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Mould, Imperial Teen Get Bent

Seattle gay indie rock fest kicks off tonight

There’s extra cause for celebration at the second edition of
Seattle’s Bent Festival, starting tonight at the city’s Re-Bar
club. The four-day long event won’t just feature great indie rock
and good people, but also a renewed sense of optimism: This
morning, the Supreme Court shot down a seventeen-year-old Texas
ruling deeming “deviant sexual intercourse with another individual
of the same sex” unconstitutional in that state. The decision is
seen as a benchmark by human rights activists, one that could lead
the way toward future laws legalizing gay marriages.

This year’s Bent fest (scheduled to coincide with Seattle’s Gay
Pride weekend) will be considerably bigger and better than its
predecessor. Participating bands include Imperial Teen, Thalia
Zedek (formerly of Come and Live Skull) and Bob Mould. Mould —
ex-frontman for Sugar and Husker Du — planned his solo acoustic
tour around Bent. “I was just jumping at the opportunity when this
came up, because the Crocodile Cafe is an indie rock club, Seattle
is an indie rock town and it coincides with Pride weekend. Seattle
Pride has become much more inclusive.”

Bent is the first gay festival Mould has ever been involved
with, and he says his increased “out” visibility is both personally
and politically motivated. “As soon as I got asked, I knew it was
the right thing to do,” he says. “With the sodomy law, I think it
really is the time of recognition of the same sex union, of
validating, of getting the same rights as married couples have. I
just don’t want to have to jump through hoops every time my partner
of fourteen years gets sick or something happens, where married
couples just walk in and everything is implicit. If the
unenlightened straight world had any idea how difficult it is on a
day-to-day basis to negotiate things like that, I think they’d be
astonished.”

Bent co-founder Frank Nieto started the festival to satisfy a
different need. “When I came out,” he says. “I didn’t identify with
anybody musically. Most of the shit around was high-energy techno
music. It just drove me crazy! I knew that there were queer people
who played rock, and I was dying to see them.”

Nieto’s ideas solidified in 2001, when the Wotaplava Festival
was announced and then cancelled before it got off the ground. The
gay-themed tour (nixed after headliner Sinead O’Connor recanted her
lesbianism) was put together by the Pet Shop Boys. Wotaplava “just
seemed so fucking narrow-minded,” Nieto says. “It was all about
‘beats’ and ‘pretty.’ Why not challenge people?”

Using the resources at his then-day job booking the Crocodile,
Nieto got together with fellow promoter Dave Meinert and recruited
a handful of gay bands — including the Butchies, the Gossip and
Pansy Division — over the course of a week. The pair decided to
make it official and call it a festival, and Bent was born.

For Imperial Teen’s Roddy Bottum, it’s also a matter of personal
and political motivation. “Canada’s motion [to allow gay marriages]
only encourages further activity to push the cause,” he says. “To
bring what I do into focus to a specifically queer festival, that
feels really good, and it feels like it does make a difference. I
remember coming out to the media years ago [as the keyboardist for
Faith No More], it seemed like a real beacon to bring that into the
press, that I was gay. It didn’t seem like a real common thing. Now
it’s not exactly common, but there are more things all the time
that are furthering the gay movement, like Bent.”

Former Come/Live Skull frontwoman Thalia Zedek agrees that
attending Bent is more than just another night at a club for her.
“When I first came out, I realized that I didn’t have anything in
common with people in the bars, except that we were both gay,” she
says. “When I went to clubs, the music was definitely not what I
was into. The whole [Nineties] Homocore scene was really great — I
loved bands like Team Dresch and Tribe 8. When all that stuff came
out, people were identifying with each other as fellow queer punk
rockers, as opposed to just being different.”

Nieto plans to grow Bent through monthly gigs called Team Bent
— the only stipulation being that at least one member of each band
be gay, lesbian or transgendered. “There was this one parent who
brought her daughter down from Vancouver for an all-ages show,” he
says of last year’s fest. “She came up to me and said, ‘Thank you
for putting on the festival. You’ve given my daughter someplace to
go.’ It made me cry.”

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