With riveting music and beautiful art, Inner Recess hosts a New Orleans benefit

The NFL is currently under fire, with players’ off-field lives making as many headlines as games themselves, and domestic violence issues are now a hot topic throughout the country. New Orleans is no stranger to these types of problems, and the city played host to a solidarity event for victims of domestic abuse and sexual harassment on the eve of the Saints’ first home game of the regular season.

Inside the Inner Recess Gallery and Recording Studio on Saturday, Sept. 20, local musicians, artists and poets gathered for the Women’s Awareness Project event, which benefited the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. The night kicked off with a solidarity bike ride, followed by riveting spoken word performances and live music.

After paying the event’s suggested donation and viewing the affirmation wall, where attendees wrote messages like “I’m a rock star” and “I am beautiful” in multi-colored Sharpie, revelers wandered the small space, viewing art and poetry. Music and spoken word was performed in the glass-walled recording studio, featuring powerful sets from local acts including Sirens and Christin Bradford, along with Freequency, Callico Ken and Baron Amato.

Each musical performance was followed by a riveting slam poem honoring women, mothers and first love. The ethereal-voiced duo of Michelle Ausman and Kimberly Vice, known as Sirens, hit the stage around 9:00 p.m. Their acoustic set featured Ausman on ukulele and Vice on guitar, and they sang “Dedicated to Perry Lesponge” along with several tunes from their 2014 Community Records release, Blossom Talk.

Sirens’ music is sweet and simple, with a theme of girl power that’s not overly in-your-face. But a flashy stage presence is part of Christin Bradford’s MO, and she was unapologetically herself on Saturday night. With flaming purple hair and an infectious smile, Bradford finished up the Women’s Awareness Project’s live performances. The rock singer opened the set solo, playing on a borrowed Omnichord, and Vice and Ausman supported their fellow performer, sitting on the floor of the recording studio.

“I feel all kinds of emotions,” Bradford told her audience, passion in her voice. “I’m so moved by all the art and spoken word, and all these women getting together in this room. I’m almost tearing up.”

Bradford’s set was riveting and powerful, and she was supported through most of the performance by a pair of accompanying musicians on guitar and djembe. Her setlist contained songs about the moon (“because…why not,” she said) and being in love, and she finished up with “Watering Hole,” a tune for drinking.

“It’s gorgeous!” Bradford said of the event, near the end of her set. “We feel so blessed to be here.” The audience smiled and nodded their heads in agreement, and the compassion and camaraderie in the space was almost tangible.