The Changeville Festival is a downtown music & arts festival featuring local and national artists united by a passion for social change.
Michelle Zauner, frontwoman for Japanese Breakfast, started her career as a true DIY musician, scheduling recording sessions around a nine to five job with an advertising company. As Zauner dealt with losing said job months later, her first releases began gaining traction. She earned herself eight separate performances at SXSW, a review from Pitchfork, and a huge influx of labels reaching out, including Dead Oceans where she is currently signed.
Zauner’s mother and the experience of losing her to cancer play significant roles throughout the music of her two albums Psychopomp and Another Planet. Outside of music, Zauner’s mother is the root for her steadfast love for her Korean culture. Zauner connects with her culture through Korean cooking, personal essays about living as an Asian-American, and even employing Asian-American designers for her merchandise and tour posters.
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, AJJ has released four full length albums since 2005. Their signature folk-punk sound oftentimes features deceptively upbeat instrumentals accompanying humorously macabre lyrics. It’s not unusual for AJJ songs about death, racism, and similar topics to be juxtaposed against a plucky upright bass line. Their Facebook description boasts, “We’re super good, I promise.”
In an effort to relinquish any connection to former President Andrew Jackson and to avoid disrespecting Muslims, the former Andrew Jackson Jihad rebranded themselves to AJJ in 2016. “As the world changed, and as we changed as people, it just got more difficult to give a convincing answer for why our band was called that […] The act of striving to do better is a constant theme in our work, that’s where the name [change] was coming from,” frontman Sean Bonnette told AV Music. AJJ has strived for social justice since, as the band pulled all music released on label plan-it-x in 2017 after the owner was ousted for a history of sexual harassment and abuse.
Affectionately known as the Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia has been a driving force in popularizing New Orleans hip-hop and bounce. Freedia entered the scene as a backup dancer for Katey Red, a late 90’s transgender bounce rapper. She eventually released her first album Queen Diva in 2003, with four more studio albums following, and most recently performing at Voodoo Festival in New Orleans over Halloween weekend.
Alison Fensterstock, a reporter for NPR, recounts the Voodoo performance as a testament to Big Freedia’s mission as an artist – making a statement about visibility and bolstering gay and gender non-conforming people’s right to be seen. Freedia identifies as a gay man, yet does not prefer any specific gender pronouns, although is frequently referred to as “she/her”. While identity plays a part in Freedia’s stage presence, the main takeaway is being so true to yourself it transcends any previous perceptions of how fashion, gender, and identity should be expressed.
Ted Leo, frontman for The Pharmacists, returned from his seven year hiatus last year to debut his solo work, The Hanged Man. Being dropped from label Matador Records seemed to do little to no damage to Leo. The album was funded through a Kickstarter campaign fans helped reach its goal within the first day. Leo recorded in a home studio where he played many of the instruments himself.
Coinciding with his return to music, Leo has become more open to exploring past traumas he has endured in his latest release. Likewise, many songs featured on The Hanged Man act as a vehicle for Leo to discuss topics such as institutional racism, sexism, and xenophobia. He explains these tracks are not an excuse to yell at the President, but rather to help those on the ground who are directly affected by these phenomena and to start a conversation with those who’ll actually listen.
Laura Stevenson, the former keyboard player for Bomb The Music Industry!, has released four albums since her initial solo debut in 2010, A Record. Many of Stevenson’s lyrics deal with emotionally closing off, refusing support from others, and the persistent fear she’s wasted her younger years unable to shake these habits. When asked why her music deals with such sad aspects of life, yet sounds so musically lighthearted, Stevenson told Allston Pudding, “I try not to be so melodramatic because life is just so much happiness and sadness juxtaposed. The contrast makes it more fun and easier to deal with. Life’s going to be hard, but at the end of the day, it’s going to beautiful and fun.”
While Stevenson uses music to express her own personal turmoils, she is no stranger to using music as a catalyst for change. In direct response to the result of the 2016 election, she and her band released a live recording of a show played at The Vera Club in Groningen in the northern Netherlands where 100% of the proceeds from the album’s sales are donated to Planned Parenthood.For the past eight years, Stevenson also performs a semi-annual holiday show in New York City alongside friend and former bandmate Jeff Rosenstock. 100% of the proceeds benefit Safe Horizons, an advocacy organization that assists survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, rape and sexual assault.
Locos por Juana
Locos por Juana, a bilingual fusion band based in Miami have been nominated for both a Grammy and Latin Grammy thanks to their captivating blend of reggae, funk, cumbia, salsa, and rock. LPJ has worked with a number of other talented artists, including Changeville alum Talib Kweli. Likewise, the Miami New Times voted them Best Latin Band of 2017.
2017 proved to be a successful year for LPJ. This was the same year the band was awarded the American Latino Influencer Award for their work with #WeDreamAmerica, a Twitter initiative educating and uniting our nation around its immigrant heritage. The initiative has been a strong supporter of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), legislation estimated to help 3 million undocumented immigrants streamline the path to citizenship. To further #WeDreamAmerica’s mission, the band reimagined the national anthem to be more representative of all the cultures movements like DREAM aim to support.
Lizz Winstead has used her political wit to make a name for herself as one of the top political satirists in America. She is the co-creator and former head writer for The Daily Show, as well as the co-founder for Air America Radio. She has helped change the very landscape of how people get their news, and her reach goes far beyond her behind-the-scenes work. Alongside writing, Winstead has appeared as a correspondent for The Daily Show and has also hosted shows like Unfiltered on Air America Radio.
Winstead also gives back. Her previous tours have benefitted Planned Parenthood and NARAL, raising over 2 million dollars. As of late, Winstead has started a nonprofit reproductive rights organization called Lady Parts Justice League. Winstead has gathered a team of fellow comedic writers creating content to engage audiences and raise awareness on the latest news concerning abortion laws and clinics. Winstead reported to Newsweek that Lady Parts Justice League “will do everything from replanting gardens” to revamping the entire reception area to taking employees out to dinner at any given clinic.
Joyelle Johnson describes herself on Twitter as “the black girl who worships George Carlin and Gone with the Wind.” Many describe her as a source of pure joy on stage. If you’re a talk show fanatic, you may recognize Johnson from her appearances on Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act or on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Or you may have likely heard one of the jokes she’s written cracked on Comedy Central’s Broad City. Likewise, she’s performed alongside huge names in comedy like Hannibal Buress, Dave Chappelle, Russell Peters and Maria Bamford.
Johnson is an active member of Lizz Winstead’s Lady Parts Justice League, a self professed “coven of hilarious badass feminists who use humor and pop culture to expose the haters fighting against reproductive rights”.
Jaye McBride has perfectly intertwined being proudly transgender into her act. Her stand-up involves playful self-deprecating humor about transitioning, coming out to family, and dating as a trans person. She has opened for and shared the stage with high-profile comedy acts Aziz Ansari, Gilbert Gottfried, Jim Norton, and Bobcat Goldthwait.
Since McBride’s identity plays a huge role in her stand-up, she uses her platform outside of comedy to educate the public about being transgender. McBride regularly tours colleges across the country to present her lecture titled “Trans 102: The Chamber of Secrets”. She is also an active comedy writer for the non-profit Lady Parts Justice League.
Zahra Noorbakhsh is a feminist, Muslim, Iranian-American comedian who works through a variety of mediums. She regularly contributes to the New York Times anthology, “Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women”. Her one woman show, “All Atheists are Muslim”, was directed by W. Kamau Bell, featured at the International New York City Fringe Theater Festival and given high praise from The New Yorker Magazine. Noorbakhsh is also the host of #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, a “must listen” podcast according to Oprah Magazine.
In an installation of NPR’s Fresh Air, Noorbakhsh recalls considering cancelling one of her comedy specials scheduled to debut in the midst of a string of anti-Islamic hate crimes in 2017 spanning all the way from Quebec to Texas. The memory of sneaking into her father’s bedroom late at night to steal back the controller for Super Mario 3 reminded her to persevere as “the mischievous 10-year-old girl on her tiptoes, eyes wide with anticipation, clutching her candle in the dark because she loves to play”. Since then, she has been breaking stereotypes about Muslims’ comedic ability and refusing to water her act down to “Muslims are just like you” by being unabashedly proud of her background.
The Savants Of Soul
The Savants of Soul are a household name in the Gainesville music scene. The 9-piece retro-soul band is known for their electrifying live performances and high-energy stage presence. Alongside being Changeville alumni, The Savants have played notable festivals such as Suwannee Hulaween in 2016, Red Gorilla at SXSW in 2017, and Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in 2018.
True to the tradition of classic soul artists like Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, The Savants of Soul have written songs advocating for political change. The band’s lyrics deal with issues like campaign finance reform, drug reform and tackling political corruption. They’ve used their platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights, stand up against racism and encourage voting. The band also performed at Tim Kaine’s rally in Gainesville during the end of the 2016 campaign.
In late 2015, a group of high school friends started playing music in a Fernandina Beach garage. It did not take long for the five to realize their mutual ambition for playing music on the national stage. Today, they make up the band flipturn, which has been taking the Florida indie scene by storm and capturing the hearts of music lovers around the world.
The band champions female representation in the music industry and implement a zero tolerance policy for any form of violence or harassment at their shows.
Based in St Petersburg, the duo known as King Complex blends gritty electronic rock music with entrancing live visual art in their performances, making every show a sensory experience. King Complex artfully manages to preserve their signature sound while flirting with influences from more mainstream sources. The duo has played sold out shows across Florida and opened for The Roots, Saint Motel, and AJR.
King Complex’s drummer, Cody Doss, teaches music therapy at the Nina Harris ESE Center in Pinellas Park. He has been there for a year and a half, teaching students as young as 3 years old all the way up to 21 years old. While Doss and his bandmate Bracher Brown were still living in Tallahassee, they regularly visited local homeless shelters to play music.
Vocalist Christine Goodwyne and drummer Caden Clinton initially met in a band which unfortunately broke up, but became the start of a new project which eventually became Pool Kids. Goodwyne had known Pool Kids’ bassist Nicolette Alvarez when they were both student volunteers for FSU’s college radio station. They later permanently added guitarist Alex Mayweather after playing numerous shows together.
The biggest social issues Pool Kids aims to tackle as a band are empowering and encouraging non-men, people of color, and other marginalized groups to create their own music and to get involved in their local music scenes. Through performing and their social media presence, the members of Pool Kids share their personal experiences as non-men in a male-dominated industry and to showcase the power of representation.
Zeta has been touring the United States non-stop since immigrating to the United States from Venezuela in 2015. Zeta is returning to Gainesville to perform at Changeville 2019 after playing FEST 2017. Their sound is influenced by elements across many genres, including Latin, jazz, punk, post-hardcore, progressive, and Afro-Caribbean rhythm.
Zeta senses a lack of empathy in the world right now. Therefore, they have made it their priority to share a positive life message through their art. They regularly host forums and create presentations that touch on issues such as veganism, independent art, and the purpose of philosophy as a force to enact change. Zeta wishes to change the notion that “home” is contingent upon a specific flag and place. Instead, it is something that transcends time and location, something no single person or distance can take away.
The 6-piece brass band known as Sooza came together after they all met through the University of Florida’s College of Music. Though you may not hear any lyrics during a Sooza performance, their goal is to unite people through the power of music. Regardless of your personal beliefs, Sooza just wants you dancing and moving to the beat.
Sooza truly believes in the ability music has in bringing people from all walks of life together. They specifically choose to perform brass music because they feel it can bring people the same level of emotion and energy they experience at more lyrical performances, even though the words may be missing.
The Pauses are a trio hailing from Orlando, Florida, featuring Tierney Tough, Jason Kupfer, and Nathan Chase, all who play multiple instruments within the band. While listening to The Pauses’ music, it’s not uncommon to hear guitars paired playfully with synthesizers, horns, bells, and ukuleles. Since their debut as a band in 2009, The Pauses have opened for acts like Weezer and The Zombies.
Tough, the band’s frontperson, volunteers at Planned Parenthood helping escort patients. She is also heavily involved in local fundraisers and charities. As a band, they accept donations at all of their shows for Planned Parenthood. They have been working closely with Organize Florida to help raise money for the organization and to get Medicaid Expansion on the 2020 ballot.
Gutless originally began as a solo project for vocalist and guitarist Vi Viana, but when she contracted Tim McGowan to play drums for one of her shows in Orlando, Tim stuck around. Gutless eventually grew to add current members Maxim White, Andrew Martin, and Valerie Melina. The band performs punk indie rock, singing lyrics dealing with gender dysphoria, surviving sexual assault, mental health struggles, and wanting to improve the local music scene.
Viana is a trans woman, Latina immigrant, and a survivor of sexual assault. She has witnessed the ways in which the white hetero-patriarchy further disenfranchises the communities she belongs to. Therefore, Gutless uses their music to communicate the changes they want to see in the world.
Natalie Claro’s debut album “Disconnect” features the sounds of blues, pop, and reggae to share the message of breaking free from a world of conformity and insecurities. Claro uses this album to encourage others to break free from these pressures as she did. Her album also touches on subjects such as politics, writer’s block, self-doubt, and even existential crises.
Every time she performs her set, Claro takes time to make a speech about rising above anyone making you feel less worthy becayse of your race, religion, sexuality, or gender. She shares her personal experiences with bullying and how investing her focus into her passion drowned out the negativity. Claro believes it’s cruel and unnecessary to harass people for the things that make them unique.
Dita Gonzalez, Mark Rodriguez, James Hernandez, and Matt Sweeting all comprise Bite Marks the band. They are known for their punk music and visceral delivery. LVL to The Room’s Vic Abreau describes seeing them live, “Every song was raw, heavy, and infectious. Dita’s theatrics tied the set together, and by the end, I was convinced that every hardcore fan in Gainesville needs to catch their next show.” You may likely find yourself in the thick of a mosh pit during a show.
Offstage, you can find the band members supporting causes such as gender equality and minority expression in the Gainesville community. These issues are important to the band as they are ones they have faced personally.
GUTS is a locally based, all-female band comprised of Kentucky Costellow, Kara Smith, and Samatha Jones. Their harmonious vocals layer perfectly over their indie-pop instrumentals.
The members of GUTS frequently perform at benefit shows, empower others, and volunteer in many aspects of the community. Bandmates dedicate their time to Gainesville Girls Rock Camp, queer community events and charity organizing, the bicycle and pedestrian advisory board, and yoga events. They have worked to get gender neutral bathrooms at Santa Fe College.
Azazus & DJ Mellow Blendz
Azazus has been performing throughout Florida since meeting his partner DJ Mellow Blendz at Blue Magic Fest in 2014. The two use music, particularly hip-hop, to spread messages about overcoming anxiety and depression in order to live life in the moment as it happens.
Having had personal experiences with mental health, Azazus regularly engages his audience via his live performances, a strong, positive social media presence, and contributions to organizations on college campuses such as Peace Club at Santa Fe College.
Tasha Zoe (Full Band)
Tasha Bezesky adopted her stage name, Tasha Zoe, back in 2015 to perform the songs she and her sister Jena Bezesky had created. Zoe, up until recently, played her songs acoustically with her sister for several years, but recently invited guitarist Travis Jones, drummer Kevin Fitz, and bassist Will Bethea to formally form a full band. Zoe and her band pull stylistic influences from pop, alternative rock, country, and folk.
As a woman who is unafraid of incorporating her femininity into her career and musical creativity, Zoe has often been criticized and objectified by society. The music industry, which is generally male-dominated, typically wants women to sexualize themselves and play a certain role. Fellow women have been critical because Zoe’s passions are not traditional for her gender. While music is not Zoe’s only vehicle for activism, she will use every opportunity to use music to provide insight and education on gender equality.
VOWLS is a direct product of the local music scene in Gainesville. The band was a duo comprised of drummer Tristan Harvey and lead banjolelist Caitlyn Vinci. Harvey and Vinci had a gig at the FYN Nude Bash, so they called upon bassist Russ Tyndall, guitarist Amy Cecilia, saxophonist Sweet Irene, and the band’s official MC Lunchbox to create the band fans know today. They describe their music as a unique experience filled with uplifting words, five-part harmonies, and good feelings.
VOWLS have chosen music as their vehicle for change because they can harness music’s power to inspire and uplift the people around them. The band feels these emotions are catalysts for a chain reaction resulting compassion and gratitude. Once people believe not only in each other, but in themselves, there is nothing stopping anyone from achieving their goals.
Baer & Lady
Baer and Connie Henshaw, the couple who form the band Baer & the Lady, started playing music together around the same time they first met in the dorms and apartments of a sleepy college town. Their story goes, “We became roommates, fell in love, got married, then had a fight. Although the details of that particular fight are long forgotten, the solution was to form a band.”
Baer & the Lady are actively involved in LGBT (PFLAG) organizations in Gainesville and are supporters of sexual and gender freedom. They have also been involved with grief and bereavement non-profits. Unfortunately, the Henshaws are familiar with what it’s like having family reject your relationship due to religious beliefs and subsequently losing family members and loved ones. However, their personal connection to these issues makes them passionate and active in their community.
As the name suggests, Quadrabop! is a four-piece band comprised of vocalist Giselle Ashley, drummer Masa Enomoto, bassist Chris Lavoie, and guitarist Ryan Frankel. The quartet met throughout the years living in Gainesville and playing in different jam groups. They recently decided to finally get together and start performing as a unit. Their style falls somewhere in the middle of a big Venn-Diagram of genres including soul, R&B, rock, funk, and gospel.
Many of their songs deal with emotions everyone experiences, but are often be ashamed of. Quadrabob! aims to encourage communication about these feelings. Likewise, the band tries to remain as active as possible throughout the Gainesville community, supporting causes such as women’s rights, LGBTQ+ issues, living wages, universal healthcare, support of the arts, ending homelessness, protecting natural resources, science, and education.
After graduating as a dance major from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Kelsea Martinez began her singing career in 2018. Martinez’s sound can be described as a really smooth mix of Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, and Alessia Cara if their styles were all fused in one song.
Martinez is currently living with Lupus. There are days where she is able to get up and go, and others where her condition can sometimes leave her hospitalized. When she is not making music, she raises awareness through open communication via social media. She engages with her fans who may be experiencing the same situation so they feel less alone.
Michael Higgins, the lead guitarist and vocalist for The Forum, was looking for fellow artists to play music with. After sending out a Gainesville Craigslist ad, Higgins met his bandmates Jacob Farrell and Nick Wheeler in late 2015. The Forum came to fruition soon after. Their music can be described as indie-rock which incorporates modern pop elements with introspective lyricism.
The members of The Forum realize there’s an over-thinker in us all. They have gathered a sizeable following of online supporters across their social platforms, keeping an open inbox on all their profiles in order to communicate directly with the people who confide their stories, unspoken feelings, and worries in them. Many do not have the luxury of a safe outlet for these very personal feelings, and The Forum aims to change that.
Myra and Gabe Gleason, the duo comprising Stereo RV, met at a singing competition in Portland, Oregon and have been writing and performing together since. Their self-proclaimed genre can be described as “emotional pop”, as it has all the stylistic makings of pop music, but delves deeper into the human emotions traditional pop tends to gloss over.
Stereo RV has been regularly contributing to The DHS Oregon Foster care system for 10 years. The Gleasons noticed kids in foster care are one of the most underrepresented demographics in the country, with very few telling their stories. They use their platform as musicians to bring awareness to who a kid in foster care is. In doing so, they realized a lot of similarities between a child in care and adults.
Ghost Party (formerly Everymen) / BECKAH
When Sergio Witis decided to quit Everymen, he wanted to handpick some of his favorite artists to start a project that was completely different any of the others he was involved in. The band is based on a character named “Beckah” who has many different personalities and views. As a result, their lyrics focus on the internal struggle and trying to find peace from within as different personalities live together as one.
Witis and his bandmates Rachel Fletcher, Adam Sheetz, James Reeber, and Josh Ponatosky consider themselves to be very different individuals, but they participate in a lot of causes as a band. Collectively, they have worked with Earth First and Books for Prisoners. They are also involved with many organizations helping individuals with drug and alcohol addictions. Moreover, they are active members within the LGBTQ, immigrant, punk, sober, and feminist communities.
Mike Llerena & The Nerve
Returning Changeville performers Mike Llerena & The Nerve formally came together as a band in June 2017 while they were recording their debut full-length album, “Old Haunts & New Horizons”. Llerena initially intended on going into the studio to create his fourth solo album, but could not deny the chemistry he felt jamming with his current bandmates Brian Jones and Taylor Harmon.
The band strongly believes in the importance of building community by considering the welfare of others a personal priority. Llerena, Jones, and Harmon donate time and money, both on and off stage, to causes that are important to them. Llerena & The Nerve strive to change the world one person at a time by the simple act of treating other people the way they’d want to be treated themselves.
Bassist and vocalist Katrina Snyder didn’t play an instrument for the better part of her life. After Katrina Snyder attended Gainesville’s FEST five years ago with husband and bandmate Jeff Snyder, she was so inspired by the community she decided to learn how to play. Eventually, the Snyders were lucky enough to find their drummer Gibran Colbert. The three now perform as the band Expert Timing, incorporating a “bubblegrunge” sound which peppers in influences from indie, pop-punk, and grunge.
Expert Timing makes it a point to support diversity and representation in the music scene by only playing shows and working with promoters who support these same causes. They want to honor those who were first encouraged to join the music scene by going to a concert and seeing someone who looked like them up on stage. Even still, this experience is nearly non-existent for many people because the representation isn’t there. The band uses whatever platform they are given to empower the marginalized who don’t typically have a platform or a voice.
Fraser Murderburger / Kate Kane
Fraser Murderburger and Kate Kane each play in separate bands. The Murderburgers and Lipstick Homicide, respectively. The two met while both of their bands toured the United States together in 2013, resulting in a musical friendship. Their act involves the always enjoyable performance of pop-punk songs played acoustically.
Murderburger explains mental health advocacy is an incredibly important issue for him personally. Murderburger has struggled with his own mental health for about 16 years and knows many others who face the same struggles. Therefore, Murderburger, through his music, shares how important for it is for people to be able to talk about mental health more openly without feeling ashamed.