Tinderbox Festival Puts Ladies First at Music Hall of Williamsburg

New York – Created to foster community, and showcase innovative and emerging female artists, Tinderbox Festival is an up and coming festival in it’s own right, now in it’s 4th year of existence. 100% of the proceeds go to GIRLS WRITE NOW and WILLIE MAE ROCK CAMP FOR GIRLS, and the general vibe and message throughout the performances I saw was one of empowerment and independence. It was founded by musician Alyson Greenfield, originally as a blog dedicated to scoring a slot on the Lilith Fair 2010 festival, but turned into it’s own festival, and quite honestly, a lot cooler and current than Lilith Fair.

Alyson Greenfield’s set (shown above) was the first one I saw, and from what I caught of her performance, she’s definitely channeling some Tori Amos, in both her singing style and stage presence. She sang songs about magic and rising up, aimed at grabbing the attention of presumably younger girls coming of age and trying to figure it all out, but really anyone that could use more of that little voice that roots you on, tells you you’re strong and can do it.

Going on at the same time was blues singer songwriter Charlotte Day Wilson, an emerging artist from Toronto. Musicians like her don’t need flashy clothes, super witty between song banter, or much of anything attention grabbing, because her songs do all the talking. She played like she had been brought up on rhythm and blues, with fingers made to pick a guitar and a voice that always knew a little bit of heartbreak, but not enough to ever let it get her too down. Even on one song when she put down her guitar, she crafted a song on the spot with a looping pedal, composed entirely of her vocals layering and looping over itself. That’s some a capella that’s rare to nail, and nailed it she did. 

Right after her set, Queens, NYC-bred singer Hasina brought a new mood to the room, with her joyful and energetic pop and R&B style. She had a great band behind her, and their unit looked as though they were blood related. Whether they were actual relatives or just family through music, they made some feel good music with a hip-ness. Hasina’s cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” was on point, and her original interpretation still let her own personality through. When I stole away just to see what was happening upstairs, Elizabeth and the Catapult were on stage, and during a break between their own songs you could hear the music from downstairs, causing Elizabeth to comment, “oh snap! There’s a party going on downstairs. We’ll go there after.” I almost went back down because of that, but the musicianship of Elizabeth and the Catapult made me hesitate. This band had a great vibe, also with inspiring music and rich compositions. Elizabeth was all smiles through her singing, and every other band member was completely engrossed with the music they all made together.

Downstairs again, AJO came out with immediate energy, addressing the crowd like this was a much bigger show than it was, with the confidence and stage presence of an artist that had seen much bigger stages than the basement floor of Music Hall of Williamsburg, but in no way conveyed a feeling that it was any less important. Quite the contrary; AJO made no hesitation in removing the mic stand as a barrier between her and her audience, getting right in our faces, dancing, and hyping us up. This girl must have come up playing some crazy house parties, because she knew how to make a connection while offsetting tell it like it is lyrics, alternating between rapping and singing, with an easygoing attitude. She’s like a new generation young Lauryn Hill.

Overlapping AJO’s set was Dynasty Electric on the main stage, putting on a psychedelic electro-pop spectacle. Frontwoman Jenny Electrik played a theremin like it was a dance, while singing and hitting a floor tom with a tiny cymbal attached. Seth Misterka was on beat queues and guitar, as well as busting out a saxophone a few times. They also had a bassist join in on a handful of tunes, who was his own spectacle in an animal print jumpsuit with a heavily adorned cape. Dynasty Electric was highly eclectic in both sound and vision, but what was straightforward was their goal of spreading good vibes and making everyone feel the same euphoria they felt on stage.

Up next and right before the amazing Deerhoof, was one of our old favorites, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. This was an entirely different set than what I was used to, as it was the first time I saw her with a band, and she was unsurprisingly the most polished I’ve ever heard her. I have to say, I had much appreciation for her solo rawness, and when her voice was much rougher. Maybe it just wasn’t sustainable for her to always sing like that if she wanted to keep singing for years to come, but I’ll never forget that honest emotion she conveyed that way. Of course, this way with her singing more cleanly, when she did scream on songs like “Bird Balloons” and “Crane Your Neck,” it was an even sharper burst of intensity. Her finger picking has also become effortless, her fingers literally dancing over the strings in a melodic wave. In a way, no matter how big she gets, I want her to always be starvin’ for it, because she’s made some truly amazing music that way.