The We Festival

Zines, Films and Music in Wilmington, NC

The We Festival: 1996

If there's a heaven for our underground zine and music culture, it's probably a lot like the WE festival (Not to be confused with the country music We Festival). Lured by talk of 60 bands, tons of zines, underground films and microbrew beer tastings, Mary and I set out for Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday the 24th at about 3 AM. After 8.5 hours of driving, a brief stop at the Johnny Appleseed restaurant ("It's as American as Apple Pie"), and 2 hours of driving in circles looking for a place called "Monkey Junction," we arrived at our hotel. Our first stop was the "Exchange Center" (actually the Starlight Bar and Cinema) where we got two $15 passes for everything. Since we both have jobs, we had to miss most of the festival, which ran from the 23rd to the 29th (as I am writing this), but we did get to see

After dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant (which the North Carolina health department apparently overlooks), we set out to find Kenyata Sullivan, the organizer of the event. We found him in one of the 13 participating bars called "The Far Side." It was great to finally meet him after exchanging mail and tapes for a year. I was kind of nervous about the meeting because I only knew him from his mail, but he was really great and we all got along really well. We talked for a while until the musicians started performing. The crowd was kind of small, and Kenyata expressed concerns about that because he hates to ask people to play for an empty bar. Two of the bands, Velvet (from Wilmington) and Spackle (from Montréal) were really great. Afterwards, we went to another bar called Bessie's where we got to sample some homemade beer and see some more bands, but after two hours of sleep and spending the day on the road, we didn't

Bigass Shakers! The next morning after a rousing breakfast at the Waffle House and a few yard sales and flea markets (where I bought the world's biggest salt and pepper shakers), we headed over to the Exchange Center for a film and the band Broca's Area. And there were the zines. Tables and tables of zines free for the taking, and taking we were. I added a bunch of copies of the Postman to the piles, and picked up quite a few good ones including POPsmear, Mister Density, Reasonably Martians Zine, Mongoloid Moose, Psycho Moto Zine, and two issues of The Bovine Gazette ("OJ's Guide to Sex, Love and a Happy Marriage" and "The Swell Curve: Intelligence, Class Structure and Penis Length in American Life"). There were also stickers, postcards, flyers, ads, matchbooks, and 7" singles ("Bring a bigass bag and fill it with as much shit as you can carry" boasted the WE festival brochure). Incidentally, I'm sure accounts of this festival will appear in numerous zines, as the one thing

Afterwards, we went to another of the venues, The Ice House, for eight straight hours of bands including Martha Mooke from New York City playing the electric viola, local band Tricky the Cosmonaut, and Trespassers W from the Netherlands. This night there was quite a crowd and it was

Hurricane Kenyata
Before the second half of movie day, Kenyata demonstrated his technique for dealing with hurricanes. "Usually I just sit in the middle of the street with a big ol' bottle of whisky."

We went to the beach the next morning after breakfast, and then it was off to the Skylight for a day of films including such titles as Michael Meyers Meets His Match, the godawful Groovy Squad and the Zombie Beach Conspiracy, and the perennial favorite So Wrong They're Right. Between reels, Russ Forster hawked his wares and performed a song about 8-track tapes. Afterwards, I got to talk to Russ a bit about his film and the possibility of installing a reel-to-reel tape player in my car.

After eating dinner we returned to the Skylight for more movies including some great shorts by a group called "Cottonmouth, TX," the hilarious outtakes and video oddities of Cathode Wray and Dr. O'Toot which featured, among other things, a real cigarette commercial starring the Flintstones, and William Shatner singing "Rocket Man." Finally, there was a "work in progress" called Harmful to Minors about artists fighting censorship.

Early the next morning (Memorial Day), we bid a fond farewell to the sleepy town of Wilmington and started our long trek home. I'm sorry that we had to miss most of the festival, but I'm going to try and come next year if they have it again. Next time, thanks to all the zine exposure it's going to get, I'm sure it will be much bigger. I'm kind of glad it wasn't huge this year, because that made it more intimate, and for me that means it's more fun. Could you imagine a crowd of zine people?

The WE Festival: 1997

May 22 - 28, 1997: "Come Wreck Our Town Again"

Aaaah, North Carolina in the Spring! Love is in the air... or is that humidity? Anyway, Mary and I got there on Saturday night, and promptly went to sleep. Sunday was movie day, and we spent the better part of the day in the Starlight bar watching some really great movies. The Starlight was not this year's Exchange Center because of problems with the management, which manifested itself in a bizarre movie day as the WE fest was rushed out to make way for a rave. This year the exchange center was in a historic, desanctified church on the other end of town.

There was a clip from the Mike Douglass Show featuring a full-makeup KISS chatting with Bea Arthur.

The movies this year were excellent- there was a hilarious local film called House of Pancakes by Onur Tukel which was one of the best films I've seen in a long time. There was also a hilarious documentary called Days: A Summer Road Trip to Three Small Town Festivals in Iowa that showed how bizarre middle America really can be, from a tiny town that declared itself the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk and has a bizarre Star Trekfest to the Strawberry Festival that actually uses frozen California strawberries. Then there was the much-anticipated Cathode Wray and Dr. O'Toot shorts. This year they really outdid themselves. There was a clip from the Mike Douglass Show featuring a full-makeup Gene Simmons of Kiss chatting with Bea Arthur, followed by a in-house marketing film produced by Anheiser Busch featuring, (yes, you guessed it) The Flintstones! It was made to showcase their new ad campaigns in 1968 and sent to beer distributors around the country, with a really scary moral- Fred and Barney get fired for incompetence, and go to a bar to drink some Busch beer, where they see the commercials. Eventually, they really do solve their problems by simply getting Mr. Slate drunk. Also scary- a magical hand comes out of the air whenever anyone drinks Busch beer. It pats them on the head while a woman's voice reassures them that everything will be all right. Also featured was the really well made Riot Grrrl documentary Anything Boys Can Do, produced by Ethan Minsker of Psycho Moto Zine. After the movies, we got to hang out with Kenyata and raid the zines for a little while.

Then around midnight, a band called Suran Song put on an amazing multimedia performance in the church basement. Suran, the lead singer, stood on a stool with a sheet wrapped around her waist and the stool so that she appeared to be twelve feet tall. The slides which were projected on her body as she sang added to the intensity of the music. It was spellbinding.

The next evening featured 7 bands and a beer tasting at a bar called the Wave Hog Saloon. After spending the day searching out flea markets and getting pelted with sand on the incredibly windy beach, we were a bit on the tired side. Not wishing to miss the "after hours" extravaganza beginning at 2, which was supposed to culminate with a performance by Inkpot Monkey, Kenyata's new band at 4, we decided to take a nap for a few hours at 8 P.M. (this seemed especially wise as we had to get up early and drive 10 hours the next day). Well, needless to say we woke up at 7 A.M. and totally missed everything. So I can't really tell you how the bands were at the festival, because we only saw one. It was a bigass truckload of fun, though, and we're going to be there next year. Hopefully we'll have the stamina for two bands, but you know how it is when you get old...

© 1996, Ken B. Miller & Contributors as Listed. | Reproduced from Shouting at the Postman #18, June, 1996 | 5968

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