We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: racist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, and oppressive attitudes make equality a hell of a harder battle than it should be. Then again, it shouldn’t be a battle at all.
Smash It Dead Fest is arguably Boston’s most important multi-day fest, bumping Boston Calling, Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble, and Fuzzstival to the side. The annual weekend of shows, workshops, and readings is a hardcore and punk event to raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. From June 19-21, their radical queer, feminist, and P.O.C.-centric positivity take over the Democracy Center and the Cambridge YMCA. Think of it as meaningful music set to the backdrop of immediate change.
Each year, the festival grows larger. Each year, more people turn up. Each year, they raise more money than the last. This year is their fifth as a festival, and they’re ready to do all of that — and more.
“We pick bands that we think are important and are excited about,” says Ali Donohue, a member of the Smash It Dead organizing collective and singer/guitarist in Fleabite. “One of the goals of the fest is to highlight and give space to artists who represent identities that are often ignored in mainstream (and underground music, to be honest). So because of that, we have a lot of a performers that are queer, artists of color, women, trans, and more that are on the bill.”
Punk icons Curmudgeon are ending their five-year run as a band with their set on Friday, June 19 at the Democracy Center in Cambridge alongside +HIRS+, Hard Nips, and Ursula, joining forces for an evening of nonstop energy and melodic retaliation. Then come the next two days, a packed bill featuring the likes of Malportado Kids, Aye Nako, Neonates, Olivia Neutron-John, Mal Devisa, Chemiplastica, Trophy Knife, and more.
“I’m excited to see Moor Mother Goddess perform,” says Donohue. “I’m also really excited for Birth (Defects). My friend Sean fronts that band and also is the founder of the Is This Venue Accessible? project, which collects information about the accessibility of different venues around the country.” From her excitement alone, it’s clear this year’s lineup is too stacked for its own good. She lists the always affable Malportado Kids, too, plus new local act DAME who will get the chance to spotlight material to soon-to-be fans.
In her four years working for Smash It Dead Fest, Donohue realized that it has less to do with throwing weekend’s worth of memorable shows and more to do with changing the mentality and attitude of the city, step by step. “Sometimes you need to fight for space to help foster the kind of shows and scene you’d like to be a part of,” she says. “I wish every show that was an all-locals show was a benefit for a worthy cause, and I wish every show highlighted artists who represent many different identities and experiences.”
To help with that process, the festival features a series of hands-on workshops led by well-versed locals. These aren’t hand-holding arts and crafts sessions (although positive reinforcement and support, be it physically lending them your hand or emotionally lending them your ear, are supported). Workshops like Deconstructing Anti-Blackness and Active Bystanders are just as universally important as those responding to disclosures and the basics of live sound.
Thankfully, Smash It Dead Fest is relentless in tearing down walls built to segregate humans. “The best part of the fest is seeing all the different people who travel to come be a part of the festival, whether it’s to attend, table, volunteer, or whatever,” says Donohue. Here, dated fears of punk rock kids in studded jackets and multi-colored hair are useless. This is a scene for support, love, and acceptance. Head to one of their showcases or workshops and that’s immediately evident.
Last year they raised $5,789 for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. This year we’re determined to help them raise even more, and to make the fight for equality a quicker, smoother, and more loving process.
Can’t go? Lend a hand anyway. “Get involved with BARCC,” says Donohue. “Support and book artists on local shows that aren’t just made up of straight white males; that’s lazy and happens all too often.”
SMASH IT DEAD FEST. FRI 6.19 – SUN 6.21. DEMOCRACY CENTER AND YMCA CAMBRIDGE. 6:30PM/all ages/$10. FACEBOOK.COM/SMASHITDEAD.