Queer and trans musicians of color launch new festival in Seattle

A brand new Seattle music festival is kicking off this weekend, to kick off LGBTQ Pride Month.

The creators say they haven’t seen queer and trans-centric people of color at other festivals, so they created their own.

Twinkling lights overhead and a row of guitars on the wall, the band members of SuperCoze gather for a practice session. Surf-rock invades their small bedroom at Crybaby Studios on Capitol Hill.

They are preparing their next show: the So Dreamy Music Festival.

SuperCoze members are QTBIPOC: queer, trans, black, indigenous and people of color. Most have never attended a music festival. That’s something their leader, Cody Choi, decided to change.

“I’ve realized not only with my band which is all QTBIPOC, but a lot of other bands that I know that are really great, that I even admire, weren’t on these festivals or if they were, they were never a headliner,” said Choi, who created the new festival.

Thus, Choi’s event will put these groups on a main stage.

The So Dreamy Music Festival will feature 25 bands on Capitol Hill for two nights, June 4-5.

All bands are led by queer, trans, or musicians of color. The range includes Black Ends, Mirrorgloss, Breaks and Swells, Day Soul Exquisite, Lemon Boy and more.

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For Choi, it’s kind of an antidote to the existing music festival scene in the Seattle area. They investigated other local music festivals before setting this up, and Choi felt that on some of the lineups “it was like 70-80% all-white bands”. Choi said he feels queer BIPOC artists are sometimes tokenized at Seattle’s many mainstream music festivals.

This is why the musicians of the formation So Dreamy are delighted with this opportunity,

Francesca Eluhu, who owns the Le Fem label and performs under the name Day Soul Exquisite, will perform on Saturday.

“I think, especially for emerging artists, it can be a bit complicated” to get a place at the festival, Eluhu said.

“Because a lot of venues want to have established artists, and if you’re not in the network … whether it’s because you’re a person of color or you don’t have those contacts, it can be very difficult to get a seat at the festival.

She said she’s a big fan of Seattle’s Taking B(l)ack Pride, Seattle Pride and Pridefest, but it fills a different need.

“A lot of burlesque and drag performers have done a great job of cultivating spaces like this in entertainment, but you don’t usually see this type of programming in live music venues,” Eluhu said.

The creators of So Dreamy draw inspiration from queer and transgender organizers of the past.

LGBTQ people have long charted their own path to equity in the face of exclusion and discrimination, creating bars, counseling centers and festive festivals as early as 1930 Seattle, when the gay-friendly Casino Cafe opened its doors.

But for Choi, the arch of LGBTQ rights is incomplete.

“I hope this festival will inspire more people in the community to organize their own events.”

Choi said musicians shouldn’t “always rely on bigger venues to dictate what the scene does, especially led by men who have been in the scene forever”.

“I think there are a lot of barriers towards queer, trans, black and brown musicians.”

So Dreamy will directly target the queer, trans, Black and Brown communities. It’s a “dream” formation for bands like SuperCoze, hence its name.

“It’s so dreamy!” the band yells at each other in their practice studio.

The inaugural festival is split between Cafe Racer and Vermillion, and is for all ages until 10 p.m. After that, it’s all about queer nightlife culture, including a homemade ballroom contest, aka Drag Ball, on Saturday night. The kings and queens of the House of Chaos and the House of Black will lead the show, which usually includes dance, posing, vogue and/or runway competitions.

People can buy one or two day passes, or just a ticket to the ball, called SeaTac Ballroom Ball.

About Keith Johnson

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