Sense of community burns bright during Torch Night fundraisers showcasing Calgary female musicians

They carry it, they pass it along, they keep it burning.

Torch Night, a regular, long-running fundraising event for The Women’s Centre of Calgary features local female musicians paying tribute to the past and taking it much further.

On Saturday night at The Palomino, the latest edition will take place with such Calgary talent as Liz Stevens, Yolanda Sargeant, Sinzere, Bebe Buckskin, Holly Clark and, of course, the hostesses for the evening and organizers of the event, The Torchettes.

Prior to Saturday’s show, which is billed as Janis Joplin vs. Brittany Howard, Torch singer Deicha Carter filled theYYSCENE in on the history and meaning of the show.

The Origins

“We started Torch Night at the Blues Can, which is actually where Abbie Thurgood and I met and started The Torchettes … When we started to break through we noticed there was a lack of representation for female artists. And while we didn’t want to exploit the term ‘female artists,’ we want to respect the fact that these people are artists first, we really wanted to support the idea and the concept of holding each other up and tapping into a space that we could come together and do the show.”

The Charity

“The Women’s Centre is who we decided to partner with because they’ve actually been a resource for me as a single mom. What I really liked about them is that they don’t have the same screening process as other agencies would. They still obviously screen, but you don’t have to prove your hardship, which is super pride-swallowing when you walk into (another) resource centre and you have to plead your case of why your shit’s not together or why you’re struggling. It’s awful. So what I love about them is they have open arms and they’ll give you the resources and support that you need without making you feel like a failure.”

The Venue

“We did it at the Blues Can for two years and then we transitioned it to Dickens because we noticed that we were getting feedback that because it’s a blues specific venue it was a little tougher to put in a punk rock band and respect the clientele. So we decided to move it to Dickens because they were OK with what we put in there. ‘Do you want folk music, you want metal, hip-hop, anything — it’s your baby,’ they gave us the full range, which is awesome. They’ve been a huge support actually for us and gave us our home for about a year and a half. They still remain our hub, so we do the majority of the Torch Nights still at Dickens, but we’re flexing our approach to be multi venue. So we have the Torch Night here (at The Palomino) this Saturday.”

The Structure

“The structure, typically, of Torch Night is we’ll give people 40-minute sets and we ask them to do 30 minutes, roughly, of their own material so they can showcase their own music — because that’s the goal, we don’t want it to be a whole night of covers — and then to pick one or two covers by the tribute artists and make the songs theirs. It’s going to be cool to hear what everyone does, that’s one of my favourite parts, just waiting and then listening to all of their interpretations.”

The Tributes

“Every time we select an artist for Torch Night we have this opportunity to dig through their archives and their material and their story and really just steep ourselves in it, and we learn so much. We did a Patti Smith one last September, and to hear everyone’s take on Patti Smith, like, it was awesome. We had spoken word, we had every approach … and you get into the frame to really understand the depth of each of these artists, what they were or are capable of. It’s super inspiring. And it’s something that we can bond together in an unlikely group (over). In Torch Light we don’t have to stitch together our lineup based on genre, we can throw everything together and make a little witch stew and see what happens.”

These Tributes

“I’m like, hubba-hubba. I remember as a little human discovering Janis Joplin and being like, ‘Oh, my god. This woman is so powerful and she’s not holding anything back, she’s not trying to make it pretty or palatable for the masses, she’s just doing her.’ So we have to pay our respects to her and the trail she blazed for us. And then, of course, we were looking at what would be the current day equivalent or comparable and, I mean, Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes — it’s hard to shake a stick at Janis Joplin with anyone, but she would be, in my opinion, the equivalent to Janis. She can do the soft stuff, she can do the raunchy stuff — her vocal styling and technique and control, Abbie and I are obsessed.”

The Philosophy

“There’s no genre discriminations, so it’s not about how cool you are, what kind of music you’re playing, it’s about coming together and really fostering that spirit of community — that coven vibe. And there’s a lot of power in that. When you have a group of women who come together and create something, like Femme Wave, like Torch Night, you feel it in the air. You can see people connecting absolutely everywhere. You can see the audience reacting to it as well. They’re not looking through a critical lens going, ‘Well, that band doesn’t really flow into that band,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is so exciting. I’m getting exposed to all of these new sounds that I might not have experienced in a traditional bill setting.’ ”

Torch Night Janis Joplin vs. Brittany Howard takes place Saturday, Sept. 9 at The Palomino.  Suggested donation is $10, with advance tickets available from or