I had a weird obsession with the Pacific Northwest before I had ever visited the top left corner of the country, mostly due to the fact it was home to the coolest and queerest art and music scenes I’d ever heard of, and women were involved, too. This was mind-blowing to a Midwestern girl whose local bands were full of boys and whose purchases of Spin and Circus magazines were largely full of straight white dudes and their guitars. Across the country in places like Seattle, Portland and Olympia, there was Mia Zapata fronting The Gits, there was riot grrl, there was K Records, Kill Rock Stars and an ally in Kurt Cobain. And even though the focus later moved to New York City indie rock or other flavor of the month regions in the two decades since, the Pacific Northwest has maintained its possession of some of the best queer music and art being made, which is why this weekend’s ‘Mo Wave in Seattle will be a can’t miss festival for anyone in the area, or otherwise able to attend.
Organizers Jodi Ecklund, Marcus Wilson, Seth Garrison and Barret Anspachhave curated ‘Mo Wave as “an attempt to showcase queers as tastemakers and rule breakers in modern society.”
“We also want to highlight the rebellious, trendsetting and wild side of queer culture,” they said via a collaborative e-mail. “Us ‘Mo-Wavers are a bit jaded and frustrated with the portrayals of homos in the media, and want to do everything in our power to remind people that gays are more than just home makeover experts, fashion consultants or television-friendly drag-queens. We want to look past all the stereotypes that tend to define us and accentuate how creative, original and groundbreaking us ‘Mos can be.”
‘Mo Wave kicks off on Thursday night with a night of visual art called “Polari” and will host live shows Friday through Sunday, including headliners Team Dresch and The Need playing music venue Chop Suey. But alongside of those seminal queer bands are local staples and up-and-comers like Eighteen Individual Eyes, Magic Mouth, Half Breed and Wish Beard.
“I think we’re also at a crucial time in our cultural history where more and more queers — and people in general — are relying almost entirely on TV and the internet for entertainment, and consequently supporting live music and arts less and less,” the organizers say. “One of our goals is to show people that live art and entertainment is essential to our culture and that we all need to get out of the house and support it with our presence, our energy and our money.”
Booking artists from the area was a major part of the plan from the beginning, and the organizers say it was “a breeze,” but also exciting to bring in some other acts for locals to get excited about. There is a huge variety in their line-up overall, which makes it different from most other major music and art festivals.
“I feel that each of us involved instinctually sought out variance and hopefully representation of people throughout the gender spectrum,” ‘Mo Wave’s organizers say. “I don’t think we ever needed to vocalize that to one another; I think we all understood from day one that that was one of our core missions in putting on this festival. We surely hope the crowd reflects this, as that’s what we’re all about: bringing all types and shapes and sizes of queers to the same space to celebrate our diverse awesomeness.”
‘Mo Wave’s creators hope that they can help “shine a light on dozens of established yet under-valued and up-and-coming queer artists whose points-of-view and artistic visions don’t subscribe to the homogenized mores and shallow attitudes of gay mainstream popular culture.” Besides the live music and visual art opening show, there is a night of stand-up comedy at lesbian bar Wild Rose and DJs spinning dance parties at Pony. The hope is that the festival will prove successful enough to keep ‘Mo Wave a regular occurrence in Seattle year-round.
“We plan on throwing shows/screenings/exhibits/events under the ‘Mo-Wave! brand throughout the coming years, by bringing more and more torch-bearing queer acts to town and putting a spotlight on the fact that their importance in society lies not only in their work, but in the identity and cultural foundation from which that work is created,” the creators say. “There are so many artists following in the footsteps of great queerpunk, riot grrl, neo-classical and avant-drag bands/performers that came before them, and that’s just a small segment of the overall queer music and art renaissance occurring right now in this part of the country. It’s very exciting!”
‘Mo Wave creators say they were inspired by their predecessors in queer music fests like Homo-a-gogo and Pussy Faggot in New Yew York City.
“We think these festivals are critical in turning the spotlight on queer art and music,” they said. “They counterbalance the typical and arguably commercialized Gay Pride events that happen in almost every city these days.”
Check out the schedule and buy tickets or a 3-day pass at mowaveseattle.com.