ANTIGONE RISING // 2019 Branch Main Stage // 8:15PM
Nini Camps - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Cathy Henderson - guitar, backing vocals
Kristen Ellis-Henderson - drums, percussion, bass, backing vocals
"We stopped worrying a long time ago about whether the 'music industry' understands us," states Antigone Rising co-founder Kristen Ellis-Henderson. "I would even say we're not in the music industry. We're in the Antigone Rising industry, which is a whole different thing."
Indeed, in more than 20 years as one of America's hardest-working bands, Antigone Rising has established a far-reaching reputation for sticking to their instincts. While the band's high-energy live performances have earned the longterm devotion of the band's fans, Antigone Rising's passionate social conscience continues to manifest itself in the group's tireless activism.
In 2014, Antigone Rising launched the ambitious nonprofit organization Girls Rising, whose live presentations reflect the same passionate belief that drives the band's music. Throughout the year, Girls Rising partners with local school districts and youth centers to create empowering and innovative programming that's designed to inspire young girls and LGBTQ youth through live performances, presentations and workshops. Girls Rising also presents an annual music festival, which celebrates the band's work and presents their Game Changer Award.
Now in its sixth year, Girls Rising Music Festival offers a day of family-friendly music and entertainment featuring two music stages and a variety of outreach workshops, inspiring young girls and LGBTQ youth to pursue non-traditional career paths and reminding them that it's okay to play, think and be different.
"Our goal," says lead singer Nini Camps, "is to provide a complete fun-filled experience for all families while reinforcing our message of equality, inclusion and empowerment."
The creation of Girls Rising was originally set in motion after Antigone Rising was invited by the U.S. state department to travel as cultural ambassadors throughout the Middle East. The band headlined arenas in Bethlehem and Tel Aviv by night, while performing outreach workshops in remote villages along the West Bank by day. After touring the Middle East, the band again traveled to Vietnam to perform during the 40th Anniversary of U.S./Vietnamese Normalization Celebrations. Seeing up close how music can bridge cultures and bring people together, Antigone Rising returned home inspired to create Girls Rising.
"The inspiration to start Girls Rising was actually two-fold," Cathy Henderson explains. "We were trying to confirm festival dates for summer while simultaneously planning our trip to the Middle East with the US State Department as Cultural Ambassadors for Women's History Month. Several festivals we had been on before were inviting all the same male acts, but denying us because they wanted to have a different female artist. So we decided to start our own music festival.
"We also knew that women in the music industry weren't the only ones being affected," she continues. "All women were, in every profession. Having just returned from the Middle East where we met kids and had performed real outreach workshops and cultural exchanges, we knew we could take this same work to kids in the United States. And we thought it would be really interesting to add other women to the discussion.
"Girls Rising does take a lot of extra work, but I'd say it's become the driving force behind the band," Kristen asserts. "Everything we do now is through the lens of Girls Rising. The songs we write, the shows we book. We book outreaches in schools and will book our tour schedule around those events. It feels like we are doing something that's important and meaningful to us."
Antigone Rising has been a pioneering force for much of its existence. Early on, the band established a reputation for tireless touring and masterful musicianship, playing upwards of 280 shows per year. Without the benefit of a record deal or mainstream promotion, the group routinely packed their live shows with fans and sold unprecedented amounts of their self-released CDs.
By 2003, Antigone Rising's success had won them a mainstream record deal with the Atlantic-distributed Lava label. Their Lava debut, 2005's From the Ground Up became one of the first releases to be marketed through Starbucks, selling 450,000 copies and landing Antigone Rising in the Top 20 of Billboard's Heatseekers chart for an entire year. When corporate shakeups landed the band back in the indie world, their loyal fan base stuck with them, continuing to support their live shows and their self-released CDs.
Antigone Rising has never been shy about standing up for its convictions, even when it means courting controversy. For example, in 2013, the band made nonmusical headlines when Ellis-Henderson and her wife, Sarah Kate, were photographed in an intimate kiss for the cover of Time magazine, for a feature spotlighting same-sex marriage and parenting.
"I think that our mindset has changed as we've gotten a little older," Kristen asserts. "Now it's less about the need to prove ourselves. Coming out, having kids, giving back. All those things have worked best for us—not chasing some imaginary idea of how people see us."
"I feel now that the music has a greater purpose to help inspire and empower other people, especially kids, more so than I ever imagined," adds Cathy Henderson. "We're making a difference in kids' lives. You can see that immediately in the reactions of the people we do the workshops for. For me that's so gratifying."