FYI on DIYs in PHL: Phreak N' Queer Music and Arts Festival
- by Q.D. Tran
Tonight is the beginning of the Phreak N’ Queer Music and Arts Festival
, a 4-day festival from August 4 - 7 in various locations throughout Philly designed to highlight the surplus of LGBTQ talent in our community and will include bands, DJs, visual artists and film makers, performance art, poetry and community space. The opening party is this evening at Elena’s Soul Lounge with GlitterBomb, which will feature art, live performances (from Rainbow Destroyer
, Birth Noise
, A Stick and A Stone
, Wordz the Poet Emcee
, and Erik Ransom
), and DJs. We had a chance to find out more about the Phreak N’ Queer Music and Arts Festival from Kate Gormley and Sara Sherr, two of the many organizers who banded together to make this idea come to fruition. You can read what they had to say about the debut of this truly alt festival below.
The Deli: What originally inspired you to start the Phreak N’ Queer Festival?
Kate Gormley: We wanted an alternative to mainstream gay club culture. Sure, everyone loves a good Lady Gaga jam around 2am, but we have so much local talent that we wanted something more. Also, many of the organizers have been around Philly and watched the scene change from the 80’s, 90’s and more recently, so we remember the crazy warehouse and house parties of old. We wanted an event that encompassed some of the underground DIY feeling, so we decided to plan our own festival. Phreak N’ Queer looks a lot like Mondo Homo in ATL, which was also a favorite of ours so we decided to model it after that festival.
Sara Sherr: In January, Kate asked me to be a PNQ organizer because we collaborated on a few Sugar Towns when she was doing Fuse (queer dance party for women) with her partner Corinne Thornton (also a PNQ organizer). Sugar Town, a night for lady rockers and DJ’s, has always been GLBT-friendly so being involved with Phreak N’ Queer is an
extension of that. I’ve also performed with comedy/drag/theater troupe The Dumpsta Players, and the actors and audiences are typically people looking for a queer experience, instead of just a typical club night. Going back further, PNQ organizer Nicole LaGreca (DJ Lucky 7) used to do a queerpunk party in the 90s called Fur Salon that was a big
influence on my starting Sugar Town in the 00s. So it’s come full circle.
TD: How long have you been planning it?
KG: We’ve been talking about doing something like for 2-3 years, but didn’t actually start planning until Feb 2011.
SS: I was at the first meeting in January.
TD: What would you want someone attending the festival to take away from the experience?
KG: We want folks to have a good time, but ultimately we want people to see the amazing amount of local talent that they can either support or find motivation to create their own art. The festival is about indie/DIY art & music so anyone attending can draw from these artists for inspiration and support. I also want folks to know that there are different communities available to queer and trans* folks outside of bars and more commercial scenes. It’s awesome if you are into Afropunk or queercore, and there are others in Philly that are in that scene too. We want to build community while highlighting local artists that are doing great work.
SS: New friends, new music or art, a new way of looking at the world, and a good time.
TD: We noticed that you don’t have any events in the Gayborhood. Why is that so? Do you feel that it is too mainstream or unsupportive for what you are trying to do?
KG: We strategically decided to avoid center center as much as possible. Our festival is about spotlighting the underground, indie, DIY artists so going to a mainstream club didn’t fit our mission. Our organizers and artists wanted to keep events in the neighborhoods where we live and perform, so north, south and west Philly made the most sense. We also wanted to book events at venues that would give us total artistic freedom over the event, as we were not about to censor or water down our themes to fit someone’s typical clientele. We picked smaller venues that would let us do what we want.
SS: Increasingly, gay people don’t live in the Gayborhood anymore. They live all over the city, and we wanted to reach out to creative hotbeds for music and art. With few exceptions, many nights in the Gayborhood cater to very mainstream sensibilities, and nightlife there is very male-dominated. For lesbians, there is only one bar that caters just to them. And if you’re trans, finding your space is even trickier.
TD: You mentioned how the LGBTQ community is full of “Top 40/commercialism.” Where can someone in the LGBTQ community go in Philly (besides your festival and on a regular basis) to get away from such things while still being surrounded by other like-minded LGBTQs?
KG: There a bunch of great parties that offer an alternative to top 40 all night, which isn’t necessarily bad, just not my thing. Finger Banger events are awesome, Sugar Town shows, West Philly house parties, and 1,2,F,U at the Dive are a couple of my favorites.
SS: The Dumpsta Players perform every other month on the third Wednesdays at Bob and Barbara’s: http://www.dumpstaplayers.org
. And speaking of Bob & Barbara’s, there’s a great drag show every Thursday hosted by Lisa Lisa. What’s great about it, like Bob and Barbara’s in general, is the diversity of the crowd.
Qream is a new monthly drag night at The Barbary:
One of my fave drag queens is Misses Pinklewinkle, who performs at Sinful Sundays at Tabu, and other places: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=116997641705452&ref=ts
Gender Reel, in September, is a film festival dedicated to gender non-conforming, gender variant/queer and transgender identities, and they have quarterly events at Tritone called Mix Tape: http://genderreelfest.com
Finger Banger, a mix of everything from riot grrrl to hip hop, is the last Friday of the month at Fluid. Two of those DJ’s are spinning on Saturday at our Homo-Rama event at Tritone.
The Liberty City Kings (which are led by one of our other organizers, Heather Coutts) are one of the few long-running drag king troupes in town and they perform everywhere: http://libertycitykings.com/
Evelyn Manlove, who organized the Glitterbomb opening party, is a DJ (Evil V) who does a variety of parties all over the city, from post-punk to hip-hop http://twitter.com/#!/djevilv
The Ball at Kung Fu Necktie, Paris is Burning-inspired monthly: http://www.kungfunecktie.com/calendar.php
TD: What was the most difficult part about putting this festival together?
KG: Probably raising money since we started from scratch, but it wasn’t too bad, and we had some fun events in the process. We just really wanted to be able to pay the artists a fair rate, so fundraising was essential.
SS: I’m used to working by myself and doing one event at a time. I’ve never been in a festival experience before.
TD: What is the most gratifying part for you?
KG: Working with all the talented organizers has been amazing and validating in that even though we’re getting older, folks are ready to throw down and organize to put on some crazy events. Also, having all the profits go directly to the artists feels really good.
SS: Being at the shows and watching the crowds react and vibe off each other - and importantly, being an ally to the community.
TD: What would you like to do for next year’s festival that you didn’t get a chance to do this year?
KG: Folks breathing fire? Just kidding, maybe. We’re going to see how this year goes, but I think we’ll start looking for bigger venues for a year which will open up the possibilities of who we can book. I’m picturing something more along the lines of Saul Williams’ Afropunk tour...
SS: We had so many submissions that we had to turn people away a few months ago. We purposely kept things very small and manageable because we didn’t know what kind of interest level there would be, so now we know that we can possibly take on more next year.
TD: What event for the festival are you most excited about and why?
KG: I’m pumped for all of them, but really looking forward to Saturday’s Homo-Rama show at Tritone. Punk + Hip Hop = Amazing.
SS: It’s hard to pick one, but I think the most unique will be the Gay Ole Opry on Saturday at the Rotunda, since you don’t see a lot of openly gay people in country.
TD: What do you think will be the phreakiest thing you’ll see at this year’s festival?
KG: A girl’s got to have a couple secrets, so I won’t go into details, but think duck tape…lots and lots of duck tape!
SS: I would say a tie between whatever happens at Boudoir and Homo Rama. I would also recommend coming early to those events, as they could sell out.
TD: You mentioned that there are a plethora of local artists and organizers involved with putting together this festival. Would you like to let everyone know who they are and what their roles have been in coordinating this event?
KG: Messy: Talented Radical Faerie and performer/organizer extraordinaire who is organizing the Boudoir Speak Easy event; Sara: Organizer and booking agent for Tritone and keen level head who also saves my sanity almost every week and is organizing Homo-Rama; Corinne (also my partner): Promoter to the stars and punk rocker at heart and manages our online/press/facebook promo who is organizing Sunday’s Picnic; Benni E a.k.a. Marseau: Performer, MC and organizer for Homo-Rama and our web designer; Klem: DJ Klem is organizing Sunday Picnic and closing party who is also the most dependable woman this side of the Mississippi!; Megan: DJ BeFree, organizer and promoter for Boudoir Speak easy who is also spinning at the closing party; Heather: Drag and burlesque coordinator and organizing Boudior; Evelyn: DJ Evil V, orgainizer and promoter for GlitterBomb (opening party); Lucky 7: Hardcore organizer from the 80’s and mayor of Philly’s queer punk scene who is also spinning at Boudior and organizing Sunday Picnic and closing party; Cherisse: Poet, artist and organizer. Jess: DJ Just Jess is spinning the closing party and helped with a ton of random equipment and DJ booking issues; Emily a.k.a. Nepon: Organized the Gay Ole Opry event at the Rotunda and is just a nice person; Karen: Stage manager and sound person.
TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at the deli?
KG: Raspberry iced tea and a BLT.
SS: I like to visit whatever Wawa's are left in downtown Philadelphia and get a Tuna Shortie.