When it comes to progressive change and diversity in the Richmond music scene, some people will tell you that it all starts at house shows.
That was the experience of Rivanna Youngpool, a 21-year-old former musician who started booking shows at Sour Haus a few years ago. Since December, she’s moved to booking the larger Gallery5 in Jackson Ward.
“Every time one of the house-show places takes off, it encourages other people to make music,” Youngpool says, noting that many such venues are self-proclaimed safe spaces that are inviting for diverse voices. “If you’re a woman going to shows and there’s just men, it’s not very inspiring.”
During the last two years, Youngpool says she’s noticed far more women playing out in Richmond and being encouraged to form bands. She attributes much of that change to not only house shows but also helpful groups such as Girls Rock RVA, which holds a music camp in the summer and programs through the year; Three Moons, a people-of-color, femme-focused group that books house shows; and Ice Cream Social, a similar diverse booking group.
“Most of the time Richmond is a really good environment for women in music and people are supportive,” she says. “It’s such a close-knit environment it kind of requires it. But I have seen some things in the past.”
One was at Sour Haus, she explains, where certain patrons who got aggressive with women had to be forced out. As a booker, she mentions out-of-town musicians looking past her authority to other male figures, which she attributes not only to gender but also her young age.
“Since I’m a lot younger, that can come off weird in person,” she says. “If it’s an email thing, it’s a lot different. Sometimes people are surprised when I hand them an envelope of money.”
Youngpool is looking forward to the point where the discussion “stops being about women and [people of color] and men doing music and it’s just about music,” she says. “Where we’ve taken over and everybody is involved.”