An interview with Dave Bonson, organizer of Grrrls Kick Ass Fest
by Mike Huberty
August 2016



Forget the Lilith Fair, we’ve got something way better in Madison, GRRRLS KICK ASS FEST. Put together by local musician Dave Bonson, it’s the fourth year of a special female-centric show that features women in diverse acts like Milwaukee’s Annie B from THE COMPLICATION and Madison’s prog star Sarah Longfield in THE FINE CONSTANT. We talked with Dave about the show on September 4th.

MI: What gave you the idea for Grrrls Kick Ass Fest in the first place?

DB: When I was young a friend of mine introduced me to Bikini Kill. From there I went on to listen to Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, L7, X-Ray Spex and so on. I was hooked. I loved riot grrrl music. The attitude, overall confidence, and passion for what they believed in. They weren’t singing songs about fucking (although, that’s a great Big Black album) and they weren’t singing songs about how awesome it is to party and get fucked up. They were singing about what they believed matters and the way they did it too, you knew they meant every word. It was a huge inspiration to me for starting a festival like this.

MI: Are there any charities that you are doing this for?

DB: I’m super excited to say that this year Grrrls Kick Ass Fest will be donating a portion of the money we make to the Malala Fund. Malala Fund’s goal is to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities. I read her book last year and have been following her story for a bit. What she and her fund are doing are absolutely amazing. I’m also hoping that this can show how far we have come as a nation with women’s rights. Which we have come a long way and we still have a ways to go. However, there are other places in the world were women aren’t even allowed an education.

MI: Are there any bands you haven’t worked with before at the Fest that you’re really excited about?

DB: ULTRAHAZARD from Chicago have played every Grrrls Kick Ass Fest so far. I’m really happy that they are playing again this year. They’re really a great band and a great group of people. Vanessa Silberman is new to the line-up this year and she’s coming all the way from LA to play. I’m really excited to have her on board. She’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. MYSTERY ACTIONS is coming up from Chicago too this year. I was lucky enough to see them play a show in Chicago and they were absolutely amazing. For the Madison locals we have some of the best here in town like: SHESHE, GODS IN THE CHRYSALIS and THE FINE CONSTANT. Special thanks to them as well. Opening the show this year I am trying something a little bit different and having RATED HER open the show. RATED HER is hosted by the radiant Tulin Waters and is an all female Comedy and Acoustic Show that you can see at The Frequency once a month. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, it’s a wonderful show.

MI: What’s the main theme behind the concert? Anything in particular you’re promoting this year?

DB: As stated before I really want to showcase the Malala Fund this year. The main cause of this festival every year has been bringing females to the front. Whether it’s on the stage or in the crowd. For women not be objectified but to be celebrated for their talent. I’ve seen so many great female musicians when trying to enter their own show get told by the door man that “merch girls” or “girlfriends” don’t get in for free. That’s really not fair to them. I’m a musician, I know how much hard work goes into honing your skill, writing songs, booking shows, and to get noticed. It’s so much hard work. To walk into a show and not to be recognized as someone who is or could be one of the bands is pretty lame.

MI: Grrrls often has a very specific 90s context - is there anything particularly political about the show? Especially in an election year?

DB: This is actually a very big political year for women. Whether or not you are for Hillary Clinton in any way, having the first female presidential nominee from a major political party is a HUGE deal. I’ll leave any political talk up to the bands when they are on stage though. I’m just setting up the festival, if any band wants to say something political on stage, that is their right to do so.

MI: What were your most memorable moments from the first two years?

DB: Really, just how much growth and support I’ve received since starting this. 4 years ago I never would have believe how big it has gotten. I have been introduced to some great bands and have made some of my closest friends doing this. I’m really lucky.

Be sure to listen to 89.9 this month as they will be playing the artists on the radio. Also, special thanks to Max Ink, Ali K Show, Jimmy K Show, and WORT for supporting this show. Another special thanks to my partner Sam Franzen who has helped out with doing all of the art work and making things look fancy (which I’m terrible at) and to the bands and everyone else who has helped make this happen every year. Also, want to thank my mom for being my hero. Without her I wouldn’t be who I am today.

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