Vipertoons Productions and Whirled Pies hosted a Women in the Blues event on Friday, March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day. The event was held as a benefit fundraiser to support Womenspace, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing domestic violence in Lane County and offering support to survivors. Donations ranging from $5 to $50 were encouraged at the door.
Women from all over the community graced the stage and shared a night full of blues-style lyrics, crossing over to different genres. The audience was a mix of young and old faces, and the energy in the building was high.
The first lady to take the stage was Nicolette Helm, singing on her acoustic guitar. According to Vipertoons, “Seasoned blues veteran Nicolette Helm performed with her own Nicolette Helm Band for many years and is now performing jazz standards.”
She went on to perform “Cold Shot” and “It was Just One of Those Things.” Upon ending her set, Paula Vaden joined Helm with her own guitar to sing as a duo. Vaden then went on to change the tempo by performing the upbeat classic “Proud Mary.” Vipertoons describes Vaden as a “vocalist and percussionist with Soulicious.”
To keep the tone consistent, Matrisha Armitage and her rock and blues band, Bajuana Tea, headed to the stage. Armitage is the executive director of the Music Education & Performing Artists Association located here in Eugene. While on stage, she explained that her job helps produce the GRRRLZ ROCK Music & Arts Festival, which is an event that takes place all month long during November.
Bajuana Tea had six people on stage — all playing different sets of instruments. Armitage was in the back on the drums and singing her heart out, while others were on the guitar, saxophone, violin and piano. Before performing, Armitage made it very clear the group doesn’t get to practice much, and they prefer the natural, raw sound of playing all together. This was apparent in the few moments where the violin was off-tune, though it was still a solid performance.
Bajuana Tea brought multiple people toward the stage, and occasionally couples began dancing. To go along with the show, there was a balloon artist and kids running around as if they had a sugar rush.
“I love that they have a kids table and they have room for the kids to be running around dancing,” said Barb Ryan, a life coach in Lane County. “We were all kids once, and so many women have kids and they can’t get out and do something if they can’t bring their kids with.”
Janet Nelson, another Eugene local, performed and let her lead violinist lead a song, which was different because most performers were using a guitar. Midway through the showcase, Lynda Duffy appeared and brought the energy up even more. Vipertoons says Duffy’s voice “gives all a true Sense of Soul, Getting’ down with the Blues, Kickin’ out with Rock, and Takin’ it back with Retro.”
Through various performers, Women in the Blues showcased how blues can translate across different genres, such as country, rock, or even jazz.
Some other notable acts that were scheduled to perform were Halie Loren, Barbara Healy, Gaye Lee Russell, Teresa Cunningham, Claudia Paige and Anya Lecuyer.
The Women in the Blues event celebrated International Women’s Day in strong, inclusive way. With open access to beer, pizza and blues music from the local artist in Eugene, this event was executed well.