Wrapping up their set at Howdy Gals' Babe’s Ball on Oct. 19, the lead singer of California band Pity Party leaned close to the crowd to get serious for a second.
“We’re going to think about sad (expletive) like … how not everyone feels safe at shows in big cities like this,” she said, speaking directly to the crowd gathered at Swan Dive.
That’s a problem local booking and promotions company Howdy Gals is trying to solve. Maya Van Os, Shannon Wiedemeyer, Kelly Ngo and Belicia Luevano founded the company in December 2017, mainly because each of them wanted to continue to be involved with the Austin music scene. Wiedemeyer and Luevano had both booked for KVRX, Van Os booked for 21st Street Co-Op, and Ngo is a concert photographer.
“We all did our own thing before, then just joined forces,” Luevano said.
Booking shows in Austin can involve reaching out to venues to see what open dates they have, picking that date and finding bands that fit a similar vibe. If a band is coming to Austin and wants to play a show, they can also approach Howdy Gals.
“What we really do is curate the event,” Van Os said. “We’re like the middleman between the venue and the band."
For Babe’s Ball, Howdy Gals focused on bringing woman-fronted punk and alternative bands to the same stage.
“There are so many talented musicians in Austin, it's so easy to have a lineup with diversity, but for some reason it's not everyone's top concern,” Ngo said. “That's what we’re trying to focus on. A show like Babe's Ball shows that it's possible to have an all-female bill that is of one genre.”
Howdy Gals also actively works to keep shows accessible and safe for anyone who wants to attend, whether that means changing a bill last minute or kicking out people who have caused problems at shows.
“What’s really important to us is having safe spaces at our shows, so we work really hard to sustain that,” Van Os said.
The local scene has become more inclusive, according to the Howdy Gals, and there’s been a continuing sense of camaraderie between musicians in Austin. Wiedemeyer lived in Los Angeles after growing up in Austin and said she can see the difference between the two scenes.
“Austin is a community,” Wiedemeyer said. “Bands really do support each other. Band members go to other band members’ shows, and everyone’s constantly creating together. It’s a different atmosphere.”
At first, Howdy Gals were met with surprise when they got a great lineup together or filled a slot last-minute. Now that they’ve been doing this for almost a year, the group is focusing more on selection.
“When we first started, we were very excited and took every opportunity to put on a show,” Ngo said. “We had multiple shows a week, sometimes even more than one in a single day. Now we are being more careful and selective when curating a show.”
To Wiedemeyer, Howdy Gals represents something that can make Austin music more open to anyone.
"I think Howdy Gals is going to be something the community needs — a bunch of women making sure there’s safe spaces,” Wiedemeyer said.