wait a moment

Race Card And Nick Mazzarella Quintet

by Deidre Huckabay

Last Thursday, I saw Race Card and the Nick Mazzarella Quintet at Elastic Arts. Here is a snapshot of the room:

19 total people were in the space
8 of 19 were performers
4 of 19 were women
2 of 4 women were performers’ partners
1 of 4 women were press (me)
0 of 8 performers were women

Let me say at the top that I love intimate rooms. I don’t believe that a large audience indicates good work. I like occasionally being one of a small number of special people in the house for a great, but unheard-of show. Likewise, I don’t believe there is a problem with an audience full of performers. An echo chamber of a show is sometimes healthy for a scene. Play for your people, I don’t care. I do it all the time.

I do object to programs without women[1].

Since Thursday, I have been wondering how to write about this experience. The performers were very good. Their names were Josh, Damon, Lou, Tim, Matt, Nick, Nate, and Quin. I believe they deserve the attention of the press. I believe they deserve the attention of an audience. I am confident none of them intended to exclude women. It isn’t clear to me who paired an all-male trio in the first half of the evening with an all-male quintet in the second. That shit happens.

A bone-tired part of my mind asks: do I have to write about them at all? I said I would. I walked right in the door without paying the cover. I’m Deidre Huckabay. I’m press. The musicians didn’t do anything wrong. Is it an abuse of power on my part to ignore their performance? Maybe.

I have wondered whether this conversation is really one for me and my editors—also women, also concerned about the diversity and inclusivity of the Chicago music scene—to have behind closed doors. Why was this show on their radar? What are they comfortable with me writing about it? What is the appropriate intensity of my response, on the scale of black cat to MOAB?

Is it time to write That Piece, That Feminist Chicago New Music Piece?


Shit, ok. I guess I could pour some more unpaid lady-hours into a piece that says something everyone should know already. But I have a job and time is precious and I bet some boss bitches out there have already written about the importance of curating female artists[2]. Shit, ok. Maybe it is time to compile That Feminist Chicago Music Reading List? A reference librarian chuckles at her desk. I have Google, I can do it. Or, ok, maybe I call on my many badass sisters[3] in Chicago for help? Do we rise up? Co-author a response? Write a zine? Have a sleepover? Do we do self-care? Do we care?

Here’s where I am: I am a busy person trying to balance shows, jobs, clients, loves, pets, groceries, haircuts, moms in town[4]. I don’t / can’t / won’t have the time and energy to give here. Is there a way to simply say it and make it happen? Let’s try:

Put women onstage.

On Saturday, I saw social media savant Kimberly Drew speak with Ebony Editor and VP Kyra Kyles at the Art Institute as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. One brilliant question came from a Black woman writer in the audience: how do you deal with the fatigue of continually having to tell the Black narrative for the education of non-Black people? Kyra told a story. She was working at an unspecified publication when Hurricane Katrina hit. Some editors who had never spoken to her before called her into a room to ask: what do you think about calling victims of the hurricane “refugees?” She said, “Would you use that word if we were talking about Iowa, Milwaukee, or Michigan?” Silence, apparently. Kyra told them, “I’m gonna let you work on that.”

At the Art Institute, the house laughed, then fell silent. A truth-teller, a rhetorical genius, a miracle-worker. Show don’t tell. Show a man to fish, etc etc. Bow down.

Is this my moment? My chance to succinctly, brilliantly, disarmingly, charmingly educate and uplift you? You, who might not notice the absence of women at an ordinary Thursday night jazz show?

It is. It is my moment, and look at me. Look at how tired and wet and strung out I am. A skilled, rested, clever woman would figure out how to show you, not tell you:

Put women onstage. Put women onstage. Put women onstage.

What about non-white artists, LGBTQIA artists, differently-abled artists, foreign artists, poor artists? Does every show need to be a rainbow? No. But it’s good to try if you can:

Put many different kinds of people onstage.

Who’s gonna do it? Performers? Curators? Bandleaders? Venues? The audience? Just. Probably, if you’re a person who is able to make a little effort, it is a good idea to try:

Put women onstage.

Figure it out.

Do it.


[1] I admit to feeling ill-equipped to expand this piece into one that makes a case for curating the many other kinds of artists (non-gender conforming, people of color, etc.) who might be featured on a given weeknight jazz show in Chicago. One person in the room was a Black performer. I admit to focusing on the absence of women here because this was the absence I felt most, being a woman myself.

[2] In fact, they have. See also this excellent piece by Ellen McSweeney from a few years ago. And, if there are pieces you love that explain why it’s good to curate women, please please please share in the comments.

[3] Hey, ladies. Hey. How you doing right now? Rainy out, I know. I’ve been thinking about you all week. Listen to Solange’s record, it’s still really fucking good. Watch this beautiful lady orangutan build a hammock. Remember Michelle Obama. Listen to some Ella in honor of her would-be 100th birthday.

[4] Am I busy because I am a woman, or am I a woman because I am busy?

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