After making a splash with its inaugural outing last year, the Phreak n Queer Festival, a four-day showcase of local queer talent, returns Aug. 2-5 to venues all over town.
Phreak n Queer was started by local DJ and promoter Kate Gormley, who, inspired by similar events elsewhere, wanted to get local LGBT artists back to the DIY roots of the music and art scenes and away from the mainstream expectations. “Phreak n Queer is akin to MondoHomo in Atlanta,” Gormley said. “I spun there in 2008 and just kept thinking, We need this in Philly. So I threw out the idea to a few folks and the response was overwhelming.”
Performers for this year’s Phreak n Queer include locals Liberty City Kings, Sgt. Sass, Rainbow Destroyer, AnOmali, A Voice 4 All People, Karen & The Sorrows and DJ PreColumbian. The festival will also feature performers from out of town including Nicky Click and The Shondes. New Hampshire-based indie electro singer-songwriter Click, who performed at the festival last year, said she’s eager to return.
“I’m coming to the whole festival,” she said. “I’m not just performing, I’m taking part in the festival. There are so many diverse activities and shows. There’s a family picnic and a circus. It’s really an extravaganza. They’re keeping on a tradition that started with other festivals like Homo A Go-go, which I performed at in 2004. A lot of different cities do it, but it’s important for them to be doing it in 2012 because a lot of these cities aren’t doing it anymore. For them to be continuing through their second year is really important and helps our community come together.”
Gormley said that while a lot of the participants in last year’s festival are returning, there are some new faces on board. “We brought in some new organizers this year,” she said. “We kept some of the core folks from last year and then we picked up some folks last year who were very involved but weren’t organizers. We kind of opened it up to people in the community who liked the idea and wanted to try their hand at something. We have some fresh blood this year, and it’s great to have some younger folks involved and people from different communities and different perspectives. It’s mostly a bunch of artists, DJs and performers doing it. We did partner with Latino Pride this year for our family day, so that’s pretty exciting. We’ll have some nonprofits there tabling and giving out information, like Mazzoni [Center] and GALAEI [Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative]. We want local nonprofits and different grassroots agencies getting involved so they can get the word out about services and resources to folks. But mostly the festival is run by independent organizers and artists.”
For Gormley, it’s also important to include some elements geared to all ages. “We come up with the concepts for the event first, then try and fit people in accordance with that,” she said. “We try and diversify that a little bit. A bunch of us are aging punk rockers. Some of our friends are sober now and don’t want to be in a bar. Or you have a bunch of queers that have kids. We really wanted the different communities that we are a part of to have space in the festival. So that’s why we have the art show, the open mic and tried to grow the family day. Not everything has to be in a bar or after 10 at night. We want everyone to be involved and find a space for that, especially the younger people. There are a lot of things that are 21-plus out there, so we wanted to have some events that were all-ages and free so the younger people can get involved.”
When it came to organizing the second festival, Gormley said last year’s success made it easier to organize this year’s event — but it also meant more artists and performers came to the table.
“We had venues and folks approach us,” she said. “They had such a good experience last year that they wanted to be involved in a bigger way. It definitely made getting the line-up together a little tougher because last year we might have had 30 bands apply for a show and this year the volume was just bigger. We have folks coming in from San Francisco and New Hampshire. The word has gotten out there so it’s been harder to scale back. A lot of these submissions are amazing. A lot of times it’s [because of the artists] hearing about experiences from other artists who played an event or know a booking person in Philly somehow affiliated with the festival. Word gets out through the artist network. Other people have found us through our sister festivals like MondoHomo and folks in the South who are on tour and want to make Philadelphia stops. It put us on a map in terms of places to play when touring through Philadelphia. It’s definitely a nice thing for us. We’re shuffling people around to get them involved in different ways.”
For Click, the festival is a chance to perform songs from her latest release, “Metaphorically, Of Course,” which finds her experimenting with new sounds. “My music is mostly electronic and dance music, sort of hip-hop-ish,” she said. “On this new CD, I did four country songs that are acoustic. I do a lot with my dad. Him and I write songs together on the guitar and a lot of the songs we write together, or he wrote for me, are country and then they become pop songs. It’s just so easy to present them in that way. We decided to try it out — why not? I feel like I have so many different characters that I perform. So this is one more part of me.”
Both Gormley and Click have definite plans after the festival wraps. Gormley will probably start by catching up on sleep. “I’ll be at every event, even if only for a little bit,” she said. “It’s a lot. I kind of wanted to die last year about Sunday. It was like, ‘Holy shit, you are so tired!’ I’ll be going to everything and doing a little bit of what I can to help the organizers for that event.”
Click said she is embarking on a national tour after the festival. “I’m going on tour right after the festival for two months just promoting that album and new music video, just getting out there.”
THANK LARRY & PGN!!!! xo-the phreaks!