While the Hawaiian shirts and one-hitters came out for this weekend’s Lollapalooza, the fans at the third annual Fed Up Fest wore their rattiest denim vests and favorite political buttons. To judge by the name of the queercore collective that organizes the festival, you might not expect it to be a celebration of love and support, but its mission statement calls for just that. “We believe that at the center of liberation is radical love for each other and ourselves,” the organizers write on their Facebook page. “That love pushes us to try to create a better world. Because of that, we are working to minimize the amount of harm that occurs in our space.” Hordes of sweaty punks gathered for workshops on race, transphobia, and mental health, and closed each day with booming hardcore and punk shows.
The Reader spoke to a handful of attendees and musicians and asked them several questions. Among them: Why had they come to the festival? What does “queer” mean to them? How do they see they midwest punk scene? We’ve collected excerpts from their replies, with portraits by photographer Sunshine Tucker.
Marvin the Robot: “The midwest is very ‘make your own fun’—you have to make your own spaces, especially if you’re not white and you’re not totally hetero. If you want to have a community, you have to build it. As an older punk, I’ve seen things shape and coalesce over time. Punk houses come and go, but there are always punk houses. The more people organize, the easier it is to keep the nice stuff like this.” —Lead singer Miles Curtiss, 37
Mascha, 29, Fed Up Fest organizer: “I stopped going to shows for a long time because shit started to feel really violent at its worst end and deeply uncomfortable on its best nights. I joined because it felt like a really wonderful way to make community, and it was low risk compared to the other types of organizing I was doing. I think it’s great to have something that’s not centered around booze and is explicitly anticapitalist.”
McKenna Dodson, 19: “I’m from southern Wisconsin, and there’s not a lot of opportunity for stuff like this up there. Both my mom and dad are pretty cool and supportive. They ask a lot of personal questions, and I get that. They just want to understand what I am going through. They’re great. For a long time, I felt really isolated, but queer folks don’t need to get caught up in one narrative. There are lots of different ways to be trans, to be queer.”
Clara C., 19: “I’ve lived in a smaller town most of my life, and I’m excited to be in a space where I feel like I’m not crazy. I came because there’s heavier punk with, like, a message. If you’re going to have angry music, you should be angry about something in particular.”
Mony Nunez, 24, and Chloë Perkis, 25: “The fest makes everyone a little more gay.” —Chloe Perkis
Monica James, 44, and Tanvi Sheth, 29: “We’re here with the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, one of Fed Up Fest’s beneficiaries. I stay involved with TJLP because I believe in trans equality and the right to gender self-determination, as well as prison abolition. Fed Up Fest is a collective of radical individuals who are living out the definition of gender self-determination. Through their music and their art, they’re exploring a world where we’re not judged by our gender.” —Monica James