Bratmobile, Le Tigre, JJ Fad and more celebrate diversity in California
Even with reunions by not just our chosen family moms in Bratmobile —with Tiger Trap and Go Sailor’s Rose Melberg filling in on guitar— but also garage-punk notables The Rondelles, Mika Miko and Gravy Train!!!, a typical live review of this year’s Mosswood Meltdown (held July 1-2 in Oakland, CA) wouldn’t do the specialness of the event justice.
Nor would a blow-by-blow of what’ll surely stand as a tentpole set of Le Tigre’s comeback, an appreciation of worldwide transcore game-changers Twompsax’s two hometown swan songs or live reviews of deserved hype bands du jour (Snooper, Morgan and the Organ Donors), legends beyond the loose constraints of what the fuck punk even means (ESG, JJ Fad) and relative unknowns you should know (Brower, Warp).
Instead, praise of Mosswood Meltdown should focus solely on how a multi-day event properly celebrated diversity and fostered a safe space after 30 days of eye-rolls over rainbow capitalism and performative allyship. This event —and anything involving our host with the most and the pope of non-problematic filth himself, John Waters— is a kiss-off to all that; not by obnoxiously thumbing its nose at what’s fallen way short lately for the LGBTQ+ community but by putting its all into maintaining an inclusive and delightfully bizarre playground for the outcasts of the outcasts.
The specialness of not just the lineup but the overall vibe of the weekend hit home on a personal level. I’m a freshly-out transgender woman, living in Middle Tennessee and playing a tiny part in making things slightly more tolerable on the home front by booking the Nashville Transcore series of DIY shows for acts with trans and nonbinary members. Throwing a pity party about maneuvering a society that’s become both smaller and more of a big, scary place while in the Deep South is tempting, but lyrics by Twompsax singer and Bay Area native Cher Strauberry about how unnerving it can be for her to simply walk to a corner store to grab a pack of Newports coldly reminds me that such fears would follow any trans person to Oakland, Brooklyn or any other city with a bustling, queer-friendly punk scene. Head on a swivel is the name of the game, sadly, unless you’re lucky enough to attend something like the Mosswood Meltdown.
Two days spent at Mosswood Park felt like being dropped off on the right planet, for a change. If you’re like me, you won’t find more folks per capita like you —meaning not just that they’re trans but also that they know how to dress and have impeccable music taste— outside of Mosswood’s early July declaration of independence. Better yet, everyone seemed welcoming. No one in the porta-potty or pizza-by-the-slice lines came across at any point like they were a wild hair up their ass away from saying or doing something out of line. Not sweating that felt every bit as liberating as watching Strauberry bounce onto the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse-themed amphitheater stage to duet “Cool Schmool” with one of my fashion inspos, Bratmobile singer Allison Wolfe. (On that note, please teach us all your secrets, Mosswood Meltdown, for growing a festival while keeping the riff-raff out.)
I only attended one of the weekend’s after-shows: the second of two Twompsax farewell sets, hosted Saturday night at Thee Stork Club. Again, I’m new at this, but I’ve never been around more my-age people that totally would’ve embraced an aging, punk bitch if I hadn’t been beyond exhausted by 2 a.m. thanks to delayed jet lag and the time zone difference.
Not everyone wants to go clubbing —for those that feel otherwise, please support those valuable and safe community spaces and ignore us gatekeeping snobs. If that kind of thing doesn’t appeal to you and punk means as much for your identity as anything else that makes you different, celebrate your fabulous self with others like you next July 4th weekend in Mosswood.
VIDEO: Le Tigre “TKO (Closed Captioned)”