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Sounds of Resistance

By Dakota Parks for Inweekly

Calling all the ladies, femmes and thems—it’s time for Lady Fest 9. Since 2014, this women-centric music festival has been uplifting local musicians who don’t fit within the male-dominated music scene. Melody Davis, founder of Lady Fest and one-half of the rap duo Cookies and Cake, has been creating this safe space for women, LGBTQ+, nonbinary and non-white artists, musicians and performers to take the center stage.

“When we first started Cookies and Cake, there were no ladies in the scene,” Davis said. “The bands were all men, the audience was mostly straight, white men, and there was always this macho, toxic-masculine vibe. If you’re a lady in the music industry, men often patronize you saying, ‘Oh, you rap? That’s real cute.’”

Now, there are more women in the local Pensacola music scene starting bands and front-lining shows, but events like Lady Fest create and foster a space for everyone to feel welcome and comfortable. Nationally, women still make up less than 20% of musicians and less than 3% of music producers, according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Although diversity within the music industry still has a long way to go, music itself ushers in sounds of resistance.

Both Lady Fest and Cookies and Cake are deeply embedded in the feminist movement—advocating for diversity, autonomy, body positivity, sex positivity and consent. While this year’s event ushers in new and diverse local talent and raises money for the Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund and reproductive justice organization serving the Deep South, musicians like Cookies and Cake use their art to fight back.

“I could yell at people for hours about feminism and rape culture and they might not even listen to me. But then I write these silly songs that have underlying messages and people get really excited about it. Whenever we play ‘Short Skirt Tight Shirt,’ people get so pumped, and it’s literally a song about consent and date rape,” Davis explained.

Ashley Faulkner, the other half of Cookies and Cake, also emphasized how important feminism is—both within her music and the mission of Lady Fest.

“I want these songs to get stuck in people’s heads. I want them to marinate while you sleep so that wanting to uplift and stand up for others becomes an unconscious act to anyone who has been to our shows or heard our music,” Faulkner said. “[Feminist issues] are important to me, but they should be important to everyone. Everything is interconnected to the patriarchal standards imposed on us, whether you notice the connection or not. It’s funny how many people confuse feminism with misandry. A true feminist sees how the patriarchy holds men down, too, but still fights for everyone’s equality.”

Both Davis and Faulkner hope that Lady Fest helps connect like-minded people and serves as a cathartic outlet for guests to rally together and support each other while enjoying music, art and performances. In its mission to promote diversity and open the stage to new artists, the music offerings at Lady Fest are always wide-ranging, from rap and hip-hop to punk, rockabilly, new wave, indie-rock and even classical music.

“I love all music, and I rarely turn a band down because I feel like there is always going to be somebody out in the audience who is going to be into what you’re doing,” Davis said. “In the early years of Lady Fest, I booked this woman who was in her 70s and played the fiddle. She got on the stage and played the fiddle for 30 minutes while the whole room was dancing and cheering to these Irish jigs—just a bunch of punk kids who would probably never go out and buy fiddle albums but are just loving it. She actually stopped at one point and asked, ‘Are you guys messing with me? I’ve never had people this excited when I’ve played before.’ That’s the kind of energy I love about Lady Fest—exposing people to different kinds of genres and art.”

This year, the music lineup is smaller than past events as the drag and burlesque performers take the stage and embrace the Florida woman vibes of the theme—Lady Fest 9 Bog Prom—prom night meets swamp monster.

The event will kick off with a dance lesson from Emily Bishop of Goddess Heels, followed by music from local bands Don’t Feed the Plants, The Mid Evil Times, SOUR! and Cookies and Cake. Then, around 10 p.m., the stage will be filled with creepy swamp-inspired creatures for goblin burlesque performances. Finally, the night will end with a dance party hosted by DJ King Hale. The dress code is “fancy gross,” which is left open to artistic interpretation.

This year’s event is 21 and up. However, Davis explained that Lady Fest will return to an all-ages-welcome venue in the future.

“People should expect something a little weird, gross and creepy when they come to our Bog Prom this year,” Davis said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone together, having a good time and enjoying the art. I want people to know we’re still here, and we’re still fighting. We all deserve a break and to have a good time together. And if you don’t have that support system that you need, I hope folks can meet new friends and cool, like-minded people at the event. Everyone is welcome at Lady Fest—just don’t be a jerk.”

LADY FEST 9 WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 WHERE: The Handlebar, 319 N. Tarragona St. COST: $10, proceeds go to Yellowhammer Fund* DETAILS:, @lady_fest_pensacola

*For more information on the nonprofit organization that Lady Fest is raising funds for, visit


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