From 5 to 10:30 pm last Saturday, Oak Bluffs’ Ritz Cafe and Dos Más restaurants hosted the seventh annual Ladyfest MV, a fundraiser concert featuring talented female musicians and local acts.
Ladyfest, held around October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, has raised funds each year for Connect to End Violence, an M.V. Community Services program providing free and confidential services to those impacted by domestic or sexual violence. Connect offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, crisis counseling, supervised visitation, community education, and more.
Though Ladyfest normally happens outdoors on Circuit Avenue, inclement weather Saturday caused a return of sorts to its early arrangement inside the Ritz.
The night featured 11 sets in total, seven at the Ritz and four at Dos Más.
A flow of attendees into the Ritz enjoyed music, drinks, and food, and frequented a volunteer-run booth filled with Ladyfest merchandise.
Design work for the event poster and products was provided by Jessica Feirtag, the sister of Ladyfest co-founder and organizer Kelly Feirtag and owner of a graphic design firm. Available items included Gadsden-flag-echoing “Don’t ask me to smile” shirts, as well as similarly designed stickers.
Ann Luke from California, jokingly referred to as a “James Taylor stalker” by her companions, was excited for Kate Taylor’s set at the Ritz. “She seemed James Taylor-adjacent,” Luke explained.
Around dinnertime, a crowded Dos Más appreciated Lucy Mayhew’s set, as she sang Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me.” “She’s awesome,” said Mike Hartzband, who attended the festival and happens to be Mayhew’s boyfriend.
Ladyfest is a collaboration of Feirtag, former Ritz general manager, and Rose Guerin, musician and former Ritz bartender. Guerin plays Ladyfest every year, and her band The Rosie Show plays the Ritz most Saturdays.
“[In 2017] There were a bunch of photos on the walls of all the musicians that had played, and they were only photos of men,” said Feirtag. “So we just planned a night of the women that play here all the time so we could photograph them, and then we came up with Ladyfest.”
Partnering with Connect came from Ritz connections as well, said Feirtag. “We said we might as well do it for a good cause, and [Ritz owner Larkin Stallings] has a connection to Community Services…[it has been] a match made in heaven ever since.”
Though Ladyfest’s mission has held strong each year, Feirtag says its format has been somewhat adaptable. “It changes a lot. Our first year was inside, and then it just exploded and it grew really fast…Then we moved and had it on Circuit Avenue, and we got really big, and then the pandemic hit, so we did it inside one year and just did the whole thing virtual, which was really cool too.”
Feirtag is also committed to a memorable year despite the change of plans. “I think the hard part is [that] the venues are only as big as they can be, so we can’t fit in as many people as we’d like — as we usually have at Ladyfest…that’s a little bit worrisome, but we’ll just do the best we can.”
For Feirtag, the goal is to contribute as much as possible to Connect. Feirtag says this year’s fundraising total will be ready at the end of the week. “We go up and up and up every year. Last year I think we did about $25,000, so I’m hoping that we’ll beat that this year, and we’ll see.”
Connect’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline is reachable at 508-696-7233. Their Child Witness to Violence Services can be contacted at 774-549-9667 x107.