Howdy Gals aims to create a more diverse and safer music scene.
By Shelby Woods, Picture courtesy of Howdy GalsThere are few things more empowering than practicing your passion with a group of driven women. And Howdy Gals is a group of women doing exactly that in Austin’s music scene. The self-described “girl gang” is a booking and promotions group made up of four women who share a love of music.
Belicia “Bel” Luevano worked as a booker for KVRX-FM while she was a student at the University of Texas. She moved to Austin to be a music journalist but fell in love with booking and knew she wanted to pursue it as a career after graduation. Her best friend, Kelly Ngo, was a videographer and photographer for local bands in the Austin area. The two combined their passions to start their own booking group, Howdy Gals.
The name stemmed from a road trip to California.
“It started as a joke,” Ngo says. “We were like, ‘Oh, we’re from Texas. Yee-haw, we’re the Howdy Gals.’ ”
But the name stuck when they returned from the road trip and began the process of creating the booking group. The best friends invited Shannon Wiedemeyer to join after she moved back to Austin from LA since Luevano already knew her through KVRX. The last addition to the group, Maya Van Os, was in Australia when she heard about Howdy Gals through Facebook. Wiedemeyer remembers the group forming “really fast” and now, according to Van Os, they’re “literally living [their]dreams.”
Howdy Gals books artists of all genders, striving to avoid all-white-male lineups, which is what they grew up seeing.
“It’s so easy to have women and people of color on bills,” Van Os says. “People just aren’t trying hard enough.”
Wiedemeyer says there’s a community for musicians in Austin that she hasn’t seen anywhere else. Howdy Gals believes its booking group is needed not only to encourage diversity, but also to create a safe environment.
“It’s more important to have a safe space than promote an abuser,” Luevano says.
This core belief means they never book bands that may have an abusive member, even if they find out about it the day of the performance.
Despite their title and their credentials, the Howdy Gals still get questioned by men in the industry. They are sometimes not taken seriously, talked over and doubted.
“They go out of their way to be really controlling about shows that we’ve booked when it literally isn’t their place,” Van Os says.
All the women have experienced self-doubt about their careers, but they look to each other for motivation and affirmation. The empowerment within the group gives each of them the confidence to stand up to people who try to control them.
But they don’t want Howdy Gals to just be seen as an all-female booking group. They want their skills to be acknowledged independently of their gender. All four women attend every single one of their shows because they’re passionate about what they do. The girl gang also wants to change what they can. They say they would never attend a show where they didn’t feel safe, so they make sure their shows are safe places for everyone. Aspiring to follow a model of women paving the way for others, they want to make an impact in the lives of the people who are watching what they do every day. According to Luevano, they want to be remembered as “a couple of rad-ass girls who knew how to [throw]a party and get the job done.”