This ‘Female-Forward’ Music Festival Was as Sickeningly Utopian As It Sounds

Over the weekend, thousands of concert-goers had a gay old time at All Things Go to the sounds of Lana Del Rey, Boygenius, MUNA, and more.

This ‘Female-Forward’ Music Festival Was as Sickeningly Utopian As It Sounds
Photo:Courtesy All Things Go

Over the weekend, it seemed every she, they, and gay in the tristate area made certain they’d be inside Merriwether Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland for the ninth iteration of All Things Go—or, as it was deemed by countless attendees throughout the two-day “female-forward” festival: Gay-Chella.

“Whoa, it’s like lesbo-palooza in here,” MUNA’s Naomi McPherson deadpanned after getting a good look at the sold-out crowd within the first five minutes of their set. They weren’t wrong. It was. And frankly, given a fixture of festival culture is scores of woman, femme, and queer concert-goers being sexually assaulted, harassed, or made uncomfortable at the likes of Coachella, Lollapalooza, Stagecoach, Bonnaroo, and Glastonbury, it was actually pretty magical.

After finding a spot to stand in before MUNA’s set, I realized I was right smack dab in the middle of a rapidly swelling crowd and I didn’t feel the usual pangs of concert claustrophobia kick in. Instead, I spent the entire next hour in some state of embrace with a stranger or jumping up and down as if I wasn’t a 30-year-old woman born without an ounce of coordination. The last time I felt that invincible was probably a gig in 2014—and the sensation wasn’t engendered by the kind of safety that now seems organic to All Things Go, just complete naivety and some drugs.

Photo:Courtesy All Things Go

When All Things Go was founded in 2014 by then-music bloggers and D.C. natives Adrian Maseda, Will Suter, Zack Friendly, and Stephen Vallimarescu—yes, four cisgender men—the festival wasn’t exactly Xanadu for the girlies and gays. In its first iteration, for example, Future Islands had top billing. But since 2018, when Maggie Rogers and LPX aka Lizzy Plapinger were given free rein in creating an entirely female schedule, its lineups (and attendees) have become decidedly female and definitely queer—this year, above any other. On Saturday, Rogers returned to headline the first day of the festival, along with Carly Rae Jepson, Mt. Joy, Tegan and Sara, and others.

“I feel the safest here than I have at any festival just because it’s full of women and queers.”

“We’ve been playing festivals since before most of you were born, and damn, this is what I wish it had looked like,” Tegan and Sara told the crowd. “This is so… sick that there are so many people with uteruses that played on this stage today,” Rogers echoed during her set before going on to note how “seen” she felt by the crowd.

Sunday belonged to Lana Del Rey, Boygenius, MUNA, and Ethel Cain. Leah, an attendee who drove seven hours from North Carolina to be there with her boyfriend, Billy, told Jezebel she’s been going to festivals since 2013, and recalled countless threats most others have posed. The most violent? She was once kicked in the face at Warped Tour. That kind of thing, she thought, wouldn’t happen at All Things Go.

“I feel the safest here than I have at any festival just because it’s full of women and queers. It makes me feel so happy,” Leah said. “I feel like I could just leave my bag and someone would have my back…I know I could come here by myself and be fine.”

“Funnily enough, these tickets were actually my birthday present that she got for me,” Billy said, before enthusiastically explaining that he’s become a Lana Del Rey devotee due to Leah’s influence. “To put it in perspective, we have a custom-printed canvas of her in our bedroom.”

Maggie Rogers performs on Saturday night. Photo:Courtesy All Things Go

“I will drive back next year just for this energy,” Leah added, gesturing towards where her fellow attendees were spread out on the grass, taking each other’s thirst traps, and dancing to the strains of sound from a nearby speaker. If you weren’t a teenager at their first festival, chances are you certainly felt like one.

The good vibes of All Things Go can be attributed to more than just the artists and attendees, though. There are what seem to be very intentional efforts to combat any manifestation of toxic festival culture. On Saturday and Sunday, Calling All Crows, a non-profit that works with festivals and live music venues to make the environment as safe as possible for concert-goers, held active bystander workshops should any kind of chaos ensue and joined The Ally Coalition in creating hygiene kits for local LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. Political engagement, too, was embraced. Rep. Maxwell Frost was on hand to register voters (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also stopped by but only to see Boygenius, MUNA, and Lana Del Rey).

In the late nineties, Lilith Fair featured many of the same sights and sounds. It’s a shame that All Things Go still seems as much of an outlier where featuring predominantly women and queer artists and fostering positive, inclusive—and influencer-free—festival culture are concerned.

Edith Victoria of Meet Me At The Altar on Sunday. Photo:Courtesy All Things Go

“It’s super nice to be in a musical space that’s predominantly…not men,” burgeoning indie singer-songwriter Leith Ross told Jezebel when asked what makes the energy of All Things Go feel so singular in the music festival space. “I think every artist that’s trying to find their place is made to feel like they have to pick between a number of different scenes and then fit into them and that’s what creates the exclusive nature of our business where many people don’t feel welcome in those scenes because they weren’t created with or for them.”

Later, Ross’s sentiment became all the more resonant as I took a second between jumps to watch those around me watching MUNA. One song in particular hit differently when scream-sung by hundreds of a lot of really happy girls, gays, and theys: “I know a place…I know a place we can go…Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon…”

“I would suck a fart out of her ass,” I overhear Leah eventually tell a picnic table of concert-goers talking about their admiration for a certain artist. Had Leah not told me she’d met them only hours earlier, I would’ve assumed they’d all been friends for a decade.

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