Manifest, a two-day and three-venue showcase of queer, trans, and gender non-conforming artists from around the Triangle (with a few select guests from out of state), successfully concluded its third year this October. The most well-attended yet, Manifest III was an exceptionally well-organized and thoughtfully curated event series.
On both days, at all three venues (Local 506, The Cave, Nightlight), Durham Beat was on the ground to cover as many of the acts as possible.
I (The Editor) was stationed for the most part at Nightlight, although I did QUITE a bit of running around between the venues. If you attended, then you probably saw me, camera dangling, moseying around in my super dapper five-panel black hat with red roses on it.
One of our staffers, Riley the Photographer, performed at Manifest as a member of two acts on the lineup, Sidewalk Furniture and Severed Fingers, while also running around taking tons of excellent photos.
And of course, the always groovy and exceptionally stylish Zoe (who recently covered the Free Things Festival) spent her two days at Manifest roaming between The Cave and Local 506. Together we have composed a comprehensive two-part writeup to go with numerous photo series (on Instagram) documenting as many sets as we were able to see. Each section is signed by its author.
MANIFEST III DAY ONE
Noise from Spookstina opened the Nightlight stage on the first night of Manifest. As she began her set in the dark room, I flipped open my notepad, took hold of my tiny pencil, and started writing. I kept writing throughout her set. I couldn’t see the pages but I knew I was attaching words to them. Afterwards I read what I had written and, to my surprise, discovered that I had composed a poem right there in the dark during her set. Thus I present to you now my stanzaic coverage of Spookstina’s set…
and a triangle
and a slaughter-
house of noise
out of me
break me with
a million little
pecks of noise each
meaningless on their own
a cacophonous wave
a horde of sound
a crescendo of magic
wake me from
don’t make me
take this wire and
connect me to chaos
make me see
me in dark light
leave no don’t
write poetry the
masses will not
wind up toy
like rain shushing
me into a wakeful
dream gaze make
me make noise come
out of a pencil
came not for the
poetry of others
only for noise
BANG CLACK THUD
turn the bucket over
dump the noise
into the street and
let the people
they were or could
have been another
day will not do
tomorrow is not
you are a noise mechanic
i can scream like
the other day in
my car alone i
hear it now–
the noise catharsis
of my everyday
all the way to the static end
H.C. McEntire, the vocalist of indie-alt band Mount Moriah, took the stage and announced that she would be performing solo. Some people (The Editor) might like their music with a bit of crunch, but I like mine soft. I have a weakness for artists that wear their hearts on their sleeves. Not wanting to neglect my duties to the Beat, I snapped pictures in between sips of whiskey.
“I have found heaven in a woman’s touch
Come to me now
I’ll make you blush”
This may be the first time in my life that I’ve gotten chills from a live performance.
Anyone who has been regularly reading Durham Beat knows that I struggle with electronic music. Just the other day, a few days before Manifest, I had a very frank discussion about it with my friend Cool Boy 36. He told me the only thing about my Moogfest Zine that he didn’t like was that I kept calling all of the artists “DJs” when most are in fact musicians making electronic music live, like any other performing artist plays their instrument live. I understood, conceptually, what he meant and proceeded to remind him that I wholly admitted my ignorance in the very first chapter of that whirlwind story. Of course, everyone who has read the Moog Zine knows it wasn’t really about the music. Still, our conversation lingered at the forefront of my mind as I prepared to cover Manifest.
The glow from Spookstina’s set still cloaked me when Sand Pact took the stage. That glow would blossom into joy as the set unfolded. It was during Sand Pact’s set that I finally understood what Cool Boy meant when he was talking about “making it live.” Electronic musicians simply use different instruments. While this may seem like an obvious realization to those of you familiar with electronic, for me, coming from a much more traditional background in music, having been raised and trained in music by a purist (Hi, Dad!), recognizing electronic’s elaborate equipment as musical instruments (the way a piano and a trumpet are instruments) as opposed to tools playing something prerecorded–this was an epiphany for me. The nature of Sand Pact’s set made this moment of awakening a seamless experience. There I was, standing at the front of the crowd at Nightlight getting schooled.
An electronic duo, Sand Pact redefine what “playing together” looks like. Passing back and forth one set of headphones between them, Sand Pact is a team effort, each one taking turns to crush ears, lay down crunchy beats, and manipulate live noise into live music. Yes, dear reader, I did in fact dance during their set. Me and my clunky camera sweat out a good deal of anxiety on this night.
While dancing my phone buzzed with a note from Zoe who was over at Local 506 for the night’s sets. She told me she was seeing H.C. McEntire and that listening to the set was like “breaking my heart and stitching it back together in 45 minutes or less.” Struck by this, I wrote back that I was going to go break my heart so I could know what it feels like for Sand Pact to “fix me.” This is an appropriate moment now to abandon words… at least for a time. Riley the Photographer captured this shot of me immediately after the Sand Pact set ended.
Bangzz a powerhouse duo including one of the Manifest organizers, Erika Libero (also lead vocalist for Henbrain) and drummer Blair Coppage. It was rage in a bottle (Four Roses, to be exact). So many things that I hadn’t thought about before or just didn’t have the words to express were played out to my very ears. The Editor, who adores BANGZZ (and wrote about them recently), enjoys quoting them when she talks about being vocal with my words: “Take up space.”
During the set, I ran into Riley the Photographer at the front of the stage. I glanced away but for moment and I was unable to find them seconds later. The Editor texted me that Riley joined her at the Nightlight.
An obvious riff on the term “diaspora”, this one-human act is a wokeful charmer with a delightful stage presence. I have a tiny bit of poetry in me, as you know, so while I could manufacture several verbose ways to say what I mean, simplicity will do the trick here: this set was fire.
For those who may be unfamiliar, the predominantly academic term “diaspora” broadly refers to the migration or flight of a massive group of people from their original homeland and away from the traditions of that homeland–a migration that is, according to certain contemporary uses of the word, involuntary. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, for example, created the African Diaspora. Put another way, it is the forceable dispersal of a large group of humans into foreign practices and foreign spaces. If you are curious to know more, then a simple Google search will yield a plethora of excellent university-related works. However, if you’re more like me and you prefer artistic expression over theoretical intellectualism, then I strongly recommend you check out “to the Diaspora” by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks.
As I now return from my tangential stroll on campus, this definition of “diaspora” is obviously central to understanding the sound and message of Diaspoura, whose ultra woke stage commentary captivated an already attentive audience. Between their stage banter, their beats, their whimsical dance moves, and their fiery message, Diaspoura’s set was totally inclusive and musically inspired. (I have since been glued to their bandcamp page listening to their first release, Demonstrations.)
The Muslims never stop dropping the proverbial mic with their political thrash rock. Wearing a red “Make Racists Afraid Again” cap, the guitarist effortlessly putting to bed the notion that Irish were enslaved.
While taking a moment to show off their new band tattoos (3 identical horseheads, all still glistening), bassist Gen grabbed the mic and began to speak. The guitar fell in, the drums followed, and they began to jam. It went something like this: “We got tattoos! ‘Cause we fucking love each other! We fucking love each other! We fucking love each other!” Soon they had us singing along to a song that appeared to be made up on the spot.
It was clear the Muslims were having as much as fun as the rest of us. Not unlike a lollipop, underneath their tough exterior, they have a soft caramel center. Suck on that.
They played. It was loud. Mark was obviously trying to get used to their new setup, thus their set sputtered at the start. He still made sure to wrap the mic cord around his neck though, as one might expect from a “suicidal dystopian” noise maker. Their set eventually got going. The crowd loved it. Alison was killer as always. I really admire how she plays that bass like she’s got Jimi Hendrix living inside her hands. I don’t have much else to say about them. I’ve written quite extensively about sister,brother, much to their dismay. If you want to know what I really think about them, then read this. I’m sure they will hate how much you will like the way I write about them.
Pie Face Girls
I have seen this band play more than a few times. After the sister,brother set concluded Zoe, who I had compelled via text to join me briefly at Nightlight, and I made our way over to 506 in her classic VW Beetle (even though the venue was only around the block). It was cold and I had never ridden in a old bug before. It was like being in any other car but smaller and more groovy. When we pulled up to 506, we remarked to each other that we couldn’t hear anything. Zoe, who is much younger than me and blessed with an abundance of that early 20’s energy, popped out of the car in flash and went up to the door of the venue before I had even stepped out of the car. “They’re still playing!” she burst with excitement as she flung open the door and hastily made her way inside. I locked the car door, slammed it shut for good measure, and waltzed into the venue at my usual ambling pace. One PBR and shot of Jameson later, I found Zoe at the front of the crowd, giddily swaying to the heavy bass riffs of Pie Face Girls.
Playing for a packed house, Pie Face Girls owned the stage like true headliners. The crowd, wild with enthusiasm, sang along to familiar hits like “Fuck You, I’m Pretty”. As I slid over to the back of the stage to get some choice pictures, the crowd, populated by many familiar faces from other performing bands, broke out into an inclusive mosh pit. I watched Zoe as she gracefully glided out of the center of the pit in one large step and made her way over into a wallflower position. Jesse, lead vocals and guitar for Severed Fingers, had started the pit with Blair, drummer for BANGZZ. The energy in the room was high and no one, it seemed, wanted to leave. When the band asked for the time and discovered it was well past 1AM, they continued on anyway, much to the delight of all of us in that room.
When their set finally came to a close, and with it, the first night of Manifest, the crowd lingered awhile, smiles affixed to all of their faces as they mingled. Zoe and I stayed for a little while too, talking with so many of the lovely familiar artists we have both written about at length. Afterwards, we moseyed over to Heavenly Buffaloes for a late night snack and sat in my car listening to some very special unreleased tunes from my good pal Anjimile, a “queer/trans songmaker/lover boy” currently making waves up in the Boston music scene. Anji and I had been corresponding a lot in the days leading up to Manifest to discuss an upcoming release of theirs. I mentioned to them my excitement about covering the festival and how I wished they could be here.
Many years ago when I was Managing Editor at Quiet Lunch Magazine, I had discovered Anjimile at a little local showcase at The Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. Totally floored by their performance, I found them in the crowd afterwards and said, “I need to write about you.” I wrote about them extensively for my former publication and even made a music video. Following that experience, we become excellent friends and worked together creatively outside the world of journalism. It’s been over five years since Anjimile first burst onto the Boston music scene, but only now, all these years later, are they finally starting to be recognized for the truly special human that they are. Had a platform like Manifest existed in Boston during their formative years, where they could have gained exposure to a much wider audience far sooner, then I suspect it would not have taken so long for Boston to start listening them. The work that Erika and Sarah have done to create the Manifest platform is incredibly important–not only for being a space for dramatically underrepresented artists, but because a healthy and inclusive local art scene will create a culture of inclusiveness, will inspire more young people to pursue their artistic dreams, and maybe… just maybe, help to foster the right environment for a locally-supported creative economy where artists can make a living off of their art.