Diverse representation is an essential part of a thriving community, but systemic barriers to access and engagement in the creative economy based on race, class, gender, etc. pervade even the most seemingly progressive circles in Richmond as they do most everywhere. In response, feminist art collective Elbow Room created First Time’s the Charm, a yearly music showcase spotlighting and supporting new and marginalized voices.
Planning for the event starts early in the year, when Elbow Room hosts a series of hang-outs for people from marginalized communities and folks who have never played shows come together to talk musical ideas. Eventually, they start forming bands and after a few weeks/months of practicing, the new groups perform two songs and a cover at the showcase.
Pretty straightforward, right?
Well, you can ask the organizers: it takes a lot of hard work to put together. For more on that process and the history of the event, check out Carl Athey’s interview with organizer RM Livingston that we published earlier this month.
But looking back on the event after three years, the results more than speak for themselves: FTTC has spawned 27 bands over three years, including some that continue performing and releasing music like Atta Girl, Fetish Gear and Hoarsees. But you can’t trace the impact of a wide-ranging event like FTTC on the music scene in such a strict way.
The show itself is a sort of visioning process displaying what the music scene can and should be. In many ways, it’s like the fairy tale version of going to a house show, but even better. Because for a few fleeting hours, it’s actually real. There’s no way to adequately explain how experiencing an inclusive and supportive space like that transforms one’s view of what a mundane act like going to a show can be, and thus conveys how vital it is to take direct steps to make the everyday experience of live music more like that.
What I really mean to say is thanks to RM Livingston, Laura August, Celina Williams, and everyone else with Elbow Room who helps make FTTC happen for leading by example. You are all doing the real work to make our community a better and more welcoming place for everyone, and that’s as important now as it’s ever been.
But as sad as it is to say, this will be the last year with Livingston at the helm of organizing the event as they are moving to Philadelphia later this month. So, if you agree that FTTC and other events like it are exactly what our community needs, get in touch with Elbow Room to help them plan/staff next year’s event!
Check out photos by Craig Zirpolo below: