BY Alexander Cho
April 11 2008 12:00 AM ET
Shaggy hair. Wispy goatees. Tight jeans. Strange forearm tattoos. No, it’s not Brooklyn or Echo Park -- it’s a party in a huge, shabby backyard on a sleepy residential street on the far east side of Austin. And those cute, shaggy, tattooed rock-and-roll boys dancing around in front of the stage? They’re actually girls. Or, more accurately, they’re somewhere in between.
It’s the last day of the annual mammoth music festival known as South by Southwest, but this grassroots rock show is called GayBiGayGay, a simultaneous nod to and dig at the mainstream festival that takes over downtown Austin a few miles away. Good vibes are flowing as freely as the all-you-can-drink beer ($10 for a refillable cup with your name on it in black marker), oversize sunglasses are everywhere, and a couple hundred pretty, gender-queer young things are busy flirting and dancing the afternoon away.
“GayBiGayGay is a queer music festival in the woods,” explains Silky Shoemaker, 25, who, together with Hazey Fairless, 27, organizes the event, now in its third year. “It’s a free, all-ages, all-day-long gay band event with an emphasis on being out of doors, lawn chairs, festive decor, DIY, nudity, satin, the utopia, and rock 'n' roll.”
There’s also an undoubted emphasis on disrupting binary gender norms -- it seems that we’re not supposed to be quite sure who’s doing whom when the femme, polka-dot-sporting lead singer of local band the Hot as Shits sings, “I love the feel of the wind on my tits / I can’t get enough of your ass on my clit.” But everyone cheers anyway.
That ambiguity is part of the point of GayBiGayGay, a festival that reflects a growing population of visibly gender-queer (or otherwise nonidentified) youths across the country. In fact, it seems that most of the people here have a problem with strict labels and, when pressed, claim “queer” as the only term that accurately describes them -- if you have to go there.