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by Vern Hester

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The Fed Up Collective threw its fourth annual festival July 28-30 at The Co-Prosperity Sphere in beautiful Bridgeport—and managed to redefine itself.

Regardless of the festival's focus on punk and the DIY aesthetic, this edition went on without a hitch while smoothly incorporating its pro-LGBTQ message in an organic way. If the three day blowout lacked the massive size and monetary splendor of other summer festivals, it still managed to entertain, educate, astonish, support and welcome everyone who came through the doors. For those who ever wondered what true "community" is, this festival is it.

In my coverage of the first three Fed Up Fests, I made the point that this particular festival—despite the punk flavor—is clearly the warmest, friendliest, most compassionate and queerest festival in this city. However, this edition managed to top the other three.

So, yes, there was a lot of punk rock ( 22 bands in all ), workshops aimed at creating a better life ( "Holistic Approaches to Combating Youth Homelessness," "Direct Action and Movement Building" ), a gallery of punk queer art, an ongoing vegetarian buffet, a children's play section, tons of zines and literature and, yes, oodles of queer and trans punks from everywhere. ( This time, there was a fan from Scotland, not to mention the many bands from Canada, New York, Nebraska and Michigan who drove in to participate. )

But that wasn't all: Two hot ticket events embraced queercore history and focused on the promise of an ever changing queer future. The first was a panel discussion on aging while queer/trans/intersex, moderated by Jill Flanagan and featuring panelists Jes Skolnik ( of the band Split Feet ), Martin Sorrondeguy ( of Limp Wrist and Los Crudos ), Travis Travis Travis ( of ONO ) and Mariam Bastani ( of Condenada and Permanent Ruin ). The second event was a punk-fashion-happening designed by Sky Cubacub and performed by more than 35 dancers, jugglers, personalities and singers.

If that seems like a packed schedule that's to say nothing of the music which—surprise, surprise—offered an eclectic palate of different flavors. There was the brittle percussive wail offered by Emily Wynn and Maya Khasin of Plastic Garbage, the out-of-control thunder of California rockers Inverts, the confrontational fury of Minneapolis band GAZM, the moody art-noise from V.E.X., the in-your-face rage of North Carolina band Cloudgayzer,- and the articulate rancor of new Chicago band Boney.

A major surprise was Blacker Face, a reformed band built from the ashes of the much-loved Atta Boi. This version skidded far beyond punk, giving vocalist Jolene Whatevr the chance to transform gutbucket soul and gospel into something disarming and altogether new. The corker was her slow-burning reading of her ballad "She's My Everything," which blew the lid off of the Saturday night festivities and had the throng singing.

Fed Up Fest has never presented itself as just a punk-homo-hootenanny, and this year's event benefited El Rescate, a Chicago-based organization in Humboldt Park that provides an array of services to queer and trans youth, particularly those of color. On top of that, representatives from Chicago House provided on-the-spot HIV/STD testing, and a number of organizations at the tables ( such as Rising Tide Chicago, For the People Collective, Brave Space Alliance, Black Rose/Rosa Negra, and Black and Pink Chicago ) offered information and services.

Clearly, Fed Up Fest is the most nutritious event of summertime in Chicago and, at a mere four years old, it has evolved into a something of a game-changer. Of all the city festivals that I have been to, this one feels more like community than any other to me.

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