Having spent her teen and post-college years in the thick of that thriving community, the 27-year-old Friedman found New Orleans' music scene lacking by comparison when she moved here to be closer to family. "A lot of bands I wanted to see weren't coming through here," recalls Friedman. "And I realized that if I wanted to see these bands, I had to put on the shows myself." Friedman promptly created the one-woman promotion company She Loves Me/Loves Me Not Productions, and started making phone calls.
Her timing was on the money. North Carolina-based Mr. Lady Records, a label founded in 1997, combined with the Ladyfest women's punk festival to create a opportunities for like-minded artists to gain more exposure for their music. There was no shortage of names available for Friedman to book; after her first show, the Olympia-based Drag Attack Cabaret in fall 1999 at Lucky Cheng's, She Loves Me/Loves Me Not quickly became a local promotion player. Since that debut SLM/LMN has booked a steady flow of bands such as the Need, Le Tigre, the Butchies, Tracy and the Plastics and other popular women's bands. Friedman was putting on an average of two packed shows a month at venues including the Shim Sham Club, the Mermaid Lounge and El Matador -- plus a huge 20-band blowout called Girl Rock! at the Howlin' Wolf during Southern Decadence 2000. In conjunction with a "drag king" collective called FeMale Trouble, Friedman also presented four shows of campy, gender-bending performance art and lip-synching in 2000, one benefiting the YWCA battered women's shelter. After a summer break during which she mounted a one-woman show of her own photography, Friedman organized two more local drag king shows last October, a packed performance by the well-known New York drag king troupe Club Casanova, as well as the New Orleans Dyke March after-party.
"She's made New Orleans a town the ladies in bands want to come to," says Kaia Wilson, co-founder of Mr. Lady Records and who plays with former Indigo Girl Amy Ray in the Butchies. "For the Butchies, she set us up a show totally last minute, like two weeks before the date we needed -- and it was awesome. She's building it, and people are coming."
The New Orleans lesbian community is a particularly good example of an underground scene waiting to happen. With the closing of New Orleans' two major lesbian bars -- Charlene's in 1999 and Rubyfruit Jungle in 2000 -- lots of women found themselves with few friendly joints. Enter She Loves Me/Loves Me Not. "I do see my shows as a place where queer girls can see each other and meet each other," says Friedman. "On the flyers, if they're all dyke bands, I try to put some kind of 'dyke' or 'queer' or 'lesbo' thing on there, so that a new girl ... who might not know any of these bands, sees a flyer, sees the word and knows, I can go there to see girls."
Friedman believes that she's the one who can match the right audience to the right club: "I think I'm actually helping some of these clubs, because if I wasn't here and they got some weird girl band that had a press kit that maybe seemed kind of queer, they probably wouldn't know how to reach that audience. So they call me because they know I can, and I can fill up the club that night."
Though her efforts have brought a largely underground scene into mainstream venues, her motivations still are more personal than businesslike. Last year's Girls Rock!, to Friedman, was about creating community rather than packing the house. "It actually started out as (tricking) girls in town into making bands. 'New band fest! Come play! Win prizes!'" The response from already-formed bands, though, was so great she had to choose 20 bands out of the 60 that applied from throughout the Southeast. The response inspired her to create a regional network of gay women's punk bands. She stapled up a program with each band's contact information and distributed it to all the Girls Rock! participants.
"I remember at the Girls Rock! show, a girl came up to me and was like, 'This is the best thing I've ever been to in my whole life -- I had no idea there were this many girl bands and that everyone would be so good,'" she recalls. "That one girl made the whole event."