Celebrating all that’s gloriously queer, DJ Vicki Cook (or Rebel Girl as she’s sometimes known) and Effie Fowler’s fabulous Queer as Day festival kicked off for the first time ever at the Green Door Store.
CONTENT WARNING – CONTAINS UNEDITED BAD LANGUAGE AND PUNK-ASS VIBES
Have you ever walked into somewhere and just felt completely, inexplicably, safe? Ever entered a room and felt like you’ve just walked into the most heartwarming excepting place in all the world?
Well, as I awkwardly squeezed my way into first ever Queer as Day festival at the Green Door Store two days ago, I was practically swamped by that feeling.
All around me, smiling faces of acceptance and support were buzzing about, weaving eagerly between the various stalls of Zines and Queer art that were on sale. Very quickly, the venue began to be filled with the radiant glow of diversity, with more and more eager onlookers boarding this ark of positive safety, every passing second. Given the festival’s youth (as I said before, the festival’s debut was literally that night), there was an overwhelmingly wonderful turn out – a turn out that wasn’t at all expected, as one of the festival’s parents, Vicki Cook, told me later that night.
“It’s been amazing. We weren’t expecting it, we were really, really hopeful that we would have this turn out, but we’ve just been completely blown away. It’s been fantastic and really uplifting for both me and Effie,” the mind behind the monthly female fronted live music night known as Femrock enthused.
Practically flooding the room, this sea of cheerful people spilled out from the stalls and into the courtyard, finally culminating in a pool of wonder and awe around the sparkling stage, as dreamy guitars and powerful performers started to play.
Swooping the stage with an almighty roar of gravely pixelated feedback, the band cleverly known as Byenary took us back to our days of brewing teen angst and anger. Screaming the words “We will not be silenced,” as if their heart was breaking away from their chest and instead becoming lodged in their throat, only to be spat out onto the floor, bleeding with the damage society had done to it, the singer gushed a story of injustice and prejudice.
“This is a song for my dad. He’s a dickhead,” they laughed, a few minutes later with the screeching of feedback still burning in my ears, before drowning the river of muddy distortion that lead to the next song I’m not your fucking princess. For their first ever gig together, the anarchic threesome of punk rock soldiers had an immense power over the stage. Shredding manically, with an immovable angst, the warriors took us straight into the heart of injustice – it was an incredibly encouraging performance to watch; it seemed to inspire feeling of a revolution. But with topics like Terfs (meaning trans exclusionary radical feminists), and a parent’s inability to accept their child’s gender, the weight of such unfortunately common and horrifying issues surpassed the wonderful bubble of expectance at the comfort of the Green Door Store. It hit home this idea that there is very much a battle still to be had. We are not done fighting for our basic rights as humans, in the queer community. There is still an unruly amount of injustice.
“It’s been really difficult for the queer community over the past twelve months, or even the last two years have been particularly difficult,” Vicki explained to me later on. “We’re so easily erased; the queer community are either a tick box, or a we’re an after thought. And it happens too often, especially over the last year. Over the last twelve months there has been a lot of aggression and hatred towards especially the trans community.”
And this political unrest continued further on into the night, with the self-described queer glam punk army IRN Brunette bursting into sharp fireworks of passion, clasping at twangy guitars and hemorrhaging bass notes. “Are you straight or are you gay? Are you a boy or are you a girl?” the dark, yet refined, musical voice of a figure donning a DIY cut off jacket emblazoned with the words “Radical softness now” blurts, ironically echoing the questions of the ignorant. Songs of Bi and Asexual visibility quickly followed, drawing us to march along to the war cries.
But, with more events like Queer as Day, this discourse could find its end.
“It just seems absolutely what the Queer community needs right now is just a collection of really amazing people who are doing really great things in a really difficult time,” Vicki explained. “So, I just kind of saw an opportunity to put on like a queer all dayer, and decided to just bring together loads of just really amazing and incredible artists that I would love to work with pop them on a lineup, and kind of came up with QueerAs. This is really about giving people a platform to almost have like an outlet, where they can be fucking angry and they can be creative and expressive. It’s a celebration of our queerness and it’s all about visibility and giving a platform to people and I guess giving power back to the community. Myself and Effie have organised this, it’s the first all dayer, it’s the first event we have ever done as QueerAs, and it seems to have had a really good response. So hopefully it’ll become a regular thing. It’s just been lovely to put a positive spin on everything that’s been happening.”
In amongst this parth of dark revolution, wonderfully light and playful gems were scattered. Acts like IRN Brunette, Bee and Jackrabbit, and Psychofag, laced together the sharp politics of social injustice and the feeling of discrimination, but managed to sparkle some rhinestones of humour and fun on top.
Almost like Simon and Garfunkle, but with less animosity and more politics, Bee and JackRabbit, or as they are currently known on Spotify, Paul F Murray (they’re in the midst of a rebranding), took us to a place of peace and tranquillity. With their beautiful flow of almost country sounding cello and acoustic guitar, wrapped up by what I can only describe as divine vocal harmonising, the duo’s authentic and heartfelt songs put us all at ease before we were ready to be amped up once more.
“Seeing as Halloween was only a few days ago, we’re gonna take you back there with a spooky song,” IRN Brunette’s lipsticked lead singer smiles before cackling something hysterical, as if they had just been snatched right out of the end of Michael Jackson’s thriller. And sure enough, the fabulously camp thuds of the Monster Mash began to fill the room, as the laughter faded and the singer put away their phone, jumping down into the audience for a jig.
The heavy all-consuming driving beats seemed to merge with a gravely robotic voice, as Psychofag took over the stage. Like cubic pixels, or the weird static you would see on an old TV when you lose the satellite signal, the sound popped and spat colourful pieces of spoken word and cantabile melodies. It was like I had just walked into a club kids fever dream, only with a tongue in cheek lyrical flair embedded into the thudding tones. Psycofag themself seemed to encompass a cheeky energy, as the toy doll figure bounded about the stage, contorting their face into various hilarious pictures of shock and befuddlement. A thought struck me, as the wild figure jumped out into the crowd, tinsel green hair sparkling in the gas like light: how isn’t this character on TV already? With creations like the impish Aunty Kim, and fabulous soon to be club banger Acid Tongue, this artist clearly had a wonderfully musical mind behind their unique aesthetic. So why they are not yet ubiquitous in the world of TV is an injustice of its own, honestly.
As the DJ known sometimes as Rebelgirl, Vicki Cook, told me later on that night, Queer as Day is actually all about supporting new artists in the scene.
“We love being able to offer this kind of space to up-and-coming bands and performers,” she enthused. “In the DIY community, we don’t want to go to people who are, for good reason, already very well established. Like, they have fucking grafted, they have worked and they’ve gotten to where they are based on their own merit, and that’s fantastic – we obviously support people who are in that position. But it’s even better to give that platform to people who are up-and-coming, because you can’t be in that position without like fucking working your way and being given somewhere to perform and to grow along the way. Like Byenary for example, that was their first performance today as a band and they were fucking incredible,” she explained with a wonderful passion.
After such an energetic performance (that gave me li-i-ife), I needed a quick break. So I grabbed a quick bite of some gooey margherita pizza from the cheerful people at vegan food truck Gilli and Gordo’s, I was ready to dive back into the crazy world of Queer as Day.
Dressed head to toe in a long dark coat (that looked as though it had been stolen from a 1920s reporter) shades, and dolled up with a face paint mask of white powder and goatee beard, Jemma of Jemma And The Cosmic Somethings took over the stage. The singer songwriter’s solo project kicked off with gentle guitar’s and whirling deep vocals, emulating a mix of dreamy rock with lashings of psych styling. Thanks to an overhaul of mid frequencies, the vocals lost their clarity and lyrics became muddy. But with the artist’s song Black rain, this clouded sound transformed into a dark and angsty anthem, complete with twisting and twirling guitar shrieks. Whimsically twangy guitar notes sat themselves firmly onto seats of minor thirds, creating a wonderful feeling of unease. This shoegazey sound rung on, as the guitarists danced around the entourage of effects pedals that lay at their feet.
Each artist on stage was clearly skilled, utilising clever little licks, and screaming feedback with ease, yet I couldn’t help but think there was something missing from the mix.
Ghostly chorus and spaced-out reverb took over the dark sound, and suddenly a battle was afoot. Shredding with a wild ferocity, the bassist edged closer and closer to Jemma, taunting the artist into a faux fight of sounds. Eyes locked deep into one another, Jemma pished back with an almighty whirl of guitar chords. Back. and. forth. and. back. and. forth. They fought each other with a hilariously campy grin stuck to their faces, until finally the clangy guitar shreds could last no more and they both became swallowed by the hungry floor below.
But the ground must have been too full, because not long after injesting Jemma And The Cosmic Somethings, it threw out another band for us to become awestruck by.
The glorious acoustic wonder of El Morgan and the Divers had us bowling over with serenity and pure joy, as the group began their soft lullaby of music.
A sweet string of electric guitar notes formed a plait of sweet serenity with the organic strums of the acoustic guitar, as the band’s heart-felt, solemn first song met our ears. And the castle of acoustic gold only grew richer, as they explained the wild complexity of their next song.
“This one’s about when we were trapped in a pub, and had no way to get home aside from walking down a busy B road. But then we got a lift with a drunk person driving down the road, and it’s a miracle we’re alive because we really shouldn’t have gotten into that car,” laughed the lead singer, as their gentle tones filled the room.
Lovely sparkling piano notes lay in between sheets of calming guitar chords and powerful clean vocals, throughout their self described “love song for people who hate love songs,” and the singer’s Hayley Williams-esque vocals transformed the sweet sounds into a powerhouse of indie joy. The group seems to encapsulate a soft shoegaze sound, mixing the wonderful tranquility with the raw heartbreak of the singer-songwriter style vocals and lyricism, through the saddened song.
As the band played, it once again struck me: how are they not famous yet? Their sound was so refined, so polished and easy to drift along to that it seemed as though they could have been beamed up into stardom at any passing second that night. Surely they are the next up-and-coming indie success story from Brighton?
Showcasing all that was wonderfully Queer, the humble little Green Door Store transformed into bright rainbow of performers – all beaming with pride. From the eclectic craziness of Psycofag to the charming serenity of El Morgan and the Divers, each that touched the stage seemed to encompass their own sense of rebellion and advocacy. And overall the entire day that faded well into the night had me thinking: “I love being Queer.”
Update: after two whole days away from Queer as Day, I still can’t seem to extract Psychofag’s glitzy track Acid tongue from my brain, or IRN Brunette’s rendition of the Monster Mash.