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Pitchfork Music Festival 2017, Jamila Woods
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

A new women-led music and comedy fest is coming to Chicago

The inaugural Versa lineup features Ellie Goulding, Kali Uchis, Jamila Woods, Patti Harrison and more extra-cool women.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

A new two-day festival centered around women and femme-identifying folks will bring performers like Ellie Goulding, Kali Uchis, Liz Phair, Patti Harrison and Chelsea Handler—plus tons of other musicians, comedians, chefs and speakers—to Lincoln Park this June.

Led by the events company Four Leaf Productions, Versa will be the self-proclaimed "biggest women-led and women-powered" multi-day festival in more than two decades, with a lineup that runs the gamut from big-name stars to up-and-coming acts in the realms of music, comedy and activism. Along with artists such as Chicago-based R&B singer Jamila Woods and rapper Big Freedia, attendees can discover emerging talents like Deb Never, Madame Gandhi, Tia Wood, Lillie Mae and more. Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Patti Harrison and Fortune Feimster will headline a comedy stage, as well as improv performers from The Second City.

In addition to the performers, the festival will host "culture-shifters" as speakers and panelists—including feminist activist Gloria Steinem and writer Alok Vaid-Menon—as well as a Versa Ball inspired by drag ballroom traditions and hosted by ballroom historian Leggoh JohVera. Top Chef judge Gail Simmons will curate a lineup of chefs from across the country, which will be announced in coming weeks.

To curate such a wide-ranging fest, organizers said they strove to represent the full spectrum of the female experience by taking a broader look at what it means to be diverse: not just gender identity or ethnicity, but also "where women are in their careers, where they are in their journeys," says Versa senior marketing manager Vanessa M. Buenger.

"Women are still underrepresented and underpaid across several creative verticals," Buenger says. "We hope that fans come to this festival and they learn about new women who are building their careers and breaking into the scene. We hope that when you leave Versa you can say, 'Man, I saw them when.'"

Organizers are also striving to make the event as inclusive as possible. Along with offering layaway payment options (which splits the ticket price into a more manageable series of payments, starting at $20), they're hoping folks of all gender identities—not just those who identify as women or femmes—will feel excited and comfortable at Versa.

"We also believe that though we have a women-powered and women-led lineup that anyone, no matter where they are in their gender expression, can see themselves or celebrate this experience," Buenger says. "We want the women on our stages to look out and see the culture-at-large celebrating who we are today."

Versa will take place June 11 and 12 in Lincoln Park's South Fields, and tickets—which start at $215 for two-day general admission—are on sale now. You can check out a full lineup for the femme-powered fest below. 

Courtesy Versa

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