Photo by Amanda Hatfield
New York’s The Hum, an all-female collaboration series, returns for its fifth iteration at Good Room and Le Poisson Rouge in May. Previously organized at the now-closed Manhattan Inn, The Hum brings bigger names to bigger rooms as curator Rachael Pazdan begins the series’ transition to a festival atmosphere.
“Attendance has grown every time I’ve done the series to the point where almost every show in October was sold out or oversold,” Pazdan said of the fourth iteration held last year. “I got really good at squeezing 90 people in that back room at Manhattan Inn which was just absurd. It will be really nice for people not to have to sit on top of each other.”
The Hum is unlike most residencies. The series specializes in bringing together musicians who have never played together before and creating intimate, one-off shows that are rarely duplicated. Pazdan arranges three to four sets per evening where artists from various groups play in the center of a packed audience.
“These are one-off magical little gatherings that you have to be there to see it,” Pazdan said.
Pazdan credits the in-the-round style performances for the series’ success, explaining “It’s really nerve-wracking for these musicians to get up and play half an hour long sets with these other people that they’ve never played with before. When they are facing each other and they’re able to make eye contact. It makes the whole process a little less nerve-wracking and more comfortable for them to be able to engage with each other during the performance.”
The Hum will take over Good Room, which is a few blocks from the original location, and see women from groups like Au Revoir Simone, Speedy Ortiz, and The Blow perform 30-minute sets of their choosing every Monday night in May. For the last evening this year, the event will be moved to Le Poisson Rouge on a Thursday to accommodate Memorial Day weekend.
“I give them free range to play whatever the hell they want to play. I ask for a 30-minute set or six songs,” Pazdan explained. “I’ve had women do one or two covers and then play each other’s music and different arrangements of each other’s music. Half the time people will manage to write some new music together. It’s all different combinations of things, but it’s definitely rehearsed beforehand.”
Last year, three ladies decided to play Rihanna’s “Anti” album in its entirety and other groups have chosen to improvise sets, which are only made possible by the intimate in-the-round setting.
For the first time this year, a few sets will feature two or more musicians from the same group including the duo from The Blow and Pazdan’s concoction of putting rhythm string trio Little Kruta with vocal trio H3R.
In the past, Padzan has arranged the sets with the number one criteria being that the musicians had never played together before.
“The rules of the game are that you haven’t worked with that person before. A lot of the time, somebody will have a friend that’s a musician that they’re just buddies but they’ve never gotten an opportunity to play together before and this is a great platform for that,” Pazdan said. “Or having one person say, ‘I’m so inspired by this one artist, it’d be my dream to work with her.'”
Pazdan will work to fill out the rest of the set, adding a drummer, vocalist or whatever else is needed.
She added, “I’ll also do some blind pairing, first-date kind of situations which seem to work really really well or they don’t work at all.”
It has gotten slightly easier for Pazdan to curate over the three years as more musicians get involved and her awareness of New York’s female players expands. She admits that it has been easier to locate female musicians rather than all-female bands. She suggests there’s maybe 20 all-female bands actively playing in New York’s music scene “and maybe they’re not all good. Then you’re just booking them because they are women and that’s not helping anything. That’s making women a theme and not music the theme.”
“My goal and the reason this series is called The Hum and not called female-fronted bands or the girl power series is because an important mission in doing The Hum is to do away with double standards for women in music,” she said, adding “And to make it seem really normal and nothing out of the ordinary to see all these women playing together and not need to slap a label on it.”
Pazdan’s plans for The Hum are to morph it into a yearly festival. The series would switch from its twice-a-year model and take place in May after SXSW, but before the summer festival season.
She explained, “I’ve had a vision for the series for a while of it being more of a festival and building into one of the first all-women’s music festival in New York, something that combines elements of north side with showcases around town and panel discussions and the collaborative evenings. Hopefully next year I can fit the series into a two-week footprint instead of a month and add some of those other elements. I’m slowly making it happen.”
Check out the full lineup for the four nights at Good Room and final night at Le Poisson Rouge with additional acts to be announced. Tickets are on sale now with VIP packages available.