There’s something just a little bit different about the Main Stage at the Oregon Country Fair this year: Across all three days of the festival, each Main Stage act is fronted by a female musician. And it was “about damn time” it happened, according to OCF marketing manager Vanessa Roy.
Fair entertainment booking is done by volunteers, Roy says. “The booking of our Main Stage is included in that.” The first Fair happened in 1969, and volunteer booker Dan Blaker, in charge of the Main Stage decided, “54 years was enough time,” Roy tells Eugene Weekly in a phone call. This year was simply “a great year to have all-female fronted bands on stage,” she says.
According to Blaker, “Due to historical gender imbalance in the touring industry, Main Stage acts over the years have been mostly men.” To shift that inequity, “we decided to book only women-led acts this year. The only challenge was narrowing it down to 15 acts — there were dozens more who wanted to be here,” Blaker says.
Many artists seek to play OCF based on its word-of-mouth reputation, and with initiatives like an all-female led Main Stage lineup, Blaker hopes that reputation will expand “to reflect our community’s commitment to inclusion,” he says. Among the many notable acts performing on Main Stage this year is Portland twin-sister folk-rock harmony duo Shook Twins, Sunday, July 9. In particular, Roy looks forward to Portland indie rock band Glitterfox, performing in the afternoon, Friday, July 7, in just their second Fair appearance. Glitterfox was named one of Portland’s best new bands by Willamette Week in 2022.
According to Glitterfox guitarist Andrea Walker, last year “was our first appearance at OCF, and it was really magical. We took every opportunity to play music that we could,” including pop-up shows and late-night campfire jams. “We made lots of friends and felt really welcomed by the Fair community,” she says.
“As a female-fronted band we’ve had our struggles to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry. There is a persistent lack of female representation in many major music festival lineups. We think it’s great that OCF is trying to change that and supporting so many amazing musicians this year.”
Finishing the night on OCF Main Stage Friday, July, 7 is California singer and guitarist Celisse, performing classic soul, R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll. One of Celisse’s career objectives is to rewrite musical history, giving sometimes forgotten mid-century rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe her due.
Before Celisse, be sure to catch Portland all-female roots rock group and local Eugene favorite Ashleigh Flynn & the Riveters.
Another Main Stage highlight for Roy is Oregon-based electronic musician LP Giobbi presenting Dead House, capping off the Main Stage performance schedule, Saturday, July 8.
“If you have not seen any of her videos, she is going to bring the house down,” Roy says. LP Giobbi follows up her Fair appearance with a European tour, hitting electronic dance music capital Ibiza, Spain, among other stops.
Referring to LP Giobbi’s blend of the Grateful Dead and modern electronic music, Roy says, “It’s like the perfect blend for an Oregon Country Fair performance to have someone who does such great mixology with the Grateful Dead. You’ve got old. You’ve got the young. You’ve got the middle. You’ve got everybody. You’re just going to be delighted by her.”
Also on Saturday, two veteran female singer-songwriters, Nicki Bluhm and Holly Bowling, join forces in a new project, The Eights. Performing on her own, Bowling opens the main stage lineup, Sunday, July 9.
With the past few years of pandemic-related disruption and uncertainty at the Fair, Roy says musicians are eager as ever to perform at the event, and some Main Stage acts reached out to fair organizers in advance.
“Given the setting and ambience of the Fair, a lot of our main stage acts will be doing it because they just want to be part of the fun,” Roy says. “The ability to come back to the event space, into this energy, has been quite romantic and a big draw for acts to come back into the fold. There’s nothing like it.”