Imagine for a moment the wonder of going to the circus for the first time as a child. Now imagine that instead of a ringmaster and elephants, there were noise bands and Jewish drag queens. That sense of wonder, my friends, is what you can expect from the 22nd iteration of AS220’s Foo Fest.
Many are familiar with the storied history of the Fool’s Ball, the original incarnation of the Foo Fest back in 1995, though the culture and music of the 12-hour festival has evolved over time. Recently, this evolution stood front and center when AS220 dismissed headliner Sharon Needles back in May, due to her transphobic and racist media stunts that drew outrage in the Providence LGBTQ community.
While some debated whether AS220 was stomping on free speech, the seas calmed quickly when Jewish drag queen Annie B. Frank stepped up to emcee the evening and previous headliner Lightning Bolt, was asked to return.
And the vivacious Annie B. Frank and Lightning Bolt’s noise pollution certainly are major draws; however, the undercard is where audiences need to keep their eyes and ears for the next big act. With 22 bands appearing throughout the 12-hour span of 1pm to 1am, you may find yourself running down Empire Street to try and catch as many of these musicians as possible.
Glorified MVP and the best acquisition of the festival, Cakes Da Killa, is sure to be high priority for any music aficionado attending this year’s festival. Known for his raucous rapping style, wonderfully eclectic mixtapes and support of the LGBTQ community, Cakes Da Killa has garnered attention from Vice and MTV, making his RI appearance even more fabled to both fans and newcomers to his music.
Looking for unapologetic feminism with a dash of badassery? HOTT BOYZ is here to silence all naysayers with a supergroup collaboration between Roz Raskin of Roz and the Rice Cakes, Kate Jones of The Sugar Honey Iced Tea and Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS. Adding to this feminist dynamic is Jodi Jolt and The Volt, an electrifying ensemble fronted by the one and only Jodi Jolt, a gender-fluid individual who has given greatly to Providence’s queer community.
For those like myself who want to connect to their indie and alt-rock roots, Foo Fest will not disappoint. The Neutrinos, a quartet out of Attleboro, Massachusetts, are one of the many hidden gems in this year’s lineup with their early 2000s garage rock tone that is addictive as hell to witness in a live setting, especially at AS220. “AS220 is run by a bunch of people with their eyes and ears open all year long, whether it’s from playing in their own bands, booking their own shows or just plain being around the scene,” states a representative from The Neutrinos. “They’re probably playing close attention to which bands are getting people stoked, which obviously changes from year to year.”
Midriffs is also a personal favorite of mine from this year’s lineup due to my fascination with psych rock bands, though Midriffs throws this sound around and delves into a poppy atmosphere that feels ethereal upon first listening.
If you like to live outside the grain of indie rock and pop, you might succumb to the waves of rap or other percussive styles of music that speak softly to your auditory orifices. Tying into this, The Funk Underground brings Brooklyn underground rap to Li’l Rhody with big sounds and flair that is massive enough to fill a room. Speaking to worldly issues, The Funk Underground is rising like a phoenix and is bound to explode out of their basements and into clubs around the country. “We’re really happy Foo Fest continues to support artists of color and LGBTQ voices, and we’re here to show our state and our nation what kind of city Providence is,” said Sydesho, half of The Funk Underground.
Additionally, the Blackout Drum Squad enters their 3rd year of existence in a big way with a soulful take on New Orleans funk that is sure to have everyone on Empire Street getting down.
So whether you stay for an hour to catch your friend’s band or are looking for a family-friendly event that puts music front and center, Foo Fest is the epitome of parties and believe me, when this circus comes to town, you won’t want to miss it.