Addison Axe and Vanessa Thornton are only just back from touring the East Coast with The Tommyhawks, but that doesn’t stop them firing along on their new endeavour, The Canon Ball, a celebration of female creativity.
“Addison’s more energetic and motivated and I’m more thoughtful,” Thornton (also of Jebediah and Axe Girl) says. “That’s why she gets things done and I think about things.”
Either way, it’s working. The Canon Ball at first glimpse may appear simply to be the name of a gig, but it’s something of a movement really. And it’s ongoing.
“We wanted to become a festival and a recurring series of events,” Axe (also of Axe Girl) explains, “so the event is called Canon Ball, but Canon Ball is also this idea that we want to do a lot of things with.”
The Canon Ball ethos is pure and simple: ‘In a time when the politics of gender have become confusing and excluding of some identities and orientations, we aim to showcase and celebrate the best of female creativity to the whole world’. Thornton explains that the idea grew out of conversations about the quality, quantity, depth of diversity of female artists in WA. This then highlighted what they had noticed out on tour.
“We play a lot of festivals – especially with Tommyhawks – all sorts of weird and wonderful, smaller festivals,” Thornton says. “There’s one particular one we’ve played a couple of times in Queensland, it’s a blues festival and the guy always has lots of female bands on the bill, and we noticed how actually that was quite unusual because everywhere else we play the women are really outnumbered. We still do stuff with Jebediah where there might only be me, or me and one other woman, who take the stage on an entire day of bands.
“I don’t think that’s people put those bills together and purposefully going for all-male bands, but it’s a thing that happens. That’s a part of it: just trying to showcase amazing women.”
“You can have a festival of all females and there are enough people to do it,” Axe states. “It’s not as though there aren’t enough female bands and female artists out there.”
Indeed, consider that 20-odd years ago WAM used to produce Women In Rock events. It was a time when there was an under-representation of females joining bands and such endeavours were primarily to encourage girls to become engaged in performing music. These days there’s no lack of young women performing, writing and recording music, but show line-ups – from local gigs and tour supports to festivals – are still under-representative in terms of female musicians. Times have changed, but gig posters don’t often reflect this.
“You don’t want people to be booking bands purely based on their gender, because that’s not really the point,” qualifies Thornton. “But I think there’s definitely enough women in awesome bands for there to be a bit more of a spread.”
“The thing is girls don’t start joining bands if they don’t see that there are women out there doing it,” Axes says. “So it’s really important in terms of the next generation, that women are out there and visible. It’s by looking at our heroes that makes us go, ‘hey, I wanna do that’.”
The Canon Ball ethos is also inclusive – female-focussed, but equal in all respects.
“We very specifically don’t want it to be a women-only event or a girl-fest or anything where men aren’t welcome,” Axe points out. “It’s not saying, ‘this is all about women and this is not about men’. It’s saying, ‘here’s a festival where you’re seeing the amount of women you’d see on a line-up that you’d normally see of men’.”
And what do the Canon Ballers hope that people take from the event? Collectively, they arrived at the following…
“We want them to be enlightened, entertained and involved.”
The Canon Ball takes place at the Buffalo Club in Fremantle on Saturday, March 10 and features music from Boom! Bap! Pow!, Lucy Peach, Simone + Girlfunkle, Axe Girl, This Way North (Vic) and DJ Chicken Wings, plus visual arts from J.D. Penangke, Lady Titbits and Rachael Barrett. More details at www.facebook.com/events/703098059900965/