The arts festival will provide all the scruffy local sound D.C. has been looking for.
Guttural throat singing over electronic beats. Space glam with a punk rock edge. Electro-acoustic improvisation.
The offerings at the Queering Sound arts festival at Rhizome DC are set to be decidedly weird — exactly what curators Jim Adams and Sea Griffin intended. The event, which runs from June 1 to 17, offers nights of music, video art and spoken word performance, in addition to a visual arts exhibit on display for the duration of the festival. Griffin calls Queering Sound a “scruffy DIY queer pride”: a chance for local, experimental artists to gather and build something new.
The festival began in 1999, featuring radical poetry, dance, video and experimental music, according to Adams.
“We always didn’t want to do that kind of disco, folk music thing that usually gets pushed at LGBTQ pride events,” Adams, the festival’s founder, says. “Not to dissuade those, but we wanted to be an alternative to that.”
The concept of queer sound developed from a prepared vinyl piece Adams created. He scratched up records and made labels out of erotica and queer artists’ work, “screwing up” the idea of musical sounds.
Adams loves seeing other artists reach outside the mainstream, too — and says he’s received largely positive feedback. One of his favorite comments came from an attendee at a live performance last year.
“She walked up and said, ‘I found my tribe,’” Adams says. “I was like, ‘Yes! Thank you. I’m so happy that we could be here and join in this journey to push boundaries and move things forward.’”
This year, Adams says the festival is bigger than ever. Musical styles include Afrofuturism and post-punk modernism. The video and new media screening will be abstract, meditative, political and strange. Some spoken word performers offer “old-guard” poetry; others focus on whimsical works. The visual arts display includes photography, installation, sculpture, assemblage, printmaking and watercolor — “a little bit of everything,” Adams says.
“What people do with the opportunity to kind of just push the boundaries and be creative and take us along on their personal journeys — I think it’s so rewarding,” he says.
Like Adams, Griffin will perform at this year’s festival in addition to curating it for the second time. They play accordion and glockenspiel in the circus waltz band Boy Meets Pearl, and will be joined by band members on instruments like the cello, autoharp and Chapman Stick.
They hope the festival sends the message that D.C. has a thriving queer community beyond more mainstream Pride Month events. Pride often draws in national acts, Griffin jokes, but no RuPaul’s drag queens or corporate business floats will make an appearance at Queering Sound. Instead of waving at famous guests, they say attendees might be inspired to buy Bandcamp merch from a D.C. group or pick up a book by a nearby author.
“Support local art,” Griffin says. “Support local scruffy art.”
Queering Sound takes place June 1 to 17. Follow the festival on Facebook here for information on specific events within the festival. Interested attendees can also email [email protected] to receive a scholarship to the festival if cost would pose a barrier.
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