An alternative to Pride? Shaun Ponsonby thinks that Queer Rrriot was not only a rousing success, but that it is imperative that it continues.
I’ve always had difficulty with Pride. Walking through town on my way to Foxy’s Lomax proved why – all a little clichéd, like it is an “acceptable face” of queer culture. Walking past hen parties doesn’t help matters either.
There has been a need for an alternative. A group of people celebrating queer culture without the trappings of needing to appeal to the masses. So while Atomic Kitten were playing the main Pride event behind St. Geroge’s Hall, Foxy’s Lomax were hosting the most alternative event of all.
All you need to know about Queer Rrriot from a technical point of view can be seen in our preview article (click here to read), and the event itself reached all expectations.
I personally wasn’t prepared for the sense of relief I felt when we had made it inside. This was very different from the main event, and you could feel it. It actually felt like people had gathered for a cause, which I can’t confidently say is the case for the main Pride event. It also felt more laid back, less regimented.
The afternoon was more artistic. Poetry was read by transgender poets, people took part in graffiti art, an open mic section and there was even a clothes swap.
When the music started in the evening, it was far superior to what was happening streets away from us. We entered towards the end of Campbell L Sangster’s fine solo acoustic set, but the following Qfolk was a mini-revelation. Taking the stage in one of the more eye-catching outfits of the day, Qfolk announced being non-binary, before launching into a song called Toxic Masculinity, which almost felt like a defining statement.
Despite the campiness of the image, Qfolk sings with a gruff voice. Bios state that the sound is reminiscent of Tom Waits, but I would sooner compare it to Chuck Ragan. Ragan started out in punk band Hot Water Music before becoming a folk-punk musician. His gravelly voiced delivery and powerful presence feel like the height of an almost stereotypical masculinity. For Qfolk to turn this on its head is as subversive as one could expect.
Tuck and The Binders came over from Manchester for the event. Frontperson Indy told a few cheesy jokes about gender identification, but they were at their best at their most politically charged, with one song calling out the London club G-A-Y for being transphobic and racist.
The headliners of the night are one of Planet Slop’s very favourite bands. Queen Zee & The Sasstones have been causing a stir, and with good reason. Despite queer issues being at their forefront, they are ultimately just an incredible punk band, ripping up any rule standing in their way, and finding an audience who love them for it.
That audience just seems to grow and grow. We eyed a number of Sasstones T-shirts being worn. Zee was wearing a crown, and this felt like coronation amongst their own people. Opening with new single Sass or Die ensured they held the crows in the palm of their hand immediately.
It was their first performance as a five-piece (their line-up does fluctuate somewhat!), but you wouldn’t have guessed it. It wasn’t polished, it was raw, exciting, in your face, and fuck you if you don’t like it.
They pulled out covers – Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time and Electric Six’s Gay Bar, for which Zee removed the bottom of her outfit (the top was already long gone) and playfully smacked her own behind. But they didn’t need the covers, they picked songs that said something about them. They weren’t relying on them for cheap thrills.
— Planet Slop (@PlanetSlop) July 29, 2017
It was a freeing, aggressive, sexually charged performance that you could put up against the greatest live acts in history. This isn’t a band, it’s a movement.
One person who had never seen them before turned to us after the set, speechless. I have never seen her speechless in the whole time I have known her.
It sounds like insane hyperbole, but Queen Zee & The Sasstones could easily make it to cult icon status. And if you think that is jumping the gun a little, consider that before they made it to the stage, we got word that alternative queer club night Sonic Yootha was using their image on the walls of their Pride special, a space reserved for icons.
Queer Rrriot is in its infancy, but we felt like we were in the coolest place at Pride. The people who were there were the people who really wanted to be there, and it is such an uncommercial ethos, that it is unlikely to be spoiled by an influx of people who don’t understand it.
In a lot of ways, the queer scene in Liverpool has a very narrow purview and doesn’t cater for a wide enough net of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Events like Queer Rrriot popping up can only be a good thing, and when they’re done this brilliantly, there is no way they can falter.
It is imperative that this becomes a regular thing.
— Shaun Ponsonby (@CosmicSlopper) July 31, 2017
Photos by Vicky Pea