Shoes for Mabel
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Shoes for Mabel

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Alt Q Festival Hits All the Right Keys"

The Alt Q Festival Hits All the Right Keys
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin

On May 20, the Alt Q Festival will take place at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, at 7 p.m. Formerly known as the Queer is Folk Festival, this annual event returns with a new line-up that includes Toshi Reagon, Erin McKeown, The Prince Myshkins, Carrie Lydon, Brady Earnhart and MeKole Wells. Organized once again by Chicagos Scott Free, the Alt Q Festival will showcase LGBT artists performing their own material.

Viewed by many as the pioneer in the crusade to support the Windy Citys gay and lesbian music scene, Free is not only assembling talent for this showcase, but he will be performing as well. Whether new to Chicago or to the gay music scene, Free serves as Chicagos godfather to queer music by hosting events like this and the weekly Homolatte to help the often overlooked community of LGBT artists.

Having moved just earlier this year to Chicago, Wells is honored to be performing at the Alt Q Festival. Currently starring in Menopause: The Musical at the Apollo Theater, Wells will hit the road to sing at L.A. Pride and South Carolina Pride later this year. With a beaming smile to accompany her messages of fulfillment, survival and freedom on tunes like Why and Shakin Hands With Me, Wells hopes the audience will be able to walk away with something from her lyrics.

Wells appreciates the artistic freedom offered at the Alt Q Festival. Free encourages the musicians to perform the material they composed themselves to truly reflect the queer experience. MeKole notes that so many people are cubed and confined and this showcase offers a wonderful opportunity to break out of set limitations. When Wells was in California, during her shows she played a game of Guess What? with the audience, finally revealing at the end of her concert that she is a lesbian. She admits that if the audience knew this earlier on in the evening, they would have a different experience and would not have grasped her musics meaning entirely, if at all.

Singing since she was five, Wells has had many rebirths and has been performing professionally for 20 years. In 1987 she released her first dance record, Make My Day, and then returned to the club charts with her single Where Did Our Love Go under the name Eleesa. Currently she is working on her second full-length solo album, a follow up to 2004s cabaret and jazz influenced Full Circle.

Like Wells, New Yorks Reagon blends genres with ease. On her latest album, Have You Heard, on Ani DiFrancos Righteous Babe label, Reagon easily weaves blues, folk and R&B closer together. Reagon has been pegged as the socially conscious mix of Prince and Rufus Wainwright. Not only is Reagon a member of the band BIGLovely, but she has also toured with Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams and Lenny Kravitz.

As a multi-instrumentalist, McKeown also cannot be pigeon-holed into any one category with her musical style. Considering she has been making music for only 10 years, McKeown has already released four albums and two EPs, with songs having influences steeped in pop, rock, electronic and even big band. Working on an upcoming standards album and having just released a live CD, the singer of A Certain Pleasure performs more than 200 live shows a year, according to her profile.

Lydon is extremely elated to be sharing a bill with veterans like Reagon, Wells and McKeown. Hoping to have an EP ready for purchase at the festival, Lydon offers a unique sound to the showcase. While she will be playing the acoustic guitar, Lydons musical partner Kate Rickenbacker will be joining Lydon on stage, playing the electric violin. Lydon even admits she draws her style from a wide variety of influences including the Indigo Girls, Billie Holiday, Ani DiFranco and folk favorite Sarah Harmer. Having attended the festival last year for the first time, the Chicago native was amazed by the talent.

Lydon has material that covers a variety of topics, including political songs like Bullshit King about the president, tunes about coming out and others covering issues such as being rejected. Not to spoil a mood, Lydon even jokes about having typical lesbian pop songs about breaking up with a girlfriend.

Melissa Ferrick, Ellen Rosner, Nedra Johnson and Jill Sobule are just some of the artists who have participated in this music series since its inception.

With a variety of artists who has been influenced by multiple genres of music, the Alt Q Festival boasts talent at various stages in each individuals respective career.

Tickets are still available for the Alt Q Festival, which will be held at the Old Town School of Folk Music on May 20 at 7 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit Equality Illinois.
- Windy City Times

"The Music of Carrie Lydon"

The Music of Carrie Lydon
Written by Darby Blue
Sunday, 27 August 2006

While thinking about the evening I spent listening to Carrie Lydon perform, I went to another show, where the guy on stage commented that writing a folk song is an inherently arrogant act. That’s true,
I thought to myself, any creative act is…but Carrie is one of the least arrogant people I’ve ever run across. I was fortunate enough to catch Carrie's set in Chicago, in a Northside pub filled with a wide audience of people who had all turned out for an evening of this “arrogant” folk music. Some musicians throw their music out all over the audience; some leave you leaning forward and feeling a little lost. Carrie Lydon and violinist Kate Rickenbacker meet you right in the middle, with lyrics and melody that feel like listening to an old friend, even hearing her for the first time (which I was). So when I sat down with Carrie to talk music, we started at the beginning.

DB: So what's the backstory here, the musician's bio? Why do you stand up there and sing?

CL: I wanted to sing from the time I was able to make noise! As a little kid I was pretty tone deaf but would sing all the time, went around singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow at the top of my lungs. I come from a musical family, my brother's a percussionist and so is my dad. In the house there was always some music, music was a big part of growing up for me.
When I got older I started in band. Mom wanted me to play drums, but I didn't want to be in my brother's shadow. I actually wanted to play tuba! So we ended up compromising on saxophone. I sang a little bit here and there through high school, and then tried out for a musical and discovered singing all over again.

DB:Then how did you get from saxophone to guitar? Can't sing while playing sax...

CL: I bought a guitar in college but it sat for years collecting dust. Then I finished college and moved back to Chicago. I was with a friend watching my brother's band at Guinness Fest and we just decided we needed to start a band too. We had a name, we figured out what the songs would be about, we even planned out the website. And then we bought instruments and started figuring out how to play.

That band was naughtiekittie. We played quirky little songs about everything, really, ranging from picking somebody up in a bar to getting your first period and puberty/early adolescence. They were all very funny, kind of in your face, a different type of thing than most of what I'm doing today. We played together for a couple of years, but then started going in different directions.

And after a while, I started writing. I guess I've been doing what I'm doing now for about a year and a half.

DB:You usually play with violinist Kate Rickenbacker. How did that come about?

CL: I met Kate at a lesbian open mic in Chicago. It was lots of phenomenal musicians that night, and I was so nervous... I hadn't really played out on my own before like that. I actually was getting ready to leave without playing and then Kate's partner volunteered Kate to play with me. So that night was the beginning. We both try not to turn down any chance to play but generally try to play together whenever we can.

DB:One of the things I noticed while listening to you was that you don't shy away from taking chances, either in your lyrics or vocally....

CL: I still struggle with songwriting. I'm one of those people who wasn't a writer first. When I started writing, I was getting out of a relationship and was a big gigantic mess. I just started writing about that, the whole heartbroken thing, ugh. I was in a really vulnerable place and in a lot of ways it has really guided where I've gone since. At that point, I didn't care whether people liked the music but was writing to get through the process.
Some of those songs I don't feel or care about so rawly anymore. But it is still cathartic to bring them to the stage, to other people... and a little nerve-wracking.

DB:The night I heard you play, you were part of a folk showcase at a pub just down the street from Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. Where do you see yourself on the wide spectrum of folk music?

CL: I think of myself as a kind of folk artist, acoustic guitar, singer-songwriter. Folk purists wouldn't think any of my stuff is folky! Some of it can be a little jazzy at times, that's the fun part, but acoustic singer-songwriter is usually what I end up saying.

DB:And not all your songs are about breakups...

CL: I would love to be more political. There's no shortage right now of things to write about, but it's tricky coming up with things that express that kind of frustration.
I think that just being creative is important for everybody. Expressing yourself is critical to living in an emotionally healthy way. Singing is something I've always done, whether I was happy or not. Now, with the ability to go out there in front of people, it's a means of communications, a way to help relate to another human being - even if they're not in the same place.

In terms of politics and the old personal is political, I have a song I wrote about being a survivor of sexual assault and the shame of that and letting it go. It's amazing being able to express that - even if it isn't easy. Sometimes I'm scared to death to be out there, I think probably half the time I say to myself I don't want to do this... I want to just stay home... I'll just stay home. But I really like to sing.

DB:You've made something of a name for yourself in Chicago's queer music scene, with performances at the Alt-Q festival, Homolatte, podcast on Feast of Fools.... Is being out that way wonderfully supportive, or does it start to feel kind of like a queer music ghetto?

CL: I have no problem with being out and affiliated with the queer music scene. I think its existence is really important and it is important personally to support the community and create the community. And people definitely have been very supportive, giving me opportunities I might not have had. Queer women are still marginalized in a lot of ways, and it's beautiful to have a space where it's safe, where people get it, where someone isn't going to stop listening because you're queer. In the larger music scene, while it's been very welcoming, there are occasions where people are really homophobic. They have the realization that you're gay and then suddenly they look differently at the music. Any time you're in the public eye, it's harder to be queer. But I would rather speak up.

The scene in Chicago is amazing. Having started so late, as in, I didn't start writing songs when I was sixteen; it has been good to find a place. Even back when we were doing naughtiekittie, I met a lot of musicians. Open mic stuff has been good, playing with Scott Free, Homolatte, the Alt-Q festival, everyone has been really nice, at least in the queer community. Especially not having a demo, people willing to go on word of mouth has been important in getting the gigs.

DB:So where do you go from here? Where do you want to play? What do you want to do with your music?

CL: Where else? Anywhere! We're just starting to think about finding people in other cities and going coffeehouse to coffeehouse. It's different because I did start later. I can't just take off and travel because I have a job I really like at a small nonprofit, so I have to think about those things. I know my family would be supportive, but I'm not sure how feasible it would be to go on a six-month tour and sleep on floors and all of that!

Mostly I just like to play. I'm sure not doing this for the money. I know I'm not going to turn on the radio and go 'Hey! That's me!' We're starting to think maybe a two-week tour someplace would be doable sometime, and have started looking at shows more regionally within the Midwest on weekends.

DB:So what's your big rock star fantasy?

CL: (laughing) Whenever I hear rock star I think Kiss! Probably because of my brother who was a big huge Kiss fan, Def Leppard, glam rock, the fireworks and all that stuff. I'd picture myself in face makeup! That's not where I'm going with this!

Just being able to perform for a living, and travel, and focus on singing and songwriting, that would incredible. -


Miles & Years



With a unique sound that is equal parts jazz, angst, and folk, Shoes for Mabel defy the traditional singer-songwriter genre. Their intricate weave of voice, strings, and guitar is winning fans all around. Lydon's voice has been described as touching upon the "wistfulness of Dido, the angst of PJ Harvey, and the poetic heart of Joni Mitchell (Daniel Cain, Terminal Bliss)."

"Some musicians throw their music out all over the audience; some leave you leaning forward and feeling a little lost. Carrie Lydon and violinist Kate Rickenbacker meet you right in the middle, with lyrics and melody that feel like listening to an old friend, even hearing her for the first time." -

They have shared the stage with Coyote Grace, Erin McKeown, Toshi Reagon, the Prince Myshkins, Julie Loyd, and Ripley Caine, among others. Shoes for Mabel have immersed themselves in the Chicago scene, performing at venues such as the Old Town School of Folk Music, The Abbey Pub, the Elbo Room, the Red Line Tap, the Grafton, the Pint, and the Darkroom, among others. They have been featured in various showcases, including AltQ, Cake Chicago and Saphho's Salon.