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Photos From the Massive Anti-Pride Rally, the Queer Liberation March

(Photos: Amanda Feinman)

Twenty blocks north of the World Pride parade kick-off yesterday, thousands in Bryant Park were singing. Sing Out, Louise! passed out pink-and-black “hymnals”—protest lyrics, set to recognizable Americana (“Somewhere over the rainbow, love trumps hate/Black lives matter to all, and Muslims can immigrate”). When those in attendance came to outnumber the print-outs, latecomers snapped photos of their neighbors’ copies, and followed along on their phones. More →

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‘Drag Race’ Star Aja Dares Fans to Keep Up With New Hip-Hop Album

(Photo: AJ Jordan)

Aja, mostly, doesn’t care what you think. The rap artist, whose pronouns are “they/them,” came to prominence as a drag queen, through two stints on reality TV (RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9, and Drag Race: All Stars season 3). The two industries they straddle don’t often overlap: one world is dominated, traditionally, by masculinity, and the other by femininity, each with weirdly impermeable borders. But about not conforming to industry standards—or to fan expectations—they’re brash and unapologetic.  More →

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Folk Fest Turns Governors Island Porches Into Stages

On Sunday, the Nolan Park area of Governor’s Island was absolutely packed with picnic blankets, happy toddlers, and mandolins. The 21 historic, sun-yellow houses that circle Nolan’s perimeter were once home to military officers, back when the island was in use by the Coast Guard; now that it’s open to the public, there are cultural and art exhibits set up in many of them. And every year during the Porch Stomp folk festival, their sprawling, white-columned, 19th-century porches transform into stages.

Theo Boguszewski, who alongside Nick Horner is one of the festival’s co-producers, noted that Noland Park is the perfect location for an all-acoustic day of programming. “There’s not a lot of electricity, and [the houses] are all close together,” she said—everything can be kept near, communal, on the grass, and no one need compete loudly with anyone else.

It’s also not trivial that the houses face each other in a circle; in fact, it’s become part of the fabric of the festival. “We don’t post exact locations of the artists until the day of. We want to encourage people to just walk around the periphery,” Boguszewski said. The Porch Stomp vibe is too laid-back for tiered staging; it’s highly democratic in this way. If you take a few minutes and stroll from house to house, you’ll get a sampling of everything on offer.

This year, those offerings included scene staples like Sheriff Bob, and up-and-comers like The Racket River Girls and Glaser Drive. “The goal is to make music a shared, participatory thing,” Boguszewski said. “Not just a couple of really good musicians, but all the people with a banjo sitting in their trunk.”

She and Horner accepted almost everyone who applied to play in the lineup this year, as part of this egalitarian mission statement. Last year, there were around 120 performers in Porch Stomp’s lineup; this year, the number was closer to 200. As a result of the overwhelming response, they ended up needing to expand out past Noland’s porches for the first time. They set up pseudo-stages in nearby spots, including at the Manhattan and Brooklyn ferry landings (these caught some of the best foot traffic, by the way: packs of people entering the island stopped here, first). The resulting feel was that of an integrated folk bubble. A car-free, acoustic oasis in the East River.

Growth has meant other changes this year, too: Porch Stomp was sponsored for the first time, not just run on donations. And being “as inclusive as possible” also meant expanding the genre limits a bit. “Folk” has traditionally, for Porch Stomp, meant bluegrass and Americana sounds. But on Sunday, they devoted a stage to Irish folk tunes, and another to trad jazz—these genres have overlapping histories, and spiritual kinships, with American folk, but were integrated into the Porch Stomp lineup for the first time. There were workshops offered to audience members in harmonica, bluegrass harmony singing, and flatfooting, a form of Appalachian clog dancing not far removed from Irish step. And in the middle of the day, Bethlehem and Sad Patrick brought their unique blend of guitar, soulful vocals, and body percussion to one of the house exteriors. Their genre hybridization felt indicative of the festival’s larger growth this year, and also happened to put the “stomp” in Porch Stomp.  

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HBO’s Wigstock Doc Remembers a Time ‘When Drag Was Punk Rock’

Kevin Aviance performing at Wigstock 2018. (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“A lot of people don’t study their history,” bemoans New York drag pioneer Flotilla Debarge in Wig, the new documentary from Chris Moukarbel premiering tonight on HBO. The film charts the birth, ebb, and recent renaissance of the annual Wigstock drag festival, which had its heyday in New York in the 1980s and ’90s. By the time the festival disappeared in 2001—the final official Wigstock took place in early September of that year, just before the landscape and spirit of the city changed irrevocably—its attendees numbered in the thousands. It had become a scene staple. Wig is a colorful love letter to its subject matter, a suggestion that much of our contemporary drag moment remains indebted to the trailblazers of Wigstock. But in 2019, Moukarbel seems to argue, too few of us know about it. More →

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In a Bushwick Basement, an Inclusive Art Gallery That’s Literally Homegrown

(Photos: Amanda Feinman)

Just blocks from the Knickerbocker / Myrtle M stop, El Sótano Art Space occupies the bottom floor of a residential building. Not much goes on on its quiet street; a small market draws groups of neighbors to the corner, but that’s about it. The gallery’s storefront, to the extent that there is one, is a label on a buzzer. To get down the stairs and into its exhibition space, you have to ring number 1. More →

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Drag-Scene Photographer Mike Sullivan Makes Wild, Wearable Sculptures

The word “ethereal” comes up, more than once, in my conversations about Mike Sullivan’s design work and photography. I’m not surprised—it’s an appropriate descriptor. There’s a delicate fleetingness to everything he does, most literally because many of his masks and headpieces are made of natural materials. He gathers armfuls of flowers, feathers, and shrubs, and makes them into halos. Which means parts of his works, or sometimes even whole pieces, have limited lifespans. They literally die. More →

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Brooklyn ‘Brewminaries’ Have Homebrewing Down to a Science

Rachel Zeiss’s Ditmas Park kitchen is positively crammed with equipment. A 10-gallon stainless steel pot sits on the stove, almost touching the underside of the microwave; that, in turn, is hooked up to another large pot on the floor, via a snaking apparatus of tubing I keep losing track of. In between the pots, on a wooden chair in the middle of the room, sits a repurposed orange Gatorade cooler, the kind that gets turned over on proud coaches’ heads—it’s covered, all around its circumference, with stickers. One declares, in instructively bold lettering: “MAKE SOME BEER.” More →

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Trixie Mattel of “Drag Race: All Stars” Invites Us Into Her Dreamworld with New Doc


Trixie Mattel (From Moving Parts)

About halfway through Moving Parts, the documentary about her life that premiered at Tribeca on Thursday, Trixie Mattel looks right at the camera from under her paint-relocated eyelids and says, “The more you get to fabricate the life you live, the happier you are.” That’s an apt mantra for the 29-year-old country musician/comedian/drag megastar of the small (and now silver) screen: Trixie has willfully fashioned her stardom into existence, has manufactured an entire pink-plastic empire for herself. She’s harnessed what she calls “delusional confidence,” to propel her career out from the gay bars of Milwaukee and into America’s hearts.

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A Truly Theatrical Experience at Hudson Yards’ New Art Space, The Shed

(Photos: Amanda Feinman)

The Shed’s glossy lobby is mere feet from dusty Eleventh Avenue, but atmospheric light years away. When I walked through its glass doors on Wednesday night, I thought first about the luxury-home-meets-AI-laboratory in Ex Machina, where Oscar Isaac both lives lavishly and builds humanoid robots for a creepy corporation.

New York’s new multi-arts space on the Hudson is a futuristic-looking glass structure with a retractable roof and an enormous escalator that spirals up and down its eight-level spine. Making your way up to the theater space on the sixth floor is not unlike heading to the top levels of the Union Square multiplex, if that multiplex were magnificent in a mod, Hudson Yards way. If, as you wound your way up to see the fiftieth Transformers movie, you were in a transformer, and the river was glittering in every line of sight.

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