Ten of the most accomplished musicians currently playing in the Dickson Street blues scene have teamed up to form a band of all-stars to perform at Bikes, Blues & BBQ this weekend.
Also, every one of them happens to be female.
The supergroup is called Divas on Fire, and is made up of leading ladies from Fayetteville bands Leah & The Mojo Doctors, Dawn Cate and the Rhythm Kings, Brick Fields, Oreo Blue, The Ocie Fisher Band, Age of Liberty, LaFuSo, Jigsaw Mud, and others.
Their first ever performance will take place on the Bikes, Blues & BBQ main stage at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
Vocalist ‘Lectric Liz Lottmann, who fronts local bands LaFuSo, Jigsaw Mud, among others over the years, said she and a few of the other members were talking about how fun it would be to assemble a bunch of the most talented ladies in town into one big group.
And despite the scheduling challenges associated with getting the a ton of busy musicians together for rehearsals, everyone loved the idea.
Vocalist Leah Spears-Blackmon credits Lottmann for taking the initiative, and for having the clout in the local music scene, to pull it all together.
“If you know Liz, you love Liz, and you’d do anything for her,” Spears-Blackmon said. “We’re all so busy with our other bands, but Liz is a force to be reckoned with. If she asks you real nice, you just can’t say no.”
After years of talking about the project, the ladies were finally able to rehearse for the first time earlier this year.
“It really has come together fast,” Lottmann said, though she didn’t seem too surprised. “I’ve played in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Memphis, and this town has some of the best musicians in the world.”
“People take it for granted. I don’t think they realize what we have here in Fayetteville.”
What’s in a name?
Lottmann said the band came up with the name Divas on Fire mostly as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the way they are sometimes perceived in the local music scene.
“None of us are divas,” she said. “But people call us divas all the time.”
Lottmann said, actually, that the group of ladies in Divas on Fire are ironically un-diva-like.
“One of the things we talked about when we started this was, ‘Let’s show them that women can work really well together,'” she said. “The spirit of collaboration has been just wonderful.”
Spears-Blackmon agreed. “These are the most well-rounded, salt-of-the-earth, kindest, most giving people,” she said of the band members. “No one is sitting back and complaining that ‘My water is colder than her water.'”
The opposite is true, actually. The ladies have almost instantly bonded over their love of music, families, and years of stories from playing the watering holes of Northwest Arkansas.
“It’s surprising because a lot of us really didn’t know each other well before this, but we do have a lot in common,” Spears-Blackmon said. “It’s so interesting to see just how fast the friendships have formed.”
Divas On Fire
Jody Andrews, Guitar (Leah & The Mojo Doctors, The Gary Hutchison Band)
Alma Coyle, Bass (Freelance with various bands)
Diane Rudolph, Drums (The Bomb)
Chris Payton, Keys (Oreo Blue, Age of Liberty)
Lectric Liz Lottman, Vocals (Jigsaw Mud, LaFuSo)
Ocie Fisher, Vocals (The Ocie Fisher Band, Mothership)
Dawn Cate, Vocals (Dawn Cate & The Rhythm Kings)
Leah Spears-Blackmon, Vocals (Leah & The Mojo Doctors)
Rachel Fields, Vocals (Brick Fields)
Tori Rudolph, Vocals (Age of Liberty)
Any good band starts with a solid rhythm section, and drummer Diane Rudolph (The Bomb) and bassist Alma Coyle form the foundation of Divas on Fire.
“You should come see the band just to see Diane drum,” Spears-Blackmon said. “She is phenomenal. And with Alma on bass, it’s really eye catching. Diane and Alma play perfectly together.”
Jody Andrews (Leah and the Mojo Doctors, The Gary Hutchison Band) handles guitar duties, and Chris Payton (Oreo Blue, The Age of Liberty) is on keys.
The band is rounded out by a powerhouse lineup of vocalists, including Lottmann, Spears-Blackmon, Ocie Fisher (Mothership, The Ocie Fisher Band), Dawn Cate (The Rhythm Kings), Rachel Fields (Brick Fields) and Tori Rudolph (Age of Liberty).
All the ladies rotate on the lead vocals, and each brought a handful of their favorite songs to perform with the band. The genres, Lottmann said, are as diverse as the group of ladies that make up the group.
“There’s some classic rock, some blues, R&B, some pop,” Lottmann said, “It’s a real mixed bag featuring whatever each artist enjoys doing.
“The only rule is, there has to be backup vocals,” she said. “If there aren’t any, we’re going to make some up so we can all sing.”
Inspiring future musicians
Lectric Liz Lottman / Photo: Sherry Speer
Lottmann said that one of her biggest hopes for Divas on Fire is that the group will inspire a new generation of female musicians in Northwest Arkansas to pick up an instrument, or a microphone, and to play and sing.
“We want to set a great example to women musicians that you can get the respect you deserve, and do some great things,” she said.
“We see it all the time with the guys who jam together,” she said. “We just thought, ‘Why not pick out and showcase these extraordinary instrumentalists and vocalists that also happen to be women?”
Why not, indeed.
Divas on Fire will take the main stage at Bikes, Blues & BBQ at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26. The band will also perform a happy hour set on Friday, Oct. 10 at George’s Majestic Lounge.
For a bit more info about the group, check out their Facebook page.