Riverwest FemFest is back for its second year of supporting women in Milwaukee. The festival’s founder, Olivia Doyle, enlisted the help of Johanna Rose and Mary Joy Hickey in order to expand the event, adding more bands, artists, vendors, and venues. Last year, FemFest consisted of two nights at the now-defunct Cocoon Room. This year, 60 artists will perform over four days at four locations including one all-ages space. The genres represented will be expansive–folk, punk, hip-hop, rock, et cetera.

I had the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at prepping for this action-packed weekend.

Last year’s fest was a success, to say the least. Did you learn anything from last year that changed the way you organized this year? When did the preparation for this year’s event begin?

This year, we started planning almost immediately after I returned from studying abroad in Italy, so we’ve been planning this for about 6 months now. If there’s anything I learned from planning it last year, it’s been to delegate… to trust others that have the same mind frame and same goals to help out, rather than rushing to plan and configure everything by myself. Also, something huge that Johanna, Mary and I tried to accomplish for FemFest 2016 was to be more diverse in our lineup, as well as in the art gallery.

Can you talk about your involvement with Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee (DRAM), since that’s a new addition this year?

DRAM is an organization all on it’s own. FemFest is not a part of it, only a HUGE supporter of it. We think it’s brilliant. Not only are they trying to help and educate the people of Riverwest, but they are also going at it from a different point of view – possibly a more effective one. Their mission is to educate the community, as well as the employees and owners of many local establishments, on how to prevent date rape and sexual assault, rather than teaching them what to do after it happens. Taking preventative action is ultimately more effective.

Aside from that, they are an organization run by strong, intelligent, mindful women, geared towards helping women, very similar to FemFest. It’s an honor to work with them and support them.

You’ve expanded to include visual art and poetry. What’s the next step?

Yes! Although last year we did have a small art auction and poetry section of FemFest, we have most definitely expanded it this year. The entire purpose of FemFest (aside from being a fundraiser) is to create a platform for female artists – whether it be music, art, poetry, performance art, etc. That being said, it only made sense to expand those portions of the fest as we expand the music portion.

What’s your favorite thing about being involved with FemFest?

For me, the greatest thing about FemFest is seeing and feeling all of the support from the community. Seeing someone as thrilled about the fest as I am – seeing someone as inspired by these women as I am.

What band(s)/artist(s) are you looking forward to seeing? (no “all of them” answers!)

ALL OF THEM. Every single one of these performers deserves our attention and our excitement. Every. Single. One.

The full line-up, including local favorites such as Tigernite, New Boyz Club, Ruth B8r Ginsburg, Siren, and Queen Tut, can be found online at:

Riverwest FemFest Official | Facebook | FB Event