By Karynn Brown
Oct. 5, 2017
This Saturday marks the fourth festival being hosted at The Bay this fall. Following the Skate Art Music Festival, Do-It-Ourselves Fest and Lincoln Calling, as Queerfest makes its debut at the venue.
Queerfest is spearheaded by Once a Pawn drummer and LGBTQ+ activist C Balta.
Featuring a lineup of completely local artists, Balta found overwhelming support for the festival’s ideals right here in Lincoln. This started with help from The Bay in finding a venue, and local organizations such as OUTLinc, Star City Pride and Verge. These groups helped provide the capital and expertise for stickers, buttons, t-shirts, banners and all the event’s promotion.
This support was key to truly allowing the festival to become what it is. Starting in the summer, Balta began reaching out to connections in the Lincoln and Omaha community to find bands and performers. Already familiar with the local music and LGTBQ+ community, he made a point to reach out to other types of performers in order to include all kinds of important expression in the event. Art and performance can be extremely powerful forces of expression as they give performers complete control of the room by taking on a key level of vulnerability. This unique openness between audience and performer can spark conversations and connections that might not happen anywhere else.
This hand-in-hand evolution of identity and art is part of the reason why the event has placed so much emphasis on the all-ages crowd. With no restrictions on age, the festival is aimed at giving the younger crowd a chance to truly express themselves in a community that might not be supported by their friends, family or high schools. Especially in smaller cities like Lincoln, resources and communities are hard to find outside of 18+ or 21+ venues and performances. This can make a lot of young people feel alienated in the lack of a like-minded community.
Queerfest attempts to break this mold by providing support and exposure to that group of youth. Balta was lucky to have found lots of support at ages 14 and 16, just getting started performing and coming out in Lincoln. He wants to pass on that feeling to the next generation of LGBTQ+ persons.
A love for poetry and a connection with the UNL Slam poetry team helped gather some of the event’s poets.
Doane University sophomore Foster Collins III has had an active part in the Louder Than A Bomb: Great Plains community throughout his career as a poet. This includes one video of his poetry receiving over 900 views on Youtube. Foster is excited to share two poems at the event, one which was used to come out to Southeast High School as a sophomore, and the other about his experiences with mental health.
Alma, Neb., native Anna Marie Stenka plans to perform a poem that speaks to her early experiences in relationships, struggling with emotion, anxiety, depression, and self-love. She said that poetry was a way to help cope with her emotions and accepting her sexual identity. She is excited to perform at Queerfest, “not only as a poet, but as a pansexual poet who takes pride in being a part of this fantastic community.”
The festival’s schedule includes six local slam poets, and eight local bands,which creates as much variety in genre as possible.
Many of the performers featured were recently present at Lincoln Calling, including headliners Plack Blague and Once a Pawn, as well as Histrionic. This lineup promises to range from introspective piano music by Leaves Brown, to the grunge punk rock of Histrionic, Once a Pawn and Ivisi, to the erratic and intriguing shouts of the Plastic Garbage duo. Such a variable lineup of performers hits at home with Queerfest’s message of all types of people and expressions. Part of the goals of the festival is to truly showcase some of the talent in Lincoln, and not allow artists to be pigeon-holed by their LGBTQ+ identity. Hosting such well-known local artists helps to achieve this by tying support for their music into support for the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s this very notion of using artistic platforms to create awareness and community that allowed Queerfest to flourish as an idea, and promises for a full day.
Find out more about Queerfest on the Facebook event page.
Karynn Borwn is an editorial intern with KZUM.