Girl power on Martha’s Vineyard

First ever Ladyfest comes to the Ritz.

Nina Violet will play and sing at Ladyfest. — Susan Safford

The Ritz and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services are teaming up to host the first annual Ladyfest music event this Saturday, Oct. 28, at 7 pm. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this weekend’s show is meant to celebrate all Island women through local music.

Headliners Sabrina & the Groovers, the Space Invaders, Jemima James, Rose Guerin, and Nina Violet are among the female performers who will take the stage Saturday night. The show starts at 7 pm, and a $5 cover at the door will go to MVCS’ Connect to End Violence.

Connect is a domestic violence and rape crisis center that helps women on-Island get out of tough situations. According to Ritz manager Kellie Fairtag, owner Larkin Stallings has an ongoing relationship with the service group, and their partnership is meant to draw awareness to a prevalent issue among women all over the world, as well as celebrate their strength, resilience, and rockin’ talent.

Ms. Fairtag and Ms. Guerin were updating wall decor in the upper part of the bar early this fall. Large black-and-white canvas images with iconic Vineyard performers like Mike Benjamin and Johnny Hoy cover the walls of the Ritz. “We realized we didn’t have any pictures of the badass females that have been playing here for so long,” Ms. Guerin said.

Ms. Guerin said she’s looked up to Vineyard performers like Jemima James, Sabrina Luening, Barbara Hoy Puciul, and Lorna Ashe all her life.

“Now’s the time to be lifting each other up,” she said. “There’s the tendency to compare and compete in small towns, but everyone here shares the stage.”

“I wasn’t raised here, but everyone in my group of friends were. They’re the toughest,

most hard-working women I’ve ever met, and I don’t know if they get a lot of appreciation for that,” Ms. Fairtag said, who’s been the Ritz manager since July. The Ritz has a lot of lady power in its operation, and was run by a woman for years before Mr. Stallings and his wife bought it. “I love the fact that it’s been a female-run business, especially because you don’t think of females running a dive bar,” Ms. Fairtag said.

Booze, bars, and late nights can sometimes lead to unwanted experiences of sexual assault or harassment. Ladyfest intends to cut that prospect down, and open doors for women to feel comfortable and welcome all of the time.

The recent #MeToo movement on Facebook and Twitter works hand-in-hand with what

Jemima James brings her considerable music talent to Ladyfest.

Saturday’s event is looking to accomplish — bringing women together to stand in solidarity against domestic violence and abuse. The trending social media hashtag started on Twitter by actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women who had been sexually assaulted to tweet the words #MeToo. According to an article in the Atlantic, in 24 hours the hashtag was tweeted half a million times.

Ladyfest is for everyone, men included, and will celebrate the community through something that inherently brings people together — music.

“Abuse and domestic violence are incredibly important to pay attention to,” Ms. Guerin said. “And there are so many levels. Abuse of power, of friends, and it’s not always just women.”

“In the end, it’s all about taking care of each other,” Ms. Fairtag said.


Don’t miss Ladyfest this Saturday, Oct. 28, at 7 pm at the Ritz on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Cover charge of $5 at the door goes to Martha’s Vineyard Community Service’s Connect to End Violence.