Murder for Girls a Sure Shot Live, Play Biggest Ladyfest Yet

The band shut The Shop down. The festival, meanwhile, was just getting started.

Stephanie Wallace (l.to r.), Jonathan Bagamery, Michele Dunlap, and Tammy Wallace perform at The Shop in Bloomfield as part of Ladyfest 2016.

Stephanie Wallace (l.to r.), Jonathan Bagamery, Michele Dunlap, and Tammy Wallace perform at The Shop in Bloomfield as part of Ladyfest 2016.

Murder for Girls played the last set Friday night at The Shop, helping to ring in another successful Ladyfest Pittsburgh. The local punk rock band, hot off an appearance last week at the Deutschtown Music Festival, powered through eight original songs in twenty minutes.

Every cut reproduced the tight harmonization and instrumentation found on their EP and LP, 2014’s Murder for Girls and 2016’s All the Wishes, respectively. The quartet added live flourishes as well. Mid-set, they performed “Sophia Coppola” and then “Mathilda,” the same order in which the songs appear on All the Wishes. Except live, guitarist Stephanie Wallace coaxed some feedback from her guitar as the band transitioned between the songs. Additionally, and also unlike on the album, drummer Michele Dunlap added some quick ticks to the snare, so there was virtually no pause between tunes. The result had the audience on their toes.

Another standout was the band’s self-titled theme song, which saw Jonathan Bagamery playing his bass like a lead guitar. Meanwhile, Dunlap’s snare and hi-hat resounded extra loudly during the song’s bridge. Stephanie, Tammy, and Michele all contribute vocally to the band’s full sound. 

Tammy plays a powerful downstroke chord on her guitar while singing.

Tammy plays a powerful downstroke chord on her guitar while singing.

Throughout their set, a floor cooling fan kept Stephanie Wallace’s and Bagamery’s long hair whirling in a way that one audience member described as “picturesque.” The same could be said of The Shop, a music venue in Bloomfield. With its red curtain backdrop, sparse Christmas lights, and an overall industrial-looking back room, The Shop epitomized a charmingly downbeat, DIY performance space.

Murder for Girls closed their set with a joyous version of “Rocker Chick Vibe,” off their EP. Appropriate, given that a rocker chick vibe is partly the point of Ladyfest Pittsburgh.

“I just think Ladyfest is about bringing a spotlight to all the [female] bands in the area,” Murder for Girls’ Tammy Wallace said.

This was the third annual Ladyfest Pittsburgh, and that spotlight shone brightly. At Murder for Girls’ set, the audience was split nearly 50/50 by gender with women represented slightly more. Clearly, boys are learning that girls can rock, too, and are coming out to see these shows.

The crowd gets into Murder for Girl's power punk rock.

The crowd gets into Murder for Girls’ power punk rock.

Ladyfest co-organizer and Brazilian Wax guitarist Jen Sabol was pleased. “Awesome!” she said Friday of the festival. “I think all the bands tonight were fucking rad.” As for what was different this year, Sabol noted that she and co-organizer Steph Wolf, of The Lopez, “tried to book a lot of different genres this time.” That included the rap artist and activist Blak Rapp Madusa, whom Dunlap was excited to see perform late Friday at Howlers, also in Bloomfield.

Both Brazilian Wax and The Lopez play tonight at Spirit in Lawrenceville. Performances at Spirit began at 4 p.m. with 15 bands scheduled. Sunday, Hambone’s Pub, also in Lawrenceville, will host shows as will the Mr. Roboto Project in Bloomfield. A more detailed schedule can be found on the festival’s Facebook event page. A portion of all proceeds from these numerous events will go to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Sabol also emphasized how Pittsburgh’s festival is just one of many Ladyfests around the country. In fact, one of this year’s acts, Black Planet, has a bassist, Billie Lee Francis, who organizes the Ladyfest in Cincinnati.

Although some of the acts might have been from out-of-town, the audience for Ladyfest Pittsburgh was mostly local. The festival is foremost about showcasing female-dominated groups and supporting the Women’s Center & Shelter, but arguably another, ancillary aim of it is to remind people of the great music to be seen and heard at local venues like The Shop and Howlers. Given the diverse crowds there Friday alone, it appears Ladyfest has once again succeeded in all these goals.

photos: Rick Handler and Christopher Maggio

Christopher Maggio is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor and loves local music.

This is part two of a two-part story on Murder for Girls. Read part one here.