This weekend’s Fed Up Fest, held at Bridgeport’s Co-Prosperity Sphere, featured some of the most aggressive programming in its four-year history—just days after President Trump attempted to ban trans people from military service and Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department argued that LGBT employees aren’t protected from workplace discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Fed Up Fest is dedicated to increasing the visibility of radical queer, trans, gender-nonconforming and intersex people in the punk and hardcore scenes, and the need for events like it gets clearer with each passing week. The fest strives to be a “community of care,” in the words of its organizers: “We believe that at the center of liberation is radical love for each other and ourselves.” Everything about the three-day festival—the bystander intervention training, the panel discussions on aging in punk, the frenzied yet thoughtful music—manifested the spirit of resistance, hope, and direct action.
Though a flood of terrible developments in national politics has created a sense of urgency on that front, Fed Up Fest has continued to focus on local actions, organizations, and communities. This year, proceeds from the event went to El Rescate, a Chicago-based program that provides “culturally appropriate, identity-affirming housing for homeless LGBTQ and/or HIV-positive youth.” The panels featured scene staples such Martin Sorrondeguy (of Los Crudos and Limp Wrist) and Ono vocalist Travis. Festival organizers wanted attendees to walk away with more resources and knowledge than when they arrived.
I spoke to a few of the bands, activists, and volunteers at Fed Up Fest to ask several questions: What does Fed Up Fest mean to them in the current political climate, and what does it mean for Chicago? How do the people who come to Fed Up Fest carry its lessons out into their communities? What is it about Chicago that makes it possible? I’ve collected their thoughts and advice, and in many cases photographer Eric Strom also shot their portraits.
Lead vocalist and drummer Pursley of No Men (Chicago)
I think Fed Up Fest is just important for queer people in general, just to show face and support people. It’s about support. It’s cool to play here because people get us. When we play in front of a bunch of . . . normie white people, I feel like we get lost in translation. They’re like, “Oh cool, punk music,” but it’s deeper than that. Chicago is so welcoming. All the venues that we play are welcoming. I’m from Austin, and I’ve never seen a festival like this. Hopefully it’s paving the way for more. We need more—people need more.
Lead vocalist Natalie Grace Krueger of Contentious (Minneapolis)
I really just like that it’s a queer fest. I see so many other fests going on, and they’re like the straightest, dudeliest, whitest places you can be in the punk world. Fed Up Fest is not that. There’s great bands playing, and there’s people that are just like me. This is rad. It’s a radical space, and I like radical spaces. All of our songs are about . . . I don’t wanna say queer separatism, but something like that. We all have radical queer politics—it’s not just, “Yeah, we’re gay”—but this is a very political statement for us. It’s about more than representation. We want to be able to have self-determination. Being in a punk band, it’s not like we can do a whole lot outside of create these social environments that are radical places. This is the second time I’ve gotten to play Fed Up Fest, and everyone I’ve met here is just so damn cool. We’re from Minneapolis, and we don’t quite have a scene like this.
Lead vocalist Jolene of Blacker Face (Chicago)
Fed Up Fest is a space for me to be the “young punk” that I used to be. I like that it’s a dope queer punk festival, but I also like that it has the summer sweaty vibes and the joy of going to shows when I was 14 and everyone being super excited. It’s that moment, for three days. Which is really cool. I wouldn’t say we’re a queer punk band, but three of us are queer. We’re all navigating that. Our music is always about the fact that we’re queer and weird and some of us are brown. So when we’re in certain spaces that aren’t set up to be visible for black people or queer people, we always talk about that onstage.
Mariam Bastani of Condenada and Permanent Ruin
Fed Up Fest is a continuation of radical ideals in punk that people have systematically always tried to ignore. Punk is part of a lineage of resistance and culture and taking spaces that aren’t ours, so that’s what Fed Up Fest means to me. One amazing place that’s part of other amazing movements that create spaces that need to be created. The magic you feel when you walk in here—people are talking. You see people that look like you or are people you feel kin to and know are going through similar struggles, having the space to talk about those things—it makes you braver, it makes you feel more hopeful, it makes you feel empowered. For a lot of places in the world, Chicago is a stopover on an airplane trip. They don’t know the history of resistance is deep here—the history of activism and radical thought, a lot of it originated here. It’s part of the collective consciousness of this place. It’s also a beacon for people to come and be able to create spaces that they’re comfortable in but also take control of subcultural spaces. If you’re not serving the community, then what’s your purpose?
Jes Skolnik of Split Feet
We were talking about the idea of so many different people being able to tell their stories and this being a space that allows for multiple perspectives, so many individuals in a collective space—that’s huge, and that doesn’t usually happen at fests. There’s so much inspiration here. People forget about Chicago in national terms. “Oh, Chicago punk is Naked Raygun or this thing that happened forever ago?” Chicago has had a vital scene, and it’s been the Latino punk scene and the Homocore scene and the fact that all of these brilliant perspectives are allowed to percolate without somebody from the outside going, “This is what LA is. This is what D.C. is.” Chicago doesn’t have that, because people keep forgetting about us. We get to tell our own story; we get to define things for ourselves.
Martin Sorrondeguy of Limp Wrist and Los Crudos
I think Fed Up Fest is the time to talk about stuff. It’s a time to lower the volume on the amps, and people are able to actually express things that they’re thinking about. It’s a space for all the queers and weirdos to come together and really get into things that we feel are important. I think historically what happened in Chicago with punk is that Latino punks and the Homocore punks started doing stuff. Everyone just started going “We’re not negotiating, we’re just creating our space.” Chicago has a history of going “We’re doing this,” and Fed Up Fest is where it’s happening.
Travis of Ono
Fed Up Fest means “We ain’t gonna take it no more, God damn it!” You can feel it. Everybody around you is weird—they know it, and they know that everybody around them is weird. So you’re all weird together, and you can talk about your weirdness openly and be as weird as you want to be openly and have a conversation about it. We’re at a point now where people are brazen enough to call things out, to say things that you had to be more legitimate about before—and now we don’t care. If there is support, fine. If there isn’t support, then there are people in the community who are willing to support you or join you onstage or bring you into their space as part of their curation. For me, as a performer, all the things we’re talking about here are things that I do on the stage. They’re in your face all the time. I am 71 years old—I don’t care anymore. I’m too old to be boring.
Organizers and members
Ephran Ramirez of the Fed Up Fest collective
Fed Up Fest to me is . . . well, the whole point is to queer punk. That’s why it started four years ago. So to me it’s a really empowering space that’s created for queers and trans folks. It’s a great weekend. Chicago historically has had a punk scene that’s been pretty diverse. It’s a big city, so there’s a lot of queer folks, trans folks, people of color. Visiting other cities’ punk scenes, we’re definitely one of the most diverse punk scenes in the U.S.
Isabella Mancini of the Fed Up Fest collective
I think Fed Up Fest serves as one of the only spaces where I can really mesh two things that I love and care about a lot—queer communities and punk communities—and see them coexist in a way that’s critical and productive and intentional, when a lot of things in those two separate spaces don’t really mesh that well. I feel like it’s a unique and important space for two really important parts of my identity.
E. Ornelas of the Fed Up Fest collective
Fed Up Fest means creating the utopian vision of the world I want to see. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here. There’s a sense of community building that happens here that I wish I saw in more places. A lot of things that get taken for granted—accessibility, access to food and housing, child care—we provide all those things. We try to provide those things for free to everyone that comes here, regardless of what their situation is. It’s not hard if you really put in the effort, and that is something that I really wish the rest of the DIY scene or the rest of punk in general would understand: it’s not that hard.
Mascha of the Fed Up Fest collective
I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. Fed up Fest to me is a time to prioritize people that often get invisibilized. It’s a time for those folks to make community, feel safe, feel welcomed, and feel visible. To me, creating spaces where people can tap into their truest self is everything. There are amazing workshops where there are actionable steps and people can meet. Real connections get made here. What happens when you put people together that find some kind of commonality? The magic that comes from that, you can’t stop it. Fed Up Fest is a site of resistance in Chicago. Being in Chicago geographically makes it accessible to more people. It also puts a spotlight on places that aren’t the coasts.
Tablers and organizations
Anthony Wright, HIV prevention coordinator for Chicago House & Social Service Agency
Fed Up Fest means a broadened version of people that we test. There’s usually a set demo that we go for, but this has a demo of a different variety. There’s a lot of individualism here. Chicago allows for my organization, and nonprofit organizations like mine that do things like this for the LGBTQ community.
Monica Trinidad, cofounder of the For the People Artists Collective
For me, Fed Up Fest really just means making space for queer and trans people and gender-nonconforming people. A lot of the work that we do as a collective is creating artwork and making space to uplift people that exist at the margins of the margins. That’s what Fed up Fest exemplifies. I think it’s beautiful that they’re including workshops within the festival. A lot of times you just see all music, and then we don’t have time for the dialogue or what the music means or what we’re talking about through that music. I think incorporating different organizations and different collectives to come through and talk about things like bystander intervention and holistic approaches to homelessness is super important to getting the word out about all the different struggles we have in our various communities and how they all intersect.