This Weekend at the Smell, Women Will Fuck Shit Up

Mayra Cortez, left, and Merilou Salazar, founders of Women Fuck Shit Up FestEXPAND
Mayra Cortez, left, and Merilou Salazar, founders of Women Fuck Shit Up Fest
Francesca Parrenas

Speaking by phone on a rainy Los Angeles evening, Women Fuck Shit Up Fest founders Mayra Cortez and Merilou Salazar breezily dismiss any notion that coordinating a 16-act, two-day music festival in DTLA might prove tricky. Blame sparkling optimism, but neither can remember any catastrophes happening at the first WFSUF in 2015. Both just recall the potent sense of empowerment the festival inspired.

"We honestly didn't even promote shit that hard, it was just kind of a cool thing we did with our friends," says Salazar. "But I had people texting me the next day asking, 'When is this going to happen again?'"

The primary goal of WFSUF, which hits the Smell this weekend, is to foster a safe, welcoming space for women to play music. It was also created, as Cortez explains, "to show the side of women [who] destroy and fuck shit up. Other music festivals were featuring female artists, but female artists that do what? We wanted to go for a concept that defied softness."

The easy volley of the duo's chemistry implies they're grade-school besties, but the pair met just two years ago while teaching at Rock & Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, which provides off-center musical education to young ladies. And their reflexive repartee makes it easy to believe that organizing the event hasn't been harrowing.

"The first time we did it, we had two and a half months," says Salazar. "So this time, we knew what we had to work on as far as logistics, so we did it five months ahead of time, and it isn't stressful. Every meeting we have feels like an awesome hangout, just bouncing stuff back and forth. It's like, fuck it. You have an idea? Don't second-guess it. Let's just do it. Even as far as hitting up headliners."

Reached via email, reformed stoner queen Colleen Green — who'll close the second day's lineup — echoes the painless nature of assembling the bill. When asked about getting involved with the festival, she replies simply, "They just emailed me and asked me to play." And while she languidly shrugs off an inquiry about a new record ("I don't think it's wise to expect things because of the potential for disappointment"), she expresses excitement at the prospect of seeing vaunted punk supergroup Upset, featuring Ali Koehler (Best Coast, Vivian Girls), Rachel Gagliardi (Pouty, Slutever) and Patty Schemel (Hole, Death Valley Girls). 

Colleen Green headlines the second day of WFSUF.EXPAND
Colleen Green headlines the second day of WFSUF.
Photo by Eric Penna

That anticipation, according to Upset singer Koehler, is mutual. She writes that the band is "excited to see our buddy and former tourmate Colleen Green," and adds that signing on to perform at WFSUF "was a no-brainer. We've played at Rock & Roll Camp for Girls, and Patty volunteers there every year."

During the festival, Cortez and Salazar also will perform with their respective bands. Storeetellers, Cortez's latest project, is a tight four-piece that deftly balances scruffy, guitar-driven power pop with occasional forays into Afro-Cuban jazz. They play Saturday. And Wasi, which Salazar fronts, will deliver a shiny, hook-laden set of buoyant, sun-drenched California "riot pop" on Sunday.

When asked about particular acts they're looking forward to seeing, the ladies initially react with the enthusiasm of a parent asked to pick a favorite. They're all great!

But when pressed, Salazar mentions The Darolinas, who started rehearsing just three weeks ago. WFSUF will be their first show, and her interest, Salazar explains with a laugh, is partly piqued because she too booked her first gig before she had a band — or knew how to play an instrument. Along with two bands from Rock & Roll Camp — Gillgore Girls and Ghostasm — Cortez is looking forward to seeing Cunthaus. "They're an amazing punk pop-up band, who only play when they're all in town, like three times a year."

Upcoming Events

Fittingly, all the proceeds from the festival will benefit the nonprofit Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which supports projects such as Rock & Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles across the United States, Europe and in far-flung locations like Reykjavik, Iceland. Because, as Salazar explains, the world needs more female-centric bands.

"It's not just one band that does well, it's a community. When you see bands with like-minded dreams and personalities succeed, you start to realize you're not crazy, that you can do it, too."

Women Fuck Shit Up Fest happens this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 27-28, at the Smell. Tickets and more info.


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