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PHASEFEST 2012: Free Spirited Rock for the Ages

Members of Vanity Theft

Phase 1 hosts 6th annual celebration of queer music and arts

From September 20 to 22, Phasefest, an annual queer music and arts festival, rocks out and celebrates its sixth year at Phase 1 Capitol Hill—the oldest, continually operating lesbian bar in the nation. The diverse entertainment comprises more than 20 acts.

“Phasefest is dedicated to the development, exposure and interaction of queer and queer-allied musicians, both local and national,” explains Angela Lombardi, the festival’s organizer/producer and Phase 1’s manager. “Having a safe space to celebrate queer music is vital, and we couldn’t be prouder to host so many talented rockers!”


She is stoked about this year’s lineup. “Bitch is coming back to headline on Thursday night, with Athens Boys Choir in the mix, as well. People at Parties  —  a super-rad group  —  headlines on Friday. And Hunter Valentine, also a favorite, closes out the festival on Saturday.”

A quick click on the performers’ websites reveals much more information than space allows. Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store, especially for first-time attendees.

Front-woman/vocalist Bitch is a virtuoso on electric violin, while her rhythmic Alligator keeps the beat for the indie-electro band. Athens Boys Choir is not a choir, but rather a trans man named Katz from the Deep South. This political activist delivers clever “sermons,” often with a hip-hop flair, and no topic is off-limits.

Vocals, synthesizer and drums produce the mesmerizing alternative/new wave tunes of People at Parties and the raucous rockers of Hunter Valentine, currently star on Showtime’s third season of The Real L Word. Sharing the spotlight on The Real L Word is dark and dauntless Clinical Trials, another popular Phasefest act performing this year.

Hunter Valentine

Many local faves are returning to the Phase 1 stage. Glitterlust, “a queer electro/dancerock band,” leaves behind “nothing but sweat, stains, and sequins.” Since 2009, The Lost Bois have been challenging “the sexist, racist, and homophobic hot mess that is mainstream music” through their own style of “queer hip-pop” and a meld of old school, jazz, pop and soul.

Look for some newcomers, too. Among them is Vanity Theft, an all-girl alternative-rock band originally from Dayton, Ohio. Their “edgy pop sound” keeps fans dancing from coast to coast. The Sexual Side Effects is another. This charismatic quartet hails from Atlanta and blends Britpop, post-punk and ’70s glam rock into a theatrical spectacle. Also making a Phasefest debut is Drop Electric, with roots in both D.C. and New York. Live performances of this experimental rock band combine “evocative music, unique vocals and narrative film.”

Lombardi estimates that throughout the festival’s three days, the eclectic mix of performers will draw about 800 fans. Familiar faces, both onstage and in the audience, contribute to Phasefest’s popularity and longevity. “One of the most exciting things about Phasefest is the relationship we have developed with the bands who come back year after year,” beams Lombardi. “Watching those who started as openers eventually become headliners is really something.”

The festival itself has evolved since it premiered in 2007. “Many amazing people have helped make Phasefest what it is today,” Lombardi notes. For the past three years, she has been responsible for the majority of the details, aided by her “rockin’ longtime staff at The Original Phase.”

Lombardi admits that choosing the acts is probably the most difficult part of the planning process, although turning down those she can’t fit into the lineup is also tough. “Trying to find that awesome balance between local and national acts that I feel best represents the LGBTQ music scene at that time is a challenge. I also want to ensure that we have a nice variety—from rock’n’roll to electronic to hip-hop and other genres.”

While it might appear that the emphasis is on music, the festival also supports crafters, artists, performance artists, activists and comedians. Members of the gender-bending D.C. Kings and the tassel-twirling D.C. Gurly Show have taken the stage, along with other creative individuals. Venture onto the back patio to explore the vendor area, which typically features original artwork, queer-themed T-shirts, and unique accessories, among other wares.

“This year, we’re collaborating with local artist Lisa Marie Thalhammer to create a special series of portraits of featured performers,” Lombardi shares. Lisa Marie’s signature style incorporates a bold use of color, and she distorts the proportions of her female subjects to help depict their “sharp, tough femininity.” Just glance at the walls of Phase 1 for examples—if you can see them through the crowd.

Find out more about Phasefest at