Phazefest: D.C.’s Queer Music Festival
Friday, Sept. 4
With Kiyomi Valentine, Marcus Webb, Frankie & Betty, the D.C. Kings and the #YASQUEEN Queer Dance Party with DJ Deedub
815 V St., N.W.
Saturday, Sept. 5
With Sick of Sarah, Michelle Raymond Band, Be Steadwell, Copmany Calls and the D.C. Gurly Show; and the Fannypack! Queer Dance Party
1811 14th St., N.W.
It was never a given that PhazeFest would return for a ninth installment.
The annual queer music festival, the brainchild of Angela Lombardi, was seemingly inextricably linked to its namesake — Phase 1, the famed lesbian Capitol Hill nightclub that has been a staple of local queer nightlife since it opened in 1970. For nine years, Lombardi managed the bar but things soured in recent years with her relationship with Phase 1 owner Allen Carroll. It reopened in late March after closing abruptly in January for renovations. (SIDEBAR: Phase 1 owner says community has final say on bar’s future)
PhaseFest, as it was initially known, started in 2006 and though always a small event, made a name for itself with acts like Hunter Valentine, Kaki King, MEN, Clinical Trials, Sick of Sarah and more. It typically draws between 500-600 attendees, some from out of town. In 2012 about 1,000 attended over the course of what was then a three-day event. Many acts return year after year. Though PhazeFest was typically always the last weekend of September, it’s slated for Labor Day weekend this year.
Lombardi has always championed the event as a platform and safe space for queer rockers. Though she now spends most of her time in Chico, Calif., where she works with her brother at the Maltese, a straight bar that also hosts gay events, she comes back to Washington monthly for lesbian parties she runs under the name Tang (formerly Scandal). When she was here in June for a series of Pride-related parties, she says it became obvious PhazeFest, as she spells it now, should continue.
“Several people asked me about it and I could tell it was really an event that meant a lot to a lot of people so I kind of thought if it was possible, then why not do it,” she says. “It’s a cool thing, it puts queer music out in the spotlight and I think it’s important to support queer artists on every level.”
Some of the fallout may prove fortuitous. With her Phase 1 connections fractured, Lombardi began exploring other venue possibilities. The Black Cat was an early given. Lombardi originally thought she’d have the Friday night event at Comet Ping Pong where she hosts her monthly parties but she learned just two weeks ago that the 9:30 Club had an opening for Sept. 4 and jumped on it.
“These are two of the best venues for live music in the whole city,” Lombardi says. “I guess it was kind of meant to be.”
That’s a boon for the Friday night lineup. Rachel Bauchman, lead singer of indie band Frankie & Betty, says she and her bandmates are “absolutely ecstatic” to play the famed venue.
“Playing the 9:30 Club is a dream for any musician,” the lesbian pop/rocker says. “This will be our fourth time playing PhazeFest and what Angela has done with this is just absolutely wonderful. It’s so inclusive and amazing. … We’re really freaking out. To play the same stage as so many great acts like Sleater-Kinney and so many musical legends is really great.”
But will it still feel like the PhazeFest of old in a new space? Lombardi says she’s not worried.
“I think people will enjoy it no matter what,” Lombardi says. “We’re able to offer all the amenities of being in the best venues in the city now with dressing rooms, pro sound checks, incredible PA systems. This is a level we’ve never been able to produce at before. I hope people will come out and support it. It’s something we feel is worth taking a chance on.”
She says changing the spelling from PhaseFest to PhazeFest was a subtle way to both give the event a spark of new life but also retain its history. Since she created the event, she says she has the right to continue it.
“This was always my thing,” she says. “I saw it as a quick and easy way to keep it going. … I’m not interested in ruffling any feathers.”
Carroll says it was “a shock” when he learned last week she was continuing the event at another location.
“I don’t mind her doing it, but I don’t know why she used our name,” he says. “That was our thing.”
Carroll says he does not plan to pursue legal action and will not try to stop her.
“I probably could if I wanted to, but I’m not going to say anything. Everyone knows it’s still on 8th Street. They know where it came from.”
Lombardi is looking forward to other changes as well. A dance party with DJ Deedub will start as soon as the performers are finished both nights. Space limitations at Phase 1 prevented that in previous years. Friday night is all ages at the 9:30 Club and Saturday night is 18 and up. Attendees had to be 21 and up to attend at Phase 1.
“We’re trying to make it super accessible,” she says. “There really will be something for everyone.”