March 20th marks the sixth anniversary of Austin, Texas’ GayBiGayGay, the homegrown extravaganza hosted by Hazey Fairless and Silky Shoemaker. As it has in the past, the free event will bring the week of SXSW to a close, but 2011 heralds a new locale for the gathering, and some wonder how the event itself might change. It all started in 2005, when hundreds of people piled into Hazey’s small East Austin backyard. There were so many that the following year, her neighbor Ken Rice took down his fence and generously offered his own yard for the festivities. Subsequently, as word of this free, queer backyard party spread, the crowd grew. And grew. Now that the party has officially outgrown Hazey and Ken’s place, Silky and Hazey have found a larger yard farther east that should do the trick. The party will be on a new piece of grass, but will it be the same piece of ass? Will it still have that bump and grind, the element of handjob behind the shed? Will it still lack “pretense”?
Sure, it can be depicted an all-day backyard festival with music, entertainment, and vendors, but that is merely a description in black and white. The GayBiGayGay remembered in this book is also hinted at by the participants in intangibles, as energy, and articulated in the language of feeling. “It’s got that spirit of making something happen,” perhaps “a ritual of sharing.” It is consistently intoned as magic, offering the potential for its congregation to come “together in the spirit of love for all things different and creative,” crowning the organizers as “very unique ministers” rather than the usual party planners. Last year, a straight Burning Man lady came up to me wearing a three-foot top hat and a black and white striped spandex onesie. She hugged me, unpinned the pin from her chest, and stuck it to mine. It read: Nobody Knows I’m a Real Boy. At GayBiGayGay, queer is cool; it is the queen for a day. That boy’s licking that other’s boy’s ass on-stage, I’m shaking my ass, that girl is eating a vegan calzone. It may not sound like it makes a lot of sense, but that’s GayBiGayGay. There is a sentiment that the old labels do not apply, the usual capital letters GLBTSFM. “For a place to be all queer-friendly and queer and for people to be able to be who they are without any restriction, just allows for...a more magical space.” Freak is the menu of the day, the hall pass, and a “ticket that says go for it...take that plane ride and see where it takes you, and go experience new things.” GayBiGayGay doesn’t have rules, because as an “estrogen fest” it self-regulates “classic Southern hospitality, with all these freaks thrown into the mix.”
GayBiGayGay is an environment. Yes it is a backyard, yes it is East Austin, and yes it is springtime. Perhaps, in the tradition of a pagan party of proclivity or communal festival, the party would never happen without the people. The party IS the people. As Butch County’s lead singer Katy Koonce says, “Everyone at GayBiGayGay is part of a performance.” There is a merging of participant and performer— the performer is in the yard, or the crowd is onstage or on rooftops, or the performer is on a roof then in the air, and then caught by the crowd. Here, the performative is embraced and everywhere there is color and tulle, fishhooks and rainbows, wigs and butt-plugs, as “colorful in spirit [as] to the eye.” It is a party without comparison, but with a sense of education, “it’s very festive, very free, wise. I want to say wise, because it’s very comfortable in and of itself ... it’s not trying to appeal to anyone else or please anyone else. It is what it is...” It is this fashion of GayBiGayGay that speaks to the feeling of transformation abundant in this backyard. It is as if GayBiGayGay offers more than music and beer; it offers the potential to be victorious beyond oneself, to transcend to trans-special, even. “The thing is, there’s little judgment and it’s just safe. Safe is sexy.” In that way GayBiGayGay is like the sex act, the hot fuck, a rush of endorphins, a higher high. If GayBiGayGay had a message, it would be to be BEYOND what you can be, as Silky says, “to boldly leap.” And it is that communal creativity that takes us there. That is how GayBiGayGay is comparable to ritual or ceremony; it offers “cultural sustainability.”
We take part in its creating and learn from it because it evolves differently every year like the weather, even though many of the elements are the same. “It’s about being able to have fun, and yeah, have fun, have sex, have good food and drink,” and to “evolve into a messy, sweaty mud pit of grinding bodies at the end of the night.” These words offer a history or, rather, a context where the event itself is imbued with a promise. Because the way GayBiGayGay will survive will be in each of us, it offers us the potential to say, I can do that. Let me try that... so, as a worldview I think GayBiGayGay...is pushing forth. It’s definitely helping us move forward in a healthy positive way.” As artist Rachael Shannon explains, the passing on of history is “how you...create a lineage” or a type of insurance that the spirit of GayBiGayGay will continue to shine. Iconic lesbian folk-singer Gretchen Phillips feels that the “dream...already exists and it’s chugging down the track and there’s a lot of younger people on that train.” GayBiGayGay has planted a cross-generational, cross-sexual orientational, cross-racial seed. And whether we gather together again, or not, get dirty and sweaty together again, or not, those of us who have been converted, who feel the spirit, will proselytize and offer testimony to a special Sunday afternoon whether in Hazey and Ken’s backyard, or not. GayBiGayGay is a “down-homey” manifestation of people, their passions and their skills, and if you ask me, the best party in town!
— Pilou Miller
Portraits Ben Aqua Party Photographs Amber Rademacher Interviews Morgan Coy Editing Diana Welch
Lettering Michelle Marchessault Diana Welch Jordan Abrams Design Morgan Coy Diana Welch Michelle Marchessault Layout Andy Smith Back Cover Photo Rachael Shannon
Okay, you have to close your eyes. Imagine you wake up at 11:30, 12 in the afternoon, and you take some morning poppers. Your friends come to get you in their beat-up Camry, and they drive you somewhere way out in East Austin. It’s looking like this kind of dinky, dusty neighborhood, and there’s starting to be some cars already lining up on the street. And they park the car, and you all fill up your arms with rafts and you step out of your car, you hop on to the raft, and it’s flowing down an emerald sea of grass, through this portal, and then you arrive in this landscape. Gretchen Phillips is on stage, improvising disco, there are topless girls with pasties cooking pizza with one hand and holding bloody menstrual rags in the other, and you land your raft somewhere towards the back, in a shady area. You pull out large Thermoses of cocktails, and then the daytime rave of Southern gay ambience begins.
I played the first SXSW in 1987, and it has always been a white-dude fest. I have no idea how old Hazey and Silky even were in 1987, and yet they’re the ones who finally figured out that there was a need for this. And, frankly, as somebody who basically sits around waiting for other people to come up with shit, I have to admire the fucking generosity of spirit of Hazey and her neighbor Ken to say, ‘Yeah, lets do this.’ You know: It’s not like I was going to have GBGG in my backyard.
I just go around my neighborhood and knock door-to-door, passing out a handmade flyer with my cell phone number on it. I tell everyone that weâ€™re having this party, and that if anybody parks in their driveway or something, to please call me before they call the cops. I tell them that there are going to be bands all day, tons of beer and food, and to please come and enjoy it. Last year, there were tons of neighbors there and they loved it. One of them even got up on stage and started dancing, this old guy, Mr. Miller, with his cane and everything. It was magic. It was amazing.
Mainly, what I was worried about was, “Oh, we’re going to have a huge amount of people and there’s going to be lots of roughhousin.” Actually, it’s more of an estrogen-fest. Kids show up and everything.
My son, Waylon, was there the first year I played. He sings a part in my song, “Hum Along,” that goes: I’m gonna... lay down my sword and shield down by the river side. He was four years old at the time, and he had gotten his face painted black and white, like a panda bear. So he jumps right up onstage with his panda bear make-up on and he sings his part right on cue. The whole place just went ape-shit. JD Samson from Le Tigre said to me, “That made me literally cry.” And I remember that I was sweating and singing down close to his face and so my face was all smeared with black-and-white face paint from his panda makeup. That was the ultimate, old KISS fan that I am.
The second year, I did a performance about queer community and the potential for community building. As I sat on top of a shed, all these gays were looking up at me, and the sun was setting, and I was talking about how we have to boldly leap into the future, so I jumped off the roof and everyone caught me, and crowd-surfed me to the stage. It was so amazing to look out at a sea of gay faces and then have them catch me.
GayBiGayGay is a special kind of gay rejoicing where people really have a profound experience. Some friends from San Francisco came last year and were like: This is the best gay party we have ever been to! And they wanted to come back. I think it occupies a very specific place on the queer calendar. It makes me proud to be a part of it and to get to celebrate those things that are hard to tell people about, like: What is it about how we live? Why are we here? Why is it in Texas? I feel like it does a great job of saying some of that. People feel the authenticity of our community—the kind of freedom and the bonds we have, and what we can do. It’s a ritual of sharing.
It really feels alive there. It is bubbling over the top with fucking life. It’s utopian. It’s ritual. And we’ve claimed it as such. In a way, it is church and it is cleansing. It’s almost religious in a way. Like, yes, this is what it’s supposed to be: Acceptance and freedom and all that.
GayBiGayGay is a baby that’s getting old. The baby’s growing up, the baby’s getting bigger. So how do we keep that baby safe, keep that baby smart and keep that baby kind? That’s the kind of fear I feel when I see it getting bigger. I want to nurture that thing and keep it good. And I don’t think that’s a dangerous kind of fear and I don’t think its a threatening fear. I just think it’s a natural fear for something you love.
There were like 800 people there last year, and nothing bad happened – maybe someone lost a hoodie. But it takes a lot, and I know that both Hazey and Silky want the festival to retain its initial goals of being outdoors and being free, but I wonder what’s going to happen. I’m curious to see: Will it lose some of its innocence? Will it become something else?
Silky Shoemaker is a gay living in Texas, making art and organizing events. She was co-founder of the monthly queer performance night CampCamp! and is the CEO of Gaybigaygay. Hazey Fairless is the other CEO of Gaybigaygay. After living in Austin for 8+ years she moved to Philadelphia to pursue the next chapter in life. As a metal artist, leather tooler, child caretaker, and firework exploder, she is always ready for new adventures. Hazey is a lover and a fighter for you and for fun. Paul Soileau is an actor, a writer of songs, a collector of crap art, and a drag terrorist. He is best known for his alter egos Rebecca Havemeyer (rebeccahavemeyer.com), an ageless bastard heiress of the boozie bygone Hollywood years, and CHRISTEENE (christeene.org), a sexually infused sewer of live rap and vile shamelessness. Katy Koonce is the front person for the Austin, Texas queer rock band Butch County. Koonce came alive on the stage of GayBiGayGay in 2008 and has played every year since. Formerly a member of Raunchy
Reckless and the Amazons, Koonce shrinks heads for a day job but keeps the “queer rock love” alive by night. Check out butchcounty.com for show dates. Amber Rademacher is a photographer and a lover of all things debauched, living and working in Austin, Texas. Ken Rice is just one of those guys that seems to be in the right place at the right time. Being Hazey’s next-door neighbor afforded him the opportunity to become a self-appointed honorary lesbian and cohost of GayBiGayGay. His “it’s all good” attitude and inability to say “no” opened his backyard to hundreds of people, in spite of his wife’s reservations. Gretchen Phillips is a native Texan whose first album, Meat Joy, came out in 1984 and whose most recent album with Phillips&Driver comes out in 2011. Stops in between include Two Nice Girls, Girls In The Nose, Blobbie, The Gretchen Phillips Xperience and Gretchen’s Disco Plague (It’s Infectious!). Gretchen-Phillips.com Rachael Shannon is a native Texan and queer artist, whose 2nd-generation-city-dwelling blood is fondly stirred by running free and naked in the woods. Her parallel lives include work with Redstart Paint Design, The H2Hos, Raunchy Reckless and the Amazons, Girls Rock Camp Austin and The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. She enjoys hoarding wood and tapping the rainbow worldwide. Lynne T keeps busy in Montreal as lead singer of Lesbians on Ecstasy, a DJ-about-town, and a sound recordist. She’s been running the sound board and DJing at GayBiGayGay since the very beginning. She looks great in leather pants!
GayBiGayGay Mixtape Track Listing
From the Album
1. Kitchen Sink
Fruits Commonly Mistaken for Vegetables
2. Ouija Boardin’
3. Sugarloaf Mountain
Soldier of Pleasure EP
6. I’m Da Best (Album Version)
Shunda K (feat. Shon B)
I’m Da Best (Maxi-Single)
7. She Likes to Party
Lesbians on Extacy (feat. Big Freeda)
8. Fascination (Across the Nation) MVSCLZ
Feel Like Yourself Again EP
9. Wait and See
The Tuna Helpers
I’ll Have What She’s Having
10. Heavy Evidence (demo vrsn)
11. Lines & Hooks
My Dear One
12. Reluctant Butch
Phillips & Driver
Disco Dance Party 2000
13. Sloppy Kisses
Carletta Sue Kay
All rights reserved ©2010 Great Hereafter Music, Ellie Erickson Music, Bianca Sparta Music From the album The Most Wanted (CD) Fanatic Records Pink House Records
Katy Koonce/Rachael Shannon, respectively Hazey Fairless
Katy Koonce/Paul Soileau, respectively Amber Rademacher Amber Rademacher
Ken Rice/Lynne Trepanier, respectively
Silky Shoemaker/Lynn Trepanier, respectively
Amber Rademacher Quote by Hazey Fairless w/sentiment paraphrased from Rachael Shannon