Artists and musicians like to think of themselves and their spaces as “safe” — no dress codes, no judgment, no problem. However, no matter how liberal white and/or heterosexual dudes claim themselves to be, anyone who falls outside of the clique still struggles to fit in.
Queer performer and event organizer MonteQarlo has seen the lack of diversity in Atlanta’s scene for too long. “I would go to different events, whether it was a random drag show, a show at Apache, a house party, a gallery opening, or a gig on Edgewood,” they told Immersive over email, “and [I’d] constantly ask myself 3 main questions, Where’s the Q&TPOC talent? Where’s the variety in the art? And where’s the food?!’ I decided I wanted to plan an event that answered all those questions and then some.”
MonteQarlo’s answer is CLUTCH, a night of vibrant music that spotlights queer and trans people of color. Hosted by Southern Fried Queer Pride, the event offers a platform and safe haven for individuals that have been edged out of the scene. “Queer spaces in Atlanta are still too white and wrapped up in tired patriarchal, heteronormative respectability politics,” MonteQarlo explains. “Whether it’s the anti-black policies at Blake’s, the unnecessarily heavy security presence at Jungle, or the rampant hyper-masculine promotion material used to advertise events, the bar has been set too low.”
To counter these exclusive clubs, MonteQarlo curated a bill for CLUTCH that reflects all shapes and colors in the queer and trans community. And with artists like the nonbinary collective of LONER, DJs like Cardomami and ^M^RYLL^H GOLD, and multimedia acts like KoochiKoochiKu, the night promises a refreshing range of talent, too. Plus, there’ll be grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone from local caterer GrilledCheesePapi.
Where most gigs charge a flat (and sometimes exorbitant) cover charge, MonteQarlo and SFQP present CLUTCH with a “sliding scale” fee, ranging from $8 to $25. “Southern Fried Queer Pride recognizes that people aren’t always able to pay the suggested price for our events, but we still want these folx to come out and have a great time,” they says. “Particularly for an event like CLUTCH, that’s meant to be an escape from the daily anxiety that comes with being Q&TPOC in Trump America, we want as many people as possible to come join in the fun.”
With luck, CLUTCH should be the first in an ongoing series of efforts to create spaces for anyone marginalized by traditional queer clubs and venues. “The established institutions in the scene need to actively and genuinely work to be more inclusive,” says MonteQarlo. “Femme-centric, trans-centric, fat-centric, alladat. If they don’t, it’s fine. We’ll just continue to steal their business.”
Ahead of tomorrow night’s event at Mammal Gallery, we talked to some of the artists at CLUTCH, and discussed how they got involved in music, why this event resonates with them, and what challenges they hope to overcome. Those answers are below.
Briefly introduce yourself – your real name, stage name, gender identity, day job, creative endeavors/projects, any other basic facts we should know.
MQ: MonteQarlo, masc-presenting genderless sylph. Full-time organizer, music maker, and indie pornographer. Part-time barista. New single “Melt” coming out later this month, followed by a new, yet untitled mixtape.
TAYLOR ALXNDR: My name is TAYLOR ALXNDR. They/them or she pronouns. I don’t have a gender because those are outdated like floppy discs. I’m a DIY musician and community organizer when I wake up and when I go to sleep.
Joshua Loner: Joshua Loner of the band LONER. Yes it’s my real name. But my band is six people and at least three or four of us are communists so hopefully they kick me out one day but keep the name. I’m non-binary not only in gender orientation but I strive to attain a true non-binary perspective in every aspect of my life and thought. All phenomenal existence is the confluence of a multitude of forces. Nothing can be truly understood in isolation, or when positioned within a binary system of logic. That’s too constrictive.
On drums we have the fantastic Chris Gravely. He’s got a degree in contemporary percussion. We rehearse out of his practice space in the Eyedrum building. Carolyn Reis plays the flute. She works on a local farm and does social work. Shae Edman is on vocals. They graduated this year from GSU’s photo program. They do performance and visual art as well as music. Kassle Molinar is our tenor saxophonist. Originally from California, he almost convinced us all to move out there yesterday. Chava Flax is a longtime friend of mine and plays music seven days a week in one of their four bands.
When and how did you get into music?
MQ: I started singing when in the choir in elementary school and I was so shy that I couldn’t sing in front of anyone besides my dog until I was around 13. Then I starting writing and coming up with arrangements and I’ve been winging it ever since.
TA: I’ve been singing since I was 4. I use to go on local tours in my hometown of Griffin, Ga. I started making music in high school with a mp3 player on which I would layer my voice and beatbox. I’ve been making music seriously for about a year and a half.
JL: I was raised Catholic, so I was involved in church choirs from a young age. My mother, sister, and grandmother all sing, and I learned harmony singing along with them in the car. My family travelled a lot when I was young.
I began writing my own music at 15-years-old. I dropped out of high school at 17 because I enjoyed playing music more. I didn’t really get very far. I was in various bands but none of them ever gained traction. I can feel it with this project, though. It’s been magic since the moment we began playing together. One day I just phoned up everyone (we’ve had a few lineup changes since then) and we crammed into the space and started to jam. We’ve been improvising on that theme ever since.
What do you hope to achieve/express with your music?
MQ: Hopefully I can trick enough people into buying my music to buy my mom a nice house and get my dad an actual Monte Carlo. Everything after that is just a bonus.
TA: My music is a reflection of my life — my politics, my experiences, and my inner thoughts. If I can make people feel and make people dance, then my job is done.
JL: Political dissidence. Personal turmoil. The spectrum of human emotion. Hope. Most of our waking lives are spent doing things we don’t want to do, but rather need to do. We perceive so much of our actions to be the result of free will, but my forty-hour work week has nothing to do with freedom. I must eat. I must pay rent. These are the material realities of late stage capitalism. I didn’t write those rules personally, that’s not my world. But I live in it and must abide by these parameters to function as a being.
In the fantastical realm of art, you can do whatever you want to do! In the world of art, rules are best when they’re broken! The truest truths ring out from the fragments of deconstructed order! We can lay waste to the crystallized masses of concrete that loom above! We can build an idealist utopia that projects out perpendicular from the fallibility of human nature!
In my idealist utopia, every mouth is fed and there are jewels on the tip of every tongue. Every mind is fed and every thought is breathed into being. Computers do all the redundant labor and humans are free to be the pure, creative beings we were destined to be.
As my hero Bob Ross would say: “This is your world. You can do anything you want to here.” But shit. Bob Ross couldn’t even afford a haircut before he got paid to paint for the camera.
How did you first get involved with SFQP?
MQ: TAYLOR ALXNDR invited me to perform during the last Sweet Tea Festival and has been stuck with me since.
TA: I actually co-founded Southern Fried Queer Pride, and I’m the executive director. SFQP was started to address the lack of outlets for Southern queer and trans folks.
JL: CLUTCH is actually our second event with SFQP. Ironically, our first one was on January 19: Sweet Tea at Eyedrum.
What challenges have you experienced as a queer artist?
MQ: There are not nearly enough role models and way too many rules to break.
TA: I think one of the early challenges is finding your place in playing shows. Since I’m openly queer and trans and often perform in drag, that often leads to confusion as to where I belong. But besides that, the biggest challenge is money.
JL: Answering questions like this one. I feel like conflating my own gender and sexual identity with my artistic identity is very dangerous. I’ll quote The Writer from Tarkovsky’s film Stalker:
“You put your soul in it, you put your heart in it — they will devour both the soul and the heart. You extract the baseness out of the soul — they devour the baseness. All to the last of them are literate; every one of them has a sensory hunger… And I did think that somebody became better because of my books. But nobody needs me! I will croak, and in two days they will forget me and begin devouring somebody else. For I wanted to remake them, but I myself was remade! In their own image.”
I fear consumption, and I fear being consumed.
When I came out, I was carless and my home didn’t have plumbing or appliances in it. So I was out on the street constantly. During that time, I was catcalled by both men and women. I was sexually objectified in a way that I had previously been unaccustomed to, having been read as a man all my life. I was treated as a commodity to be consumed like coke off a key. The act of feminizing myself established me within the patriarchal order, not as a wielder of power, but a threat to it. Not a subject, but an object. Men didn’t know whether they wanted to fight me or fuck me. I find this simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.
Every time I’m near Inman Park, or Ponce City Market, or any other insufferably glitzy haven of WASP anarcho capitalism, I catch a really masculine looking dad in a polo shirt with a solid tan looking at my ass. Always the same story: he’s always clutching his family closer to him, so they don’t become infected with my stigma, because he can’t fathom a world outside of the Great Sacred Binary. But somehow, he simultaneously questions his own capacity to make love to someone like me. Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug.
Through the hate in his gaze, I perceive the most tenuous thread of regret and anguish. Regret that he was too stubborn, too hardened by the rugged, weathering forces of masculine protocol to acknowledge the existence of the woman who lives within him, too.
What’s next for you?
TA: I’m aiming to drop “Nightwork,” the lead single from my EP, by the end of the month, with a music video coming in February.
JL: We’re recording an album with Danny Bailey of Faun and a Pan Flute out of Broad Street Visitor’s Center. His special touch has honestly breathed new life into these songs and actualized a form that is beyond my wildest imaginings. Look out for that this summer. Then, we’re going to buy a bus and we’re going to tour. If I have it my way, we’ll never land. Because this is your world. You can do anything you want to here.
Southern Fried Queer Pride Presents CLUTCH takes place tomorrow night, January 21, at Mammal Gallery. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is on a sliding scale from $8 to $25.