Freak Out! Fest, a queer and trans punk music festival, is making its debut in Bushwick and the Lower East Side this weekend with over 20 bands playing shows at Silent Barn, ABC No Rio, and Cake Shop. The fest starts tonight at Silent Barn and continues with afternoon and nighttime shows on Saturday and Sunday.
Though this is the first Freak Out!, it was organized by groups that have been independently promoting queer music in the city for years — namely Brooklyn TransCore, Punk Out, Impossible Saints, and Homoground. Members of Brooklyn TransCore, which organizes the annual Punk Island show in Staten Island, reached out to the others after noting that New York lacked a queer music festival like Phreak N’ Queer in Philadelphia or Phazefest in DC.
J Oberman of Brooklyn TransCore said that working with the other organizations was important because each one brought in bands that the others wouldn’t have thought of. Queer-specific shows and festivals are important, said Oberman, because they “give a voice to trans and queer musicians who don’t necessarily have access a festival like this or a platform that is inclusive and safer than most other spaces for expressing their sexuality or gender.”
Lynn Casper from Homoground (“It’s like a queer version of MTV”) takes this even further by presenting an opportunity for people who live in places without a music scene to feel like they’re also a part of the NYC queer community. Homoground’s latest podcast explains some of the ethos behind Freak Out! Fest and features Adult Mom, c’yotes, and Freya Wilcox & the Howl, along with other bands that will be playing this weekend. Casper said that when curating content, Homoground doesn’t go by a band’s photo or music to determine some level of queerness or if they’re a fit queer-ally, but simply asks why they want to be featured on the podcast and gives priority to bands that take the time to engage with the question.
“I think it’s a little difficult to pinpoint exactly what should be considered queer or not just because everyone kind of has their own definition of what queer is,” Casper said. “You don’t have to identify as straight or bi or gay. Being a part of the queer community just means that you’re able to navigate all of these different things, ideally without the fear of being judged by anyone. It’s about breaking down all of those boxes and letting things be more fluid and open.”
Oberman, who is also playing in The Homewreckers tonight at Silent Barn, said that their definition of queer is “about sexuality but it’s also about politics. It’s about having more radical politics and also not having a hetero-lifestyle.” But Oberman added, “We’re not here to police people’s identities.”
The fest (lineup here) aims to be as accessible as possible—all but one of the shows are all-ages, and accessibility posts are already up on the Facebook event page. All proceeds from tonight’s show at Silent Barn are going to FIERCE, a membership-based organization that aims to empower LGBTQ youth of color in New York City.