New York band Melissa Li and the Barely Theirs descend on Ashland to rock the Southern Oregon Pride Festival.
New York band Melissa Li and the Barely Theirs descend on Ashland to rock the Southern Oregon Pride Festival this weekend.
The four-piece ensemble was asked to perform for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Green Show the same weekend as the Pride Parade, which is right up the group's alley. Front-woman Melissa Li is joined by her girlfriend Ashley Baier on drums, Darren Lipper on bass and Chris Takita on guitar.
"I'm an out queer artist, and the band does a lot of prides. Everyone is really excited when we do that," says Li, "so we're staying for another day to perform in the Southern Oregon Pride Festival."
Li writes most of the songs, heavily influenced by thoughtful lyricists such as Ani DiFranco. The group then collaborates musically to breathe life into Li's words. Each band member has a diverse background in music, Baier is trained in classical music and both Takita and Lipper are big fans of metal, but what comes through is MLBT's love of what Baier calls "stupid '90s pop."
"Our sound is fun, upbeat and unpretentious pop rock," says Li. "It's a variety of different genres but always tied together with catchy songwriting. We've been known to go into a little jam band territory sometimes but not in a self-indulgent way."
Li caught OSF's eye in 2007 when she won the Jonathan Larson award for a musical she wrote, and after some back and forth with the festival, was finally able make it to Ashland. Already the band has said it has made friends in Ashland, where everyone smiles and greets each other.
"It's kind of perfect that we were asked to do the Green Show and it was the same weekend as Pride. It just worked out," said Li.
Being an openly gay performer has influenced the band's trajectory, Li says, as far as the kind of shows the band books. "But at the same time, if you listen to our songs, it's not like we're trying to make queer music; we're not preaching an agenda," says Li.
MLBT has performed at pride festivals in Toronto, Milwaukie and New York, and individually the members of the band have played at other pride festivals in San Francisco, Boston and even Green Bay.
"I think in this day and age, that's sort of what activism is about," says Li. "It's not like raising our fist and being like 'look at this issue no one has ever heard of.' We're open, and we're just doing our thing and hopefully that's inspiring to people."
During the festival at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, MLBT will perform at the bandshell in Lithia Park. For the past year, the group has been recording its first album, "The Beginning." The band was able to raise funds for the project through donations on Kickstarter.com, a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors and more.
"We recently just met our goal, but we have, like, eight days left before the funding is over," says Li. "You can donate $10 through Kickstarter, and you'll get the CD, but you'll also get updates on our project."
For the Tidings Café, the group met at Evo's in Ashland and performed an acoustic version of the title track of its new CD, "The Beginning." For this performance, Baier and Lipper were able to be a part of the audience while Li and Takita played the song as a duo with guitars.
Li is in the process of planning a Winter Woman's Rock Festival in Brooklyn, an event she organized last year but just recently decided to make annual.
"We brought in a bunch of female-fronted rock bands in Brooklyn, and we make a big party out of it," says Li. "We'll be doing our CD release then."
Melissa Li and the Barely Theirs' new album is expected out in November and will be available through itunes or through its site www.melissali.com.
Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.