Brittany Wright and Rachel Ellis were watching Wright’s husband perform at the Lion’s Lair one night when they decided to grab the microphone and invite the other women inside the Colfax Avenue dive bar to come dance alongside them.
Only one woman took them up on their invitation: Zoe Van De Voorde.
“I think that speaks to how little representation females get — not only on stage, but in these venues,” Ellis says. “When you're the only girl on stage or at the whole venue, it can feel scary.”
The three became friends and began to discuss a variety of issues, including Van De Voorde’s journey as a sexual-assault survivor, the underrepresentation of women in the Denver music scene, and hosting an event created through the female gaze that highlights women performers and gives back to the community.
“We wanted to create a space where women were able to share their stories and were actually taken seriously,” Wright says. “So many times we can just be backup singers or taken as novelties and objectified. We wish that wasn’t true. We see it all the time. We wanted a place where women can share their truth.”
From those conversations, the three formed Rebelles Denver, a group focused on celebrating female energy in the Denver music scene. Their mantra: “Artists supporting artists, women supporting women, and people supporting people is the revolution.”
The inaugural Rebelles Night, a women-oriented music and art event that is open to anyone who wants to come out, happened late last year at the Denver Bicycle Club. It was a resounding success, especially since they weren’t sure anyone would show up at all.
“It was amazing,” Wright says. “It was completely sold out. It was really wonderful. ... We gave [performers] flower crowns and gifts to encourage their creativity: notebooks and pens, things to color — anything that encouraged creativity. That was our intention of the night. We wanted everyone to go home that night and share their voice on whatever medium.”
The three women hope to make Rebelles Nights a quarterly happening around Denver and perhaps something that can be replicated in other cities around the United States.
“Denver has an opportunity to be an example for the nation because of how incredibly progressive and inclusive our community is,” Ellis says. “If we were three girls sitting at this table in another city in the United States, I don’t think we’d be having this phone call.”
Wright and Ellis perform in an acoustic duo called Girlfriend Cult, which will open the next installment of Rebelles Night, on February 21 at the Lion's Lair. Van De Voorde plays in the band Eleanor Nash & the Ramblers, which has both male and female members. The Patient Zeros, an all-male trio, will also take the stage.
Although Rebelles Night is intended as a way to highlight female artists, organizers in no way mean to exclude anyone. People of all genders are welcome, and they encourage men to come out and show that feminine side they might normally shy away from.
“A lot of events can make men feel afraid to share the parts of them that are identified as being more feminine,” Wright says. “When only men are represented on stage, and the male point of view, it can hurt men as much as it hurts women.”
She adds that the notion that “boys will be boys” is simply not true.
“There are a lot of good men in our community that don’t deserve to be lumped into that,” she says. “There are a lot of really good men out there who are fighting for women, and really care and really do respect women on stage.”
Organizers recruited about a dozen artists — men and women — who are donating their work for a silent auction during the show. The proceeds from ticket sales and the auction will benefit the Blue Bench, a Denver-area organization that provides therapy and other resources to survivors of sexual assault and provides education to help stop sexual assault in the first place. The organization helps people of all gender identities.
“Blue Bench has been incredibly helpful to me personally, and a lot of people,” Van De Voorde says. “It’s very inclusive. They have an attitude that they aren’t going to turn anyone away because of their beliefs. That’s important to us, to align with an organization that has similar beliefs.”
The three women are excited that the show will take place at the Lion's Lair, where they met. They were surprised at how supportive the bar was about hosting the show.
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“The Lion's Lair is known as a dive bar, and dive bars aren’t really the place you think of when hosting a benefit show like this,” Wright says. “They're really into it. They really supported it, and any way they can help, they wanted to help.”
Ellis says that the positive response to Rebelles Night has been overwhelming, and they hope that other people are inspired to throw similar events.
“We aren’t creating the wheel,” she says. “We were inspired by other movements. The riot grrrl movement in the ’90s was a huge call to action for us. We want to just allow this to be a ripple, a snowball. I don’t want to jinx it, but we hope we're contributing to the growth of what is already happening.”
Rebelles Night happens at 9 p.m. Friday, February 21, at the Lion's Lair, 2022 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $10 and available at the door. You can also Venmo $10 to Van De Voorde at @zoe-catherine. Organizers have also set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the Blue Bench.