MilkGirl concert celebrates girl bands and diversity in the music industry

Twin pop-rock performers Nalani & Sarina perform at MilkGirl — a concert for International Women's Day at MilkBoy Arthouse — on March 8, 2019 (Audrey Decker/For The Diamondback).

“We’re gonna rock like girls tonight,” Meagan Griffith — singer, songwriter and student — said to the crowd on Friday night. Female swag was the theme of the night — with five different performances celebrating women at the MilkGirl concert.

College Park’s MilkBoy ArtHouse dedicated the night of International Women’s Day to empower women — especially those in the music industry. Five artists performed Friday, showcasing genres from rock to indie to pop. The venue hosted ethnically diverse performers, and some non-binary and LGBT performers, to make the event as inclusive as possible, said Kristina London, a senior communication major and marketing coordinator for MilkBoy.

Duo Meagan & Jenna started off the night playing guitar and singing a sweet duet. Both are students at UMD: Meagan Griffith is a junior information science and linguistics major, and Jenna Erdogan is a senior hearing and speech sciences major. Even after a male drummer and guitarist came in, they kept their quirky and cute sound.

“It’s been really hard to find a community of female musicians while at college and gain confidence as a musician because it can feel a lot like a ‘boy’s club,’ so this event is really empowering,” Griffith said.

Following Meagan & Jenna, the band Black Folks Don’t Swim? performed soul music, with some rock and rapping mixed in. A crowd favorite was their eccentric rendition of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” The five-person band was in their own world on stage — dancing, shouting, freestyling. They were rapping and repeating “We don’t swim,” and told the audience to respond with “We just float.”

[Read more: Multiracial, bilingual British indie pop band sells out MilkBoy ArtHouse]

And from the moment the all-female rock band, The OSYX, started playing on Friday night, they sounded cool, angsty and incredibly badass. Headbanging included, the band played rock music, heavy with guitar and instrumental periods. The OSYX even launched their own non-profit community label, This Could Go Boom!, which focuses on empowering women and increasing diversity in the music industry.

“It is vital to uplift and represent narratives and experiences of women and non-binary people, shaping our culture and offering avenues for the artists of the future to see people like themselves in positions of power in the art and music world,” Selena Benally, guitarist for The OSYX, said.

Also focused on empowering women in the entertainment business, Philadelphia-based twin sisters Nalani & Sarina came to perform their “soul-infused pop rock” music for MilkGirl. They had chemistry only performing on stage, and the crowd loved their spunky, upbeat music. From a young age — and as twins — Nalani and Sarina found how the music industry looks at female performers as an image, Sarina said.

“Early on we had to realize that this is a very toxic business, and the only way to overcome that is showing an example of yourself and being empowering and putting yourself against what’s out there right now,” she said.

Ending the night on a hip-hop note, Sahara Mokhtari performed some of her original pop songs. Mokhtari, a junior biology major, owned her solo performance, dancing and having an incredible time on stage. Like all of the performers Friday night, Mokhtari exuded confidence — fitting the overall tone of the night.

[Read more: Meet Sahara: UMD’s pre-med pop singer with a positive message]

Not many female artists reach out to MilkBoy about performing, London said, because there aren’t many female role models in the industry, especially those that rock out on the bass and drums. Concerts like MilkGirl are important to bring together local, female performers, she said.

London hopes that MilkBoy will make MilkGirl an annual event to celebrate International Women’s Day. People want change in the music industry, and continuing to host events like this and keeping a dialogue going is key, London said.

“Right now, it’s so important to keep [the] conversation going because the more we talk about it, the more people think and when people think they are more liable to change,” Bolton said.

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