OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 3

Outside of attending Skintone’s talk “From the Black Atlantic to the Milky Way: An exploration of Afro-Futurism” at Eastern Edge, I spent most of Out of Earshot day three catching up with friends whose goodbyes I was already grieving.

Muffin, an RPM challenge band, opened up the late, and final, Out of Earshot show. Being their first live performance, vocalist Rebecca eased into their very tender stage presence as their set progressed. Joined with Liam, Jacob, Sarah, Derek, and Nicole, they sweetly sang about having each others backs and being good people.

muffin

Photo by Krystal Morgan

This set was followed by Isolation Kills who were also playing their first show. Formed by Nicole, Pepa, and Kieren, these pals [and neighbours] came together to create hardcore music for connection and healing. During this set, I reminisced about the final Out of Earshot show last year when Hard Ticket played their last show. There were many parallels of the feelings behind these sets – a group of pals being supported and celebrated by a room of all their pals.

isolation kills

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Prime Junk took the stage next wearing a western button up shirt, bolo tie, and corduroy jacket – an aesthetic that I am always charmed by. They were joined with Out of Earshot organizers Sarah Harris and Jess Barry, and revealed throughout their set that their band had recently dissolved. They played with great vulnerability and generously shared the ways they were reclaiming something deeply painful through playing these songs live one last time. This set was an act of resilience and catharsis – while they are firm it was the last of Prime Junk [even saying “rest in peace” as they left the stage], there seems to be hope that they will keep making music after their [inspiring] weekend at Out of Earshot.

The show, and the festival, came to a close with Century Egg from Halifax. The sincerity of their music is one you can really lean into – everyone in the audience was swaying, bouncing, smiling, having fun with each other. Asked for an encore, they came up to play one last song: Since I Caught You. As the song was coming to a close, Shane sweetly sang directly to her husband, Robert (guitar), “And I don’t know what else to do / since I caught you“.

With a final show that inspired and conveyed so much love, connection, and friendship, the second iteration of Out of Earshot comes to a close.

Until next year, xoxo.

OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 2

I arrived at Eastern Edge to moderate a panel on DIY organizing within arts and music communities that I was invited to by Out of Earshot. While, through not your boys club, I have experience organizing without funding and with little help from other people, I am definitely not an expert – in fact, I think I am often doing it wrong. This was a learning opportunity for me as much as for the room of people in attendance.

Panelists Nick Dourado, Natasha Blackwood, Jenesta Power, Shauna Gilpin, and Nadia Duman, challenged the reality of “doing-it-yourself” and ways in which this work isn’t effective, efficient, or sustainable if we are working in silos. They spoke to the power in collaboration, community outreach, and building relationships. Here was where, after some brainstorming, we landed on “doing-it-ourselves” or “DIO” coined by Nick.

The conversation we had, one that seemed to resonate and energize many folks, wasn’t recorded. It will only exist as an oral narrative for those who witnessed it to share. I guess then, it is our responsibility, as holders of this knowledge, to keep having these conversations about what it looks like to organize within [but also against] mainstream arts and music industry.

Leaving the space, I received some critical feedback on my moderation from Nick, “You fucked up! You didn’t ask everyone’s astrological sign!”.

Kira Sheppard opened the early evening show with a performance that placed me in my own dreamscape world. Between her harp, the string lights at her feet, the reverb on her vocals, the bubbles blown by Pepa, I was floating on my own little cloud.

Our collective dreamscape was shattered by the dystopian future curated by Skin Tone [James Goddard]. With visuals, narration, experimental noise, free jazz saxophone, and tap shoes that stormed through the room, we were captivated. Consumed.

Juice Girls opened their set with Ghoul Gal, a song that could have came from outer-space, to ease us back into our dreamscape. In moments of awareness, I would realize the ways they were enchanting the audience – pulling us in like the moon pulls the tides.

juice girls

Photo by Krystal Morgan

While we moved to The Ship, the world that this thoughtfully curated show created was only briefly disrupted.

Francis [synth/percussion] and Nadia [vocals/guitar/bass] of CUERPOS took the stage. In the ways that each song builds with rhythm, volume, and intensity, so does their set. They have a really great intuition that allows them to communicate to each other, and to the audience, non-verbally. Assessing needs, engaging, and then elevating. For me, the techno beat and bass line during sugar free was the summit of their set.

cuerpos

Photo by Krystal Morgan

I experienced Dregqueen, an electronic project, from an open window next to the stage. While the air and light rain kept me cool, the humid draft coming from all the bodies moving inside the bar kept me warm. The view and personal space that I was afforded by choosing the window allowed me to really connect with and be enthralled by the ways Lees performs and interacts with the audience through their body and movement.

Like the night before, I finished my cigarette as they finished their set and headed home.


Contribution by Nik A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 1

I arrived into St. John’s on the eve of the festival to be with some of the people I have built strong friendships with since the inaugural Out of Earshot festival. From backyard dinner, to soft-serve twist cones, to pre-fest gathering, to a night swim under the stars, I really leaned into laughter, connection, and empathy.

When I woke up, the air felt crisp and cool and the sky promised us rain. I spent the day on a couch with my dear friend and her dog, intermittently sharing thoughts and feelings about community between typing away on our respective laptops.

When it came time to make our way to Eastern Edge Gallery for the artist meal and opening show, rain and fog had moved into the city. The OOE artist meal continues to be a beautiful space where people come together, share a meal, and catch up.

The line-up for the opening Out of Earshot show at Eastern Edge was Greta Warner, Weary, and Ilia Nicoll and the Hot Toddies.

Greta Warner, a young person living in St. John’s, played indie pop for us with only a guitar and loop pedal. Greta’s songs are honest narratives about loss, dating, and her connection to Lindsay Weir from the late 90’s show Freaks and Geeks.

greta warner.JPG

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Weary, a local soft-rock five-piece, followed Greta. Fronted by Kate Lahey, her banter reflects the ways she interacts with her world as simultaneously tender and tough. While being intentional and thanking her band, the sound people, the photographers, showing love and care for her friends, the girls rock alumni in attendance, and her partner, she also introduces her song Grocery Store by saying,

it’s hard to find spaces in St. John’s where you don’t scan the room for someone who makes you feel horrible. mine is the Sobey’s on Merrymeeting Rd.“.

weary

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Increasing in tempo, momentum, and volume, the Eastern Edge show closes with Ilia Nicoll and the Hot Toddies – a playful and enigmatic local pop outfit. Since Ilia’s move to Toronto, her return to St. John’s to play music notoriously brings excitement to any space.

ilia nicoll

Photo by Krystal Morgan

With the rain getting heavier as the night progresses, some of the crowd disperses and some make their way up the alley to The Ship Pub.

The late night loud show starts with a relatively new hardcore / screamo local band, Gossamer, fronted by Rebecca Hammond. Gossamer brings a lot of chaotic energy by playing with auditory and physical space. Rebecca takes to the floor and gives the audience everything that she can.

gossamer

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Walt, the Out of Earshot host of the night, introduces the following local band, Worst Lay. Fronted by Renee Sharpe, she introduces her music as a punk therapy session for herself, her band mates Pepa, Mitch, and Mara, and for everyone in attendance.

The next act, while differing in sound but similar in emotion, Backxwash, delivers a rap set that maintains the anger, but takes it to the next level. Parallel to Kate Lahey’s intro to Grocery Store earlier, Backxwash introduces her song Devil in a Moshpit by sharing that it’s about performing in front of someone that you hate.

Her music and performance is a powerful commentary on her experiences of oppression as a queer and trans black person [so like, you’re walking around harassing people because you’re uncomfortable in your own skin / this shit is ridiculous / i’m laughing at you / i don’t really give a fuck, no sympathy for the cis]. While this is only a glimpse of the dialogue that she has with her audience, this messaging is consistent throughout her music and performance.

Grief, a hardcore band from Halifax, closed out the first night of Out of Earshot. Giving my ears a rest, I listened to them from under an awning outside as I smoked a cigarette with a friend. As my cigarette finished, so did their set, but I’ll have a chance to see them again on Saturday.


Contribution by Nik A. Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT – FEATURED ARTIST: BACKXWASH

From Zambia, Backxwash [MTL] is a queer and trans rapper who emotes anger in their social commentary on queerness, blackness, and witchcraft. After putting out Deviancy on Grimalkin records, they have been consistently playing shows in Ottawa and Montreal and will be heading to St. John’s on August 22nd for Out of Earshot.

backwash

Photo by Bianca Lecompte

In conversation with Backxwash [she/they], they told me about her growth as a musician, the importance of music as a form of expression, the power of anger as an emotion, and what she hopes their music can inspire in other people.

To give a bit of history, I started making music when I was 13 years old. What happened was, before that, my sister came home with this, like, cd, and she was playing Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G. I used to listen to music before that, but it was usually slow r&b because that was a really popular genre back in the 90’s. That’s how I started getting into more rap and hip hop. At 13, I remember getting a pirated copy of ethnostudio and trying to make beats but they were not good at all. They were terrible. They made no sense at all.

When she moved to Canada, she was encouraged to take a break from music to concentrate on their studies. After discovering parts of herself, and her identity, they felt pulled to Montreal to explore that more freely.

It was a weird time when I was moving to Montreal. I wanted to express myself, but at the same time, being in Montreal, it was almost like there was something in the air that makes you want to do something creative. I landed in Montreal, and within the first few days of living there I looked up a hip hop cypher and that’s how I found this place called Le Cypher. I went there and it kind of like re-sparked that interest.

Backxwash [named aptly over something straight folks find disgusting] is a project that is driven by passion and communicated through anger.

When it comes to writing raps, I cant write about something that is not important to me or doesn’t hold a special position in what I’m feeling. At this point, the only thing I can write about right now is my identity because that’s what I’m passionate about.  I didn’t want to approach it in a preachy way because other people can do that type of music. For me, I like it when it’s angry. Being angry is an under-rated emotion, that’s what I feel.

I started writing these raps about how I feel and was like, okay, I got the raps down. I’m still self-conscious about my voice, so I had to do what I had to do to make it sound a bit cool. Doing more things at Le Cypher allowed me to find my rap voice. If you compare the voice I use in F.R.E.A.K.S., the first project that I did, to the voice that I use now, it’s like really different. It sounds much more aggressive, loud, and intense versus the one in the first EP that didn’t really sound that way even though I tried.

In her lyrics and the voice she uses, Backxwash proactively addresses and pushes back against oppression. In “Burn Me at the Stake” on Deviancy, she raps “ever since I started rapping, I put a target on my back / I just thought I should be smarter than I am / For every bullet that they shoot I’ll take it harder as I can / I thought this shit was much harder THAN I PLANNED”. Driven by lived experience, the words expressed and the way they are expressed, set a zero tolerance standard for any discriminatory harm or violence even before it happens.

If you’re an oppressor, in order for me to feel completely safe, I’m going to lash out at you. If you’re sitting in a room as an oppressed person, and an oppressor comes into the room, even though they haven’t done anything to you at that moment, you don’t feel safe because you know what they are capable of.

By making herself vulnerable, and sharing her experience through her music, she is empowering and lifting up other folks in the trans community.

A friend of mine tells me that they listen to it when they want to feel a bad ass and I’m like, alright, that’s cool. I’m happy that there are spaces for such music because growing up, and facing racism, i felt so bad ass when I thought I was part of the N.W.A. or Chuck Keith from Public Enemy, you know? I want people in the trans community to be able to have that feeling.

Their most recent release, Deviancy, was put out by Grimalkin records on July 12th 2019. Grimalkin is a record label and collective comprised of artists from all over the world that raises money to support social justice and civil rights organizations. Sales from Deviancy were donated to Project 10 and Nationz Foundation.

It was a good opportunity to donate money to the organizations. It’s the most press I’ve ever gotten over a project and it’s allowed a larger audience to donate some money to the organizations. I’ve been really happy to be working with them and using my music to help people.

QTBIPOC folks have always paved the way for other queer and trans folks. Backxwash, through their music and the ways they distribute their music, is continuing this legacy.

When are we going to catch a break? We cant. Its our existence. We have to fight.

See them on August 22nd at The Ship with Gossamer, Worst Lay, and Grief.


Contribution by Nik A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: FEATURED ARTIST – NADIA DUMAN

From St. John’s, Newfoundland, CUERPOS [bodies] is a DIY experimental project that combines Reggaeton rhythmics and Shoegaze elements. Formed by pals, Francis Dawson [synth/percussion] and Nadia Duman [guitar/bass], they’ve recently put out their first EP called íntimo [intimate] and will be playing their final show at Out of Earshot on August 23rd with Aquakulture and Dregqueen.

cuerpos.jpg

Photo by Matt Williams

Inspired by and drawn to this project, I reached out to Nadia [she/her] to have a conversation about her musical history, the formation of CUERPOS, and safer spaces for queer women of colour in music communities.

At age 9, Nadia started to teach herself guitar without any formal lessons. As a kid with many interests and passions, her parents weren’t convinced that she would stick with guitar long-term.

“So, i’ve been playing music since i was like really young, but then once i started grade 8, during the freshman week, i saw this band playing. My school was kind of like glee, honestly, it was really weird. Everyone was in a band and there was like two shows every couple months. Junior high and high school was a really musical experience for me. I remember seeing this all-girl group playing during my first week of grade 8. They were playing Zombie by the Cranberries. I was like “What the hell. This is crazy”. I had never seen that, irl, and i was really inspired by them to become better, not only in my bedroom or in music class, but to like play in a band.

In 2014, Nadia moved to St. John’s to go to Memorial University and spent the first few years concentrating on her studies and student experience. In 2016, she was introduced to the St. John’s music community through Band-Off, an event put on by Renee Sharpe.

“That summer, my friend’s boyfriend told me about Renee Sharpe and a party she throws where you go and meet a bunch of random people, throw your name in a hat, and form a band. It was called Band-Off. It hasn’t happened in a few years though. Basically you would go to a space, at that time it was at Eastern Edge, and there would be different stations for guitar, one for bass, and one for drums. You would move through each station and they would give you a flash tutorial on how to play each of the instruments. Then, at the end of the event, they would take a hat and draw different names and you would form a band with who your named was called with. That was the first time that I did something band-y here in St. John’s.”

cuerpos 1

Photo by Adam Hefferman

After Band-Off, Nadia found herself retreating from the music scene again to focus once more on her studies. In 2018, when she graduated from MUN, she committed to getting back into passions, like music, that empowered her.

“Its been a long road. Ive been on and off from the scene, but I’ve always found a lot of help and a lot of welcoming. I was keeping in contact with local musicians here and receiving a lot of help. Like, this is how you should have your pedal board, this is a good pedal to use. It made me really proud and happy to be part of this community.”

Despite having a musical history of punk and hardcore, she was in a place in her life where she was getting fulfillment from the sounds and values of the Reggaeton music that her pal, Francis, was showing her.

“By the time Francis and I were together and were like, “lets sit down and jam and see what’s up”, I was recently back from a trip to Ecuador. I had a great time, I was constantly consuming music, and listening to what they were playing in the clubs. I was in a really comfortable, creative, fluid, space where I was really invited to experiment and see what different sounds I could put out.”

With making music of cultural value at the root of their project, they would draw inspiration from the sounds they grew up listening to. Starting with an idea, or vision, they would collaboratively build songs by making drum parts, then chord progressions on the synth, and then a bass line.

“The tropical sound, the urban sound, are really what makes our band and unites us musically. We wanted our project to celebrate these sounds because there’s a lot of, sort of like, colonial imposition in the mentalities of people in South America where they think their culture is not of value. So, I guess we are saying no to that. We want to celebrate these sounds and make them prominent.”

cuerpos 4

Photo by Adam Hefferman

Early in their process of making music together, they knew it was going to be a project that made them feel great and wanted a name that would reflect the feeling it gave them. They wanted the name to be fluid, filling any space, without limits, and without alienating any kind of person.

“CUERPOS is a perfect name, just a body, any body, it could be whatever. it goes with dancing and stuff like that and at the end of the day, if you’re dancing, it’s just bodies.”

The process of making their EP, íntimo, was very DIY. It was recorded by themselves in Nadia’s living room and produced and mastered by Francis. They released the EP as an RPM challenge and received a lot of positive feedback from their community in St. John’s.

“What I found was that, if you put out something you care about, other people care about it too. I don’t know, maybe that was a dumb statement, but I feel like people can tell when something is close to your heart. Like, we weren’t just making music for whatever reason, it was something personal and intimate.”

Their first show, during Lawyna Vawyna, was just a few days after Francis returned to St. John’s after a long trip in Europe. Since then, they have filled up their summers by saying yes to every show opportunity. As a queer woman of colour, making music rooted in cultural values, in a city that is predominately white, CUERPOS have been filling in gaps of representation and diversity within the St. John’s music community.

“Honestly like, its kind of hard to navigate certain spaces as a person of colour. You are super aware of ways you behave because I feel like, at times, not that i’m a voice of authority, but I’m a person that people come and ask me my opinion, you can fall into tokenism, or feel like you’re tokenized. I haven’t felt that way in this scene and I appreciate that. That was part of what helped me to put out music so comfortably and being able to share a personal piece of me with people. It was a really beautiful experience.”

On August 23rd, you can hear Nadia speak more to DIY organizing within arts and music communities on a panel facilitated by not your boys club and see CUERPOS live that evening at The Ship.

“We try to engage with the audience, not by talking or bantering, but by making them dance, feel the ambient. It’s nice to have that middle ground of environment and vibes from two people who come from two different schools of thought.

Francis grew as a musician in the DJ scene (electronic stuff) and learned the importance of ambience as a performer by creating an ideal environment for people to dance. In our performances he carries this school of thought, as he suggested to build our set as a DJ set. For example, we start slow and end with the faster stuff (bpm wise), we never stop playing during our performances so we transition into songs using beat deconstruction and by sort of coming back to the basic elements of our songs (ie drums and bass). This is similar to what DJ’s do when they transition from song to song during a set.

From my end, being introduced to musical performance through the punk scene (analogue stuff), I learned the importance of ambience in a different way… more like the energy you play with and how that energy can stick to the crowd. This is reflected by my constant dancing and head banging while performing. I do minimal talk and singing, and while I’m trying to not go full screamo on the mic, my singing style for this project is heavily influenced by my punk background but more leaning towards the cumbia/salsa style of singing.

Our Out of Earshot show is going to be our last show and we are definitely going to put lots of emotions in it.”

cuerpos 3

Photo by Matt Williams

Contribution by Nik A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: FIRST WAVE LINEUP ANNOUNCEMENT

Out of Earshot have announced the first wave of artists, musicians, and writers that will be at their second festival this August (22nd-24th) – including not your boys club!

In this beautiful partnership, we aim to facilitate platforms for under-represented emerging musicians, artists, and writers in spaces that are safe, supportive, and affirming.

Jess Barry, a member of Out of Earshot’s Board of Directors, says:

“Out of Earshot is truly a community-driven celebration of music and art. We are constantly learning and are greatly inspired by the thought and care we see demonstrated by other independent festivals in their programming, their support for emerging artists, and their commitment to diversity and to experimentation. Out of Earshot is a change to make lasting friendships, to experience new perspectives, and to come together to celebrate the waysys in which we express ourselves and support each other.”

Similar to last year, not your boys club will be sharing pre-festival coverage highlighting and centering some of the femme, trans, and gender non-conforming folks that are organizing and performing at the festival.

During the festival, nybc will be present and provide media coverage for headlining touring musicians Prime Junk (MTL), Century Egg (HFX), Juice Girls (HFX), Pure Pressure (TO), Hélène Barbier (MTL), and Dregqueen (MTL), local musicians Worst Lay, Gossamer, Kira Sheppard, Weary, Ilia Nicoll and the Hot Toddies, Greta Warner, writers Violet Drake and Carmella Gray Cosgrove, and artists The Rock Vandal and Isha Watson [+ more !!].

Tickets are available online or at Toslow (183A Duckworth Street, St. John’s, NFLD).

OoE 2019 Poster


Contribution by Nik A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 3

Day three of Out of Earshot started mid-afternoon with an outdoor show. I arrived at Bannerman park with a dog named Soda and a rootbeer cherry slushee; it was a beautiful day to sit in the grass with pals and listen to music.

Sandwiched between Neil Conway and Dormitories was Renders (ON) – Kelly McMichael’s feminist electro pop project. Joined by her pal Maria Peddle (and later Claire Whitehead), they harmonized their vocals and had a captivatingly silly stage dynamic. Through dancing and high-fives, it was apparent how much fun they had playing music together, and through the lyrics of she’s badass, it was clear how meaningful Kelly’s friendships with non-men are to her.

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Photo by Krystal Morgan

Post-outdoor show, I walked downtown to get a coffee from an Out of Earshot sponser and partner, Fixed Coffee & Baking. With americano in hand, I made my way to the Eastern Edge gallery for a talk by Chris Murdoch (NS) called “Black Dots” about the history and experiences of African-Canadians/Americans in punk and hardcore music communities.

While the talk was informative as Chris traced the history of African-Canadian/American musicians in punk and hardcore, he also shared his lived experience as an African Nova Scotian listening to punk and participating in his respective community. He spoke about having to do what he called, “the racism check”, where he would have to ask whether the music he likes, likes him. He spoke about the ways in which seeing other African-Canadian/Americans participating in punk scenes encouraged him to do the same. He spoke about the alienation he felt from within both the (predominately white) punk scene and the African Nova Scotian community when he started playing in bands.

Throughout his talk he drew parallels to how womxn and trans people might also experience discrimination and alienation in music communities. Instead of the racism check, we do the sexism, misogyny, and transphobia check. We feel safer going to shows and playing on bills where other femme and gender non-conforming people have been booked. We often experience imposter syndrome participating in music communities where space is predominately taken up by cis-men.

It is so important to support local musicians in your community that are BIPoC, femme/non-binary, or identify as LGBTQIA2S+. Show up, buy their merch, book them at your shows – the more space they are given and visibility they receive, the more other marginalized folx who want to participate in music communities will feel safer to do so.

chris murdoch.JPG

Photo by Isobel McKenna

Meanwhile, in an alleyway nearby, a generator buzzed loudly as they set up for a sneaky punk/hardcore show – there is something special about the excitment you get for a show you anticipate will get shut down.

Worst Lay (NL) played the alleyway first. Renee Sharpe is an incredible front person; when I spoke with her for the Out of Earshot interview series, she shared with me that she’s always creating what she needs in the moment, and right now, she’s healing. Worst Lay, for her, is punk therapy. Although I was deeply impressed by her ability to repeatedly scream “destruction! love!” without breaking, I think that there was more to this performance than vocal stamina – it’s about surviving.

worst lay

Photo by Isobel McKenna

DOXX (ON) followed their set and as I was disappointed to have missed their set the previous night, I was thrilled to have a second chance to see their set. Stephanie Muise (“smuise”) wrote about their set the night before, “this was the first time DOXX played in Newfoundland and you can tell that it won’t be their last – they were the talk of the town”. She wasn’t wrong – Newfoundland loves DOXX. Everyone showed up again with a kind of excitement as if they hadn’t seen them the night before. They delivered what I assume was a set just as loud and fast as the night before; twice (maybe three times) Jess Barry (yee grlz) had to run in to pick up the crash cymbal that made it off of its stand.

doxx alley.JPG

Photo by Isobel McKenna

The generator powered down and everyone in the alleyway started to clear out; the late and final Out of Earshot show was up the street at Republic. Here we saw Conditioner, Hard Ticket, Doffing, and Surveillance.

Hard Ticket (NL) received a lot of warmth and support during their set as beloved member Meg Harnum (drums) is moving to Montreal and they won’t be playing a show together for awhile. While the support largely came from the crowd (you should have seen the bootleg Hard Ticket shirts Nicole’s (vocals/bass) parents made for themselves!!), much of the support was internal. This is a band that very obviously cares for and supports each other unconditionally.

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Photo by Isobel McKenna

As the final show of the festival came to a close there were many big feelings being tossed around. The organizers (Jess Barry, Sarah Harris, Nicole Boggan, Pepa Chan, Robin Follett, Riley Pike (they/them), Nicole Squires, Becky Gibson, and Maria Peddle) were celebrating an inaugural festival that went beyond just going well logistically. Between sharing and eating food together, supplying water bottles and phone chargers, having naloxone kits on hand, never turning anyone away for lack of funds, having both all ages and bar shows, providing accessibility information, and being some of the kindest folx I’ve ever met, they successfully created a positive, safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for artists and attendees.

❤ ❤ ❤


STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Nikki A. Basset