When this year’s Country LakeShake Festival gets underway in Chicago Friday afternoon (June 21st), it’ll be in never-been-done-before style. For the first time in country festival history, the day’s lineup will be made up entirely by women — and many of those women are reacting with a resounding “it’s about time.”
Despite years of reports and studies discussing the unequal representation of women in country music — including on radio playlists and in headlining roles at country festivals — LakeShake’s festival-opening lineup is an anomaly. Miranda Lambert and her Pistol Annies trio will top the bill, along with Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, Cassadee Pope and Lindsay Ell on the main stage, while Clare Dunn, Rita Wilson, Rachel Wammack and Kassi Aston will grace the Next From Nashville stage.
According to artists like Alaina, who was raised on the country music of “Ladies in the ’90s,” it’s an opportunity to show a new generation of young women what’s possible.
“My friends are bringing their two little girls to come see the show,” she tells Sounds Like Nashville in a statement. “I am so proud that those little girls get to look up and see an all-female lineup. It’s such a rare thing, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.”
Casual fans may still not be fully aware that female voices are heard less than their male counterparts in country, but the numbers don’t lie. Since 2014 only 16 percent of the genre’s top 500 songs were sung by women — and none of those women were over 40 years old, in stark contrast to country’s elite male artists.
In response, country’s top females have begun to put pressure on the powers that be — mostly by making the issue more widely known. Artists like Lambert, for instance, booked an all-female cast for her 2019 Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour, and others like Morris, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini have spoken frequently of their wish to get more women in the spotlight. But LakeShake’s move may be one of the first meaningful steps the music industry has taken to effect change.
“I’m blown away by the all-female lineup at LakeShake on Friday and that LakeShake is highlighting the powerful music being made by women in country music right now,” says actress and singer Wilson. “We need to tell our own stories. Women have a lot to say that is specific to their own experiences. That LakeShake has decided to program an all-female lineup is a commitment to valuing those stories and the women who write and sing them.”
“I am so excited about the lineup for Friday’s LakeShake,” “Something People Say” singer Wammack agrees. “These women are lightning bolts, and it’s awesome that the festival is providing a platform that is generating beautiful conversation about the contributions of women in country music. These ladies aren’t just stellar performers and musicians, they are terrific storytellers with something meaningful to say for everyone.”
Still, most women in country music would rather their position in the genre be a non-issue. Artists like the guitar-slinging Dunn says she’s excited to perform in the home of bluesmen heroes like Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly and Howlin’ Wolfe, but also notes the all-female cast on tap for Friday will be “epic.” And first timers like Ashton — who’s provocative “Pretty Shiny Things” speaks to the broader treatment of women in society — acknowledge the significance of what she calls “a lineup of complete power females.”
Truly, each of the women ready to kick off LakeShake deserves to be highlighted just for her artistry — and independent of gender — but rising stars such as Ell believe efforts like this will eventually pay off. “It’s going to be such a strong message of girl power,” she notes. And plus, she and her country peers will get to do what they love.
“Playing a festival with an all-female lineup is going to be so empowering and beautiful,” Pope says. “Putting the whole ‘being women’ thing aside, though, I get to share the stage with some of the best entertainers in the business.”
The 2019 Country LakeShake Festival takes place at Chicago’s Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island from June 21st-23rd.