Female voices, center stage

New home-grown music festivals are popping up in Charlotte this summer with the Sweet Tea Jubilee at South Park in June and the Charlotte Popfest at The Alley Cat in July.

The first of these – Charlotte FemmeFest – highlights female artists and takes place Saturday with over 20 bands playing Double Door Inn, Visulite, and SK Net Café.

“It's good for women to feel empowered and play with other women,” says Melissa Swingle of Chapel Hill duo The Moaners, who plays Saturday. “Out there on the road there are not nearly as many women playing rock 'n' roll as men.”

FemmeFest is the brainchild of Lea Kuhlmann, co-owner of NoDa's The Evening Muse and one fourth of the all-girl group the Near Misses.

“It started out as something we were talking about within the band,” says Kuhlmann.

Adds her bandmate Reeve Coobs: “On more than one occasion we were turned down opportunities to open up for some big-name female artists just because we were also females. The only reasons we could come up with of why was that the artists thought that it would turn into a competition or that their audience wouldn't want to hear two female-fronted groups in one night. We started to reminisce about Lilith Fair.”

Adds Kuhlmann: “Lilith Fair had a huge impact in putting more women on the radar that you'd never heard of and (creating) the feel of sisterhood.”

FemmeFest's lineup features singer-songwriters and female-led bands from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Delaware and includes visual and literary artists that will be selling their wares.

Filmmaker Therese Batholomew will also show the trailer for “The Final Gift,” a documentary about her journey following her brother's murder. . Other musical acts on the bill include Mieka Pauley, Gigi Dover and Big Love, and Jennifer Daniels.

“This will be my first all-female festival and I'm thrilled about the lineup,” says Athens, Georgia's Amanda Kapousouz who performs as Tin Cup Prophette. “There are women I've known for a long time like Danielle Howle and some that will be first-timers for me. Most of my sources for inspiration are female lyricists. I'm a new mother and I admire any woman that can write a song while (caring for) a baby.”

Some participating bands have men, including the Lights Fluorescent, Lindy Dobbins and the Red Velvet Manx, and the Bittersweets.

Still, Kuhlmann said she felt comfortable building the event around just female-led groups.

“I do feel a little guilty. (But) these types of activities help make young girls and women realize that this is something women can do and help each other out,” she says. “The fact is that I book the Evening Muse and I don't try to book more women, but invariably there are a ton more guys. Something like this reminds people that there are talented women around.”

In this case it also serves a cause. FemmeFest benefits Shelter Health Services, a local organization that provides health care for the homeless, primarily women and children.

“We wanted to choose a nonprofit organization that is based on helping women and children,” says Kuhlmann. “It's a tougher road to hoe. Men have issues with not seeing their child, but women are the ones that will get pregnant and typically be the primary caregiver. Women do need a little extra help because of those things.”