Fierce Fest 2014 Punk Brunch – October 4th – The Old Foundry – Bellingham, WA

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FIERCE FEST is a radical queer and feminist D.I.Y. festival dedicated to dismantling oppression, building community and empowering marginalized voices. Because we can use art and music as tools for empowerment, reclaiming space, solidarity and education. Because we refuse to accept unsafe, oppressive conditions for marginalized people in our communities and the underrepresentation of trans, queer and female artists.”

The space at the Old Foundry building is small, but has a lot of rooms for setting things up. It’s just at the edge of the massively gentrified market section of the port. A cloth banner declaring “Fierce Fest” hung out front. They had a great crowd, and trans and genderqueer folks were everywhere. There was a huge sign saying “Don’t Assume Pronouns!” and paper available to declare your own pronouns. Safer Spaces folks were nice and obvious – their back patches were huge and you could see them easily from anywhere. Go read that policy statement, too – it was the first one I’ve seen that was truly comprehensive and reassured me.

The show started really late, which was great, since I was really late too! I made it across the border in time to catch The Plodes, even. Well, half of them – their bassist and accordionist were missing. There wasn’t a huge crowd that early, but it was a friendly one. The mic was terrible for most of their set, but they got it sorted eventually. The music, on the other hand, sounded great. No matter how bad you sound, though, just play. Afterwards, you can commiserate about how horrible the sound was and it’ll be an anecdote to pull out every time you have sound problems. “You think this is bad? Fuck, let me tell you about this one time in Bellingham!”

The artwork was good – I particularly liked the painted plaster casts, but a lot of the pieces didn’t have names attached, so I’m not sure who did them. The drawings about gender were really great, by CD. There was one about their parents and an aspen tree, cut down by their father and loved by their mother. The red thread running throughout all the pieces connected them all.

Seaside Tryst from Seattle were more synthpop than punk, but they were enthusiastic and fun. I loved one of the lead-ins – “This is for any trans man who started passing and all the lesbians stopped paying attention!” (I also appreciated that no one followed that up with “not ALL lesbians!” I’m used to Twitter.) They were the largest band of the morning,

Princess was very awesome, they were the epitome of of the amazing personal/political intersection happening in punk right now. The speakers were giving a really loud hiss while they were on, but it didn’t interfere with the music. They had songs about chronic illness, legal names, and inherited trauma – it was raw and heartfelt, and I loved them.

Lisa Prank closed out the brunch. They play solo guitar with an accompanying bass/drums/keyboard recording. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the recorded accompaniment, but if people are composing that way, then why shouldn’t it be fine to play live that way? The songs were personal, they had some great lyrics, and their guitar skills were excellent.

Fierce Fest was fantastic, and their policies made me look a lot harder at where I am being appropriative. I like to think I’m at least 201 level on appropriation and decolonization, but there are clearly some problem areas. It also made me confront the points at which I do still see gender as binary rather than a spectrum – and that I don’t need to know where people fall on it. (It also made me realize how often I use gendered pronouns when I’m writing.)

I think they did a great job! There were some kinks here and there to be worked out, but that’s normal. I would have liked to see more art and more clear signs to the food (I thought there wasn’t any, since the art room said “art and food”). But you know what? It was amazing to be in a room full of people who almost never get to be comfortable. The atmosphere here was fantastic. I hope we get another next year, but even getting one three-day festival like this together was a huge accomplishment. Congratulations to all the bands and volunteers!

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