All-BIPOC Music Festival, BAZZOOKAFEST, Cranks Up the Volume in Jefferson Park

by Mark Van Streefkerk

This Saturday, Aug. 28, BAZZOOKAFEST will transform Beacon Hill’s Jefferson Park into a free music and film festival featuring a packed all-BIPOC lineup. Musicians include indie folk headliner Kimya Dawson, pop punk artist Haley Graves, alternative rockers King Youngblood, pop singer-songwriter CarLarans, five-piece femme band Razor Clam, dance pop trio Mirrorgloss, and soulful rock band Stereo Sauna. POC members of drag collective BeautyBoiz will perform, and once the music’s over, a screening of short films submitted by BIPOC filmmakers will take place. As if you needed another reason to attend, the event will also feature a pop-up market featuring all Black and POC vendors. 

BAZZOOKAFEST is all-ages and open to all. The festival starts at 3 p.m. and goes till about 10 p.m. Masks are required. 

The first-ever BAZZOOKAFEST takes place this Saturday, Aug. 28, at Beacon Hill’s Jefferson Park. (BAZZOOKA promo designed by Vivian Hua)

The brainchild of musician and filmmaker Danny Denial, BAZZOOKAFEST takes its name from their seven-part apocalyptic, afropunk web series BAZZOOKA, filmed last fall and this spring and produced by Denial’s Degenerate Films company. Featuring Seattle-based BIPOC musicians and performers, BAZZOOKA the series depicts a fictional war-torn Seattle, complete with a corrupt mayor, an evil tech company, and a coalition of Black anarchists who are taking back their city. Denial’s vision was to take a slice of real-world Seattle and “reflect it back sort of through a funhouse mirror,” they said. 

One of Denial’s inspirations for the title was “70s and 80s Blacksploitation [films], very Pow! Pow! People of Color in these counter-cultural, absurdist roles. BAZZOOKA jumped out to me as a very confrontational, loud word. There was something about the word that evoked the kind of energy I was trying to tap into,” they explained. 

A primary goal of the BAZZOOKA miniseries was to employ BIPOC Seattle artists and musicians who were struggling during the pandemic. The short films star Eva Walker of rock band The Black Tones, LüChi, the drag duo who also reside as house parents of The Royal House of Noir, Kylie Mooncakes, and more. Denial admits the biggest challenge to filming BAZZOOKA was the extensive precautions they took to make sure everyone was safe, getting the cast and crew tested regularly, and coordinating scenes so the cast was cleverly masked when not in frame. “The whole point of BAZZOOKA was to create work for artists that were out of work. The conundrum was, ‘we don’t want this work to be something that could potentially expose people [to COVID-19],’” Denial explained. 

The cast of the BAZZOOKA film series about a war-torn version of Seattle, its corrupt government, and a group of Black anarchists who are fighting to take their city back. (Photo: Melissa Wax; Courtesy of Danny Denial)

The films were streamed by the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) and the Afropunk website and were featured in this year’s Seattle Black Film Festival. BAZZOOKA was also an official selection at the East Village Queer Film Festival. Now you can watch the entire series on YouTube

With so much talent on board, BAZZOOKA quickly became more than just a miniseries. A compilation of local music featured in the series was released on the official bandcamp site

“BAZZOOKA started as a web series, but in my mind it’s more than that. It’s more of an imprint, a philosophy, or a collective even,” Denial said. “There’s just so much more that we could really do with the BAZZOOKA umbrella. I’d love to see opportunities where people can be platformed, directly supported, paid — that’s really the bottom line.”

A diverse and joyful group of youthful queer folks pose on and behind a couch wearing pastel-colored clothing.
POC members of BeautyBoiz drag collective will perform at BAZZOOKAFEST. (Photo: Joe Moore)

The BAZZOOKA series was released for streaming in January and wrapped up in the spring. As the finale approached, talks began to circulate about having a music and film festival to celebrate the event. As the State began to lift pandemic restrictions, the time seemed right. Denial credits the NWFF and The Vera Project (VERA) for helping to scale up the idea. NWFF connected them to Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), and soon Denial started a grant-writing process for the first time. It paid off when they were awarded a Welcome Back Grant from SPR to help host the festival and pay the performers. 

With the help of VERA, Denial compiled a list of local BIPOC musicians and started reaching out. “I think the energy is very punk, but the music is all across the board,” they said. 

Hailing from Los Angeles, Denial started out in film and came to music later. Their artistic explorations often outgrow either medium, and they typically combine both in some form. Writing for Afropunk, Nathan Leigh described Denial’s music as “gothic-tinged queercore” that explores themes of alienation and “intersections of race and sexuality.” Check out Denial’s video “White tears fake queers.” 

Denial hopes BAZZOOKAFEST will create a blueprint for more events and platforms that center BIPOC artists on their terms. “I think there’s a lot of diverse, incredible talent, and unfortunately there’s a lot of tokenization that happens,” Denial said. “With BAZZOOKAFEST it’s like, look at all of this incredible, diverse talent that we have that can all be on a lineup together. It doesn’t have to be one or two, it can really be a huge showcase.” 

When asked if they were planning on performing, Denial hinted, “I may be popping up. It might happen.”

Stay up-to-date on BAZZOOKAFEST news and updates through BAZZOOKA’s Instagram and Degenerate Films’ Facebook page. 

BAZZOOKAFEST is hosted in partnership with Degenerate Films, NWFF, and VERA and is funded by SPR. 

Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist, freelance writer, and the Emerald’s living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. He often writes about specialty coffee, LGBTQ+ topics, and more. Visit his website and follow him on Instagram at @markthewriter

📸 Featured Image: Dance pop trio Mirrorgloss will be joining about 10 other bands at BAZZOOKAFEST in Jefferson Park on Aug. 28, 2021. (Photo: Abby J Kok)

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