Guest Columnist #88 - Ida Community

    The Mennonites at the mouth of our hollow would truly think they were homesteading at the Gates of Hell, if they knew what goes on a few miles deeper into the hills. Slug and Lettuce readers, on the other hand, will be pleased to know that a bunch of queer punx are whooping it up here at the Ida community in Middle Tennessee.
     These hot summer days it seems like you can’t spend enough time picking Japanese beetles off the blackberries, killing cabbage worms, chasing snakes out of the chicken coop, working on the totally exciting kitchen renovation, or beating the heat in the creek with a cold one—not to mention making wine and pies and checking out plans for a still (it’s still legal in Tennessee, as if anybody cared, to distill a ‘personal supply’ of the stuff).
    But enter the other big summer project: planning for the Ida Fruit Jam, the annual queer music festival that Ida’s hosting this September 18-24.
    In response to the huge influx of punx who have been coming to the festival in recent years, some of us have been finally pulling our heads out of our asses and trying to make good on the threat that “this year we’re actually gonna book some bands! Now wouldn’t it be great to complement the great diversity of performances at the Fruit Jam by rocking out with a bunch of fellow queer punk rockers to a bunch of queer punk bands?
    Having recently returned to the South after years living in Oakland, and relocating to the middle of the woods at that, I’ve struggled to think beyond my favorite west coast queer punk standards and do the fancy footwork to find some local-ish queer bands. The search has turned up a number of what I might call queer positive bands, who sport lovely lyrics about being gay but, how shall I put it, at the end of the day live in a primarily hetero world. It’s a delicate subject, looking into who is “actually queer”, and I’m not really interested in participating in the labels game at anyone else’s expense. If a band can have fun rocking and hanging out with the chaotic mix of wacked-out queerboes here at Ida, the ultimately that is all that matters to me.
    However, I do have a bit of a personal itch to scratch. I sincerely appreciate queer positive bands with 100 F-ing % of my little gay heart but honestly, who else out there feels like they have two groups of friends, the punx and the queers, and that rarely the twain shall meet? In Oakland, the people I rocked out with at shows were very queer-positive but largely straight, and many of the fantastic people I found real queer community with avoided those very same shows and house parties like the plague. What is that about? As a little exercise I counted the queers I’ve gone to shows with and came up with roughly 30 people across the US. Now if I am pals with 300 punx (I didn’t bother to count that!) then that’s 10% which is the textbook figure for the percentage of queer people in the US. Sweet! I don’t have a problem after all! I certainly cannot make a blanket statement about homophobia in the US punk scene, between Martin sweating it up so GAYly with Limpwrist, and all the support I have found for my queer ass in the parts of the punk world I’ve encountered. Neither am I trying to make anybody feel insecure about the people they like to screw, and I know that straight-looking relationships can be very, very queer between the sheets. But I also know that I have felt a bit lonely at times and that I feel extra motivated to rock out with a bunch of queer punx to some really mind-blowing bands this Ida Fruit Jam as a part of knocking that loneliness to fucking mars. No doubt I am not the only person who feels that way—I think what happens at the Fruit Jam keeps some of us going all year long.
    So, queer punx of the world, mark your calendars now for the Ida Fruit Jam, September 18-24, 2006. If you’re not already scribbling in your datebooks and booking mid-south tours to that feature Ida between Chattanooga and Asheville, let me tantalize you with tales of Fruit Jam madness: bonfire soirees in the creekbed; late-nite dance parties in the Farrah Fawcett Memorial Barn Breezeway; political burlesque on the “main stage” which is really a well-decorated extension of our farmhouse front porch; choosing between the fairytale gingerbread house shitter or the spaceship for your exquisite morning dump; waterfall hikes, caving, biking back roads to secret swimming holes; shacking up with a hot date (or two or three) in one of the barns. Think of the new heights in outfit greatness you can attain as the week builds from the intimate White Russian Kick-Off party in the dry creekbed Monday night (one of my favorite events, really, because it’s coated with anticipation of the exploits to come), towards the All Day Extravaganza on Saturday (which is long and flamboyant enough to sustain several transformations of drag fabulosity, actually).
    Consider yourselves invited to come on down here. If you want your band to play (and I don’t at the moment mean in the sling in the barn loft), get in touch sooner rather than later. And please come visit anytime. Ida is about 70 miles east of Nashville and is fairly easily accessible off I-40. 615-597-4409.
--by xxxarick,