Female musicians highlighted at EqualizeHer in West Hollywood

I walked into the Troubadour a little too early… One of the first acts had just wrapped soundcheck and the entire room was buzzing with crew. Firmly in the center of the room was Linda Perry (of 4 Non Blondes), directing a film crew with the angles she wanted for the evening. She was filming a documentary about her and Alisha Ballard’s newest project called EqualizeHer. According to the website, EqualizeHer “is an initiative to achieve equal representation of women across all aspects of the music industry, from recording studios to stages to board rooms.”

Staying true to that credo, the lineup was stacked with nine female artists, each bringing their own unique sound and vibe to the stage. 

First up was Ashley El Cid. With just herself and her ukulele, she managed to captivate the entire audience within seconds with bright and cheery melodies and a wonderful storytelling voice that touched on the emotions and experiences surrounding being a teen in high school.

Next up was Whesli, an acoustic singer-songwriter, playing some original numbers with some of the best vocal arrangements I’ve heard in a very long time. She casually commanded the stage, getting the entire audience to participate in a call and response. She wrapped it up with a fantastic cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Linda Perry walked back out and took a seat at the piano onstage to introduce her seven-year-old son, Rhodes Perry. He walked out wearing a black masquerade outfit with pointy fingered gloves and rolled right into a showtunes-style rendition of “Dark Lady” by Cher, with Linda on the keys. It was phenomenal. The showmanship, the bravado — it was a perfect spooky season piece.

Tish Melton was up next, also playing a solo acoustic set. She had a sound that was First Aid Kit meets Fleet Foxes. She displayed wonderful vocals that rose and fell in a calming flow of emotional storytelling that had the whole room swaying. Mixing the night up in a big way, rapper Audley walked out to a bass-forward hip hop set. Her sharp and poignant lyrics, solid samples, naturally catchy hooks, backup dancers and choreography… everything about it was awesome. Loved it!   

Jasmine Star came out strong with a face-meltingly accurate cover of “Voodoo Child”. Her talent as a savant player was on full display, showing mastery of guitar, vocals and piano as her trio absolutely killed the rest of the set. Aimee Mann came out next with a three piece band: herself, Paul Bryan (on bass) and Adam Tressler (on guitar). I’m not sure how to describe it, but it was almost like watching a friend or colleague play, despite never seeing her live before. It was a perfect meshing of harmony and instrumentation, so much so that I thought I was hearing keyboards and instruments that weren’t there, which I think was the combination of Aimee’s voice and Adam’s slide guitar playing.

I was so caught up in how refreshingly clean and atmospheric their sound was that I had to scramble to get photos once I realized she was on her last song. 

Tinashe came out next in a stunning two-piece dress to sing a beautiful R&B set, backed by just acoustic guitar. Her unplugged version of “Naturally” was outstanding, highlighted by the shouts of her dedicated fans. Her clear and confident vocals, combined with the intimacy of the venue, made for a stellar experience. Paris Jackson capped off the evening with a heartfelt, yet somber set. The lights were brought down to just some backlight and everyone pushed in closer to the stage. She played some tunes that she had only recently released and had yet to play in the States. The crowd was washed over with a silent attentiveness and the room was locked in a trance.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the whole night was towards the end, when EqualizeHer organizers Linda and Alisha returned to the stage, and sang “What’s Up” together. The duo were all smiles as they performed for the crowd at the event they organized.

I think Linda Perry and Alisha Ballard are onto something. EqualizeHer is an awesome project and the Troubadour show was not only a success, but a major step towards leveling the field for female artists. I can’t wait to see how it evolves and the talents it will undoubtedly uncover. I will be there for the next one and you should, too!

Photography by Carl Perry

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