and Sunday.
And the community feel made its way to the stage, with a number of acts collaborating with guest drummers and violinists during their sets, and multiple musicians calling on the crowd to provide backup vocals. “People are not tone deaf here,” Moses Sumney laughed as he enlisted the crowd’s help singing not one, but two harmonizing notes. Feist took it a step further with a meta call-and-response approach to the bridge of “A Man Is Not His Song”:
A man is not his song
(Though we all wanna sing along)
We’ve all heard those old melodies
(Like they’re singing right to me)
And sing along the crowd did, while Feist sang the old melodies to them.
Bringing it all together, The National ended their Saturday night set with an unplugged crowd sing-along rendition of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.” Throughout the two nights onstage, it was clear the band was happy to be home. The first night consisted of a mix of songs from the band’s seven albums while Sunday was reserved for the full album, “Boxer,” and more songs afterward – without a single repeat from the night before.
Aftab Pureval, the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts and Ohio congressional candidate, taking the stage prior to The National both nights
The band premiering a brand-new song, “Light Years”
Lots of interpretive dancing
Many, many jokes about having more ferry drinking along the Ohio River: "We've got to have more parties by the river,” Beringer said
The band’s parents’ dance moves in the VIP section
“We’re very happy to be back where we all grew up and to be joined by so many amazing friends and artists,” the band wrote in the Homecoming pamphlet. It’s safe to say that Cincinnati was just as happy to embrace a beautiful weekend of music, friendship, and returning home.
Check out more photos from The National Homecoming Fest, including Lanz Projects, Lord Huron, Sam Amidon, The Breeders, Mouse on Mars, Julien Baker, Moses Sumney, Alvvays, and The National.
Women Helping Women’s Light Up the Night Superhero Soiree
It was a night that would have made Agent Peggy Carter, Marvel’s former field agent for the Strategic Scientific Reserve and co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D., proud. Superheroes and extraordinary citizens gathered together at the JACK Cincinnati Casino for Women Helping Women’s “Light Up the Night Superhero Soiree” in support of survivors of gender-based violence. Women Helping Women provides a variety of services for survivors, from a 24-hour hotline to crisis intervention and legal advocacy. Kristin Shrimplin, superhero and president/CEO, asserted, “2018 is the year of survivors. Survivors are brave. Survivors are resilient. Survivors are strong.”
The event’s fundraising goal of $7,500 was exceeded thanks to the evening’s generous guests. We later learned that the organization received three calls during the hours we’d spent celebrating. Perpetrators of violence didn’t pause while we drank wine and posed for pictures. The event was a success, but the battle for survivors of gender-based violence continues. Superheroes, whether in costume or their civilian disguises, can help fight this battle by donating funds or adopting a family for donations.
Laila B. Hameen's "Laid Off... a one woman show"
Reporting and photography by Laura Kinney.
Pushing forward with her life after being laid off from her corporate radio job, Laila B. Hameen saw her unexpected unemployment as an opportunity to heal through storytelling. What was originally meant to be a YouTube series, “Laid Off... a one woman show” is a resume review on self-esteem, childhood memories of domestic violence, dating mishaps, and turning to acting and writing for a creative outlet. Since creating “Laid Off,” Laila has been able to grace the stages of venues such as The Kennedy Heights Arts Center, Pique Art Gallery, Chase Public, McMicken Freespace, Sharonville Cultural Arts Center, Women Writing for (a) Change, and most recently, Artsville.
Candi Girls Rock Women's Empowerment Conference
The third annual Women’s Empowerment Conference took place on Saturday, April 28, at the Clifton Recreation Center. It was an unexpectedly cold and gray morning, but inside, it was warm and inviting.
Vendor tables were set up along the perimeter of the room, decorated with beautiful, handmade jewelry, luxurious body butters and scents, T-Shirts, financial services, decadent cupcakes, and intriguing books.
MsiCandi and MsMocha, the power duo behind 2 Hot Chicks of iCandi Productions, were our hosts for the afternoon, and they guided the discussion around Facing Your Past to Embrace Your Future. They had great energy and kept the audience laughing.
Mrs. United America, LeTecia Cunningham, shared her gut-wrenching testimony about her personal experience with domestic and sexual violence, which led to an important message: “No matter where you are in your life, no matter what you’re going through, don’t give up. Even when society tells you, you can’t do it, then what you do is, you come out, and you make a way to make it happen. Don’t think inside the box; think as if there is no box.”
Motivational speaker Tania Thomas performed a spoken word piece that gave us this gem of wisdom: “Love yourself enough to want to fight. You don’t have to be physically strong to be a strong woman. Instead of lifting weights, try lifting souls, helping people grow. Being a mold that lasts forever is what makes us bold.”
Terri Bolds of Bold Visions Consulting gave a heartfelt speech about the importance of facing your reality and not allowing your past to dictate your future. “We have to be able and have to be willing to want to save ourselves,” she said.
Comedian Mz Liv, gave us some comedic relief while powerhouse Nicole Lee shared her “Warrior Moms” documentary and filled us in on how she plans to continue helping single mothers all across the city. Financial guru Emerald Sparks gave us the real about the importance of becoming financially free, and Gail Garner shared a bit of her story and explained how her company She Was Made helps women blossom and live in their purpose. I left the conference fired up, and ready to do just that.