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  • I’m in the BandD.C.: The Social Power of Music, Episode 1: First Ladies DJ Collective

    Kristina Gray (K La Rock)

    Kristina Gray (K La Rock). Photo by Xueying Chang, Smithsonian

    Editor’s note: I’m in the Band is a podcast hosted and co-produced by Bratmobile and riot grrrl co-founder Allison Wolfe. Each episode explores an artist’s journey through personal history, coming to consciousness, creative process, and cultural activism.

    In conjunction with the D.C.: The Social Power of Music program presented by the 2019 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, I’m in the Band presents a special two-part podcast series highlighting the contributions of two women’s DJ collectives based in Washington, D.C.

    In the shadow of the White House and the Capitol, the D.C. punk scene movers and shakers have employed do-it-yourself methods to reject mainstream values and create the community in which they want to participate. Of course, socialization follows us wherever we go, and U.S. punk scenes often haven’t been as diverse as the nation as a whole. The early D.C. punk scene of the 1980s and into the ’90s mostly revolved around men in bands… or so I thought when I first burst upon the scene as a riot grrrl in a band in the early ’90s.

    Yet not everyone who contributes to a music scene is on stage in a band. In addition to musicians, many women—from photographers, fanzine writers, DJs, show bookers, and record label workers to people dancing and hanging out at shows—co-create the fabric of their scene and help move it forward. Without them, there is no scene.

    When the Smithsonian Folklife Festival invited me to engage women in the D.C. punk music community and create audio stories from those conversations, I thought of the women DJs I knew when I lived there in the early 2000s. Through collective organizing, these DJs created vibrant, truly diverse, and do-it-yourself events that exemplified how cultural activism often emerges organically from friendship and community.

    I first got to know some of these women while helping organize Ladyfest DC in 2001 and 2002. Ladyfest, an idea I came up with in 1999, was a series of nonprofit, alternative music festivals by, for, and about women. The character of each festival reflected the people and resources specific to its community, and the lasting connections and activities that each Ladyfest generated inspired me.

    Within the organization of Ladyfest D.C., some young DJs hosted after-hours festivities that reached beyond the confines of punk. They continued to be active after Ladyfest and formed a socially conscious DJ collective called First Ladies. The First Ladies DJ Collective strove to create nights of inclusion, encouragement, and solidarity with a dance beat.

    In the first episode of I’m in the Band’s special two-part series, co-founders Kristina Gray, Maegan Wood, and partner Les Talusan of the First Ladies DJ Collective each discuss the upbringing and experiences that informed their creative visions and how their collective activities made waves in the D.C. music scene.

    Maegan Wood (June Bullet)
    Maegan Wood (June Bullet)
    Photo by Xueying Chang, Smithsonian
    Les Talusan (Les the DJ)
    Les Talusan (Les the DJ)
    Photo by Xueying Chang, Smithsonian


    Bratmobile – “I’m in the Band”

    The Third Wave – “Niki”

    4 Hour Quartet (covering The Cure) – “Close to Me”

    Coup Sauvage & the Snips – “Sneaks” (+ Maegan Sauvage Remix)

    Cibo Matto – “Moon Child (D’s Funky Space Reincarnation)”

    Coup Sauvage & the Snips – “Don’t Touch My Hair” (+ JD Samson Remix)

    Monster Women – “Forget Me Not”


    The DJs: Les Talusan, Kristina Gray, Maegan Wood, Ebony Dumas, Kristy LaRat, Darby Hickey

    Smithsonian Folklife: Elisa Hough, Sojin Kim, Nichole Procopenko, Dave Walker

    Jason Hammacher & Lost Origins Gallery

    Live sound engineer: Carlos Beaumont, Vibe Solutions

    Radio CPR, Selina Musuta, Dina Passman, She Rex, Booty Rex, Girls Rock! DC, Antonia Tricarico, Juliette Siegfried (DJ Zelda/Metatrack), Booty Rex, Erik Denno, Julie Yoder, John Seager, Erin Smith, Jonathan Shifflett

    Women DJ Collectives in Washington, D.C., discussion at Lost Origins Gallery
    First Ladies to Anthology of Booty: Women DJ Collectives in D.C. at Lost Origins Gallery on August 8, 2019. Allison Wolfe (center) curated and moderated the discussion.
    Photo by Xueying Chang, Smithsonian

    Allison Wolfe is an arts journalist, musician, and riot grrrl based in Los Angeles, California.

    The First Ladies to Anthology of Booty: Women DJ Collectives in D.C. discussion took place at Lost Origins Gallery on August 8, 2019, in conjunction with Antonia Tricarico’s exhibition Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington, DC, and Beyond, 1997–2017. This project received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

    Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative logo

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