"What if people came to a radical event not because they're trying to join the club or get their politics in place, but because it's the coolest, funnest thing to do?" MondoHomo co-founder Kiki Carr asked herself in 2007. In the ensuing five years, Carr and the rest of the organization's "Mondo Posse" have tried to strike a balance between engaging with serious issues and throwing a monster party. Carr, arts coordinator Donnie Reider and organizer Jesse Morgan talked with Creative Loafing about the event's origins, highlights and overall vibe.
You bill MondoHomo as "an alternative queer festival of music, arts and politics." Alternative to what?
Kiki Carr: It's conceptualized as alternative to the mainstream. At a certain point in time, anything gay was alternative, but now there's a huge Pride festival with hundreds of thousands of people, and you can feel kind of lost in that. And also, it's kind of a throwback to the beginning of gay liberation, with the Stonewall Riots. We want to bring some of that spirit back, and have drag queens and leather people and maybe not riots, but certainly activism.
Donnie Reider: With much love to Pride, it's become homogenized somewhat along the way, and I think MondoHomo lets someone step outside the everyday and do whatever they want. It's not just about having a booth at the park. We're open to anything happening at the festival, and sometimes some of that's impromptu. Sometimes people just show up and have their own performance and we don't even know it's going to happen.
What was the first one like?
DR: The first festival was fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants for sure, because I don't think any of us knew what to expect. We didn't even have a proper venue for the art show that year. We put up at My Sister's Room and took it down, and put it up at another venue the next day for a week. It definitely was the beginning of how we envisioned things. That experimental, DIY, make-it-happen spirit has stayed with us.
What are some of your personal MondoHomo "Wow!" moments?
Jesse Morgan: I'd always hung out in the Midtown kind of scene, and one day saw a MondoHomo sticker and wanted to find out what it was about. I went to Manuel's for my first meeting and the first person I saw was Veronica Jones, the Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, in this extravagant outfit. I thought, that must be where I need to go. Then I walked in and I saw all these freaks and radicals and awesome people. It warmed my little queer heart.
DR: So much of the time it's just us, working in each other's houses, and people might not even know MondoHomo exists. And then we'll get a mention in the Advocate magazine as one of the reasons why Atlanta is the gayest city and not San Francisco.
KC: I think we just lost our crown to Minneapolis. For MondoHomo's first year, in 2007, we actually had these kids drive down from Chicago. We hadn't done that much national promotion — we're not even sure how they found out about it. That was so exciting to us.
What were some of the most memorable artists or performances you've seen?
KC: My vote for the musical one would be Deadly and Catastrophe. Deadly's this amazing hip-hop MC from Los Angeles. Deadly is this gay man who totally dresses like cholo, wears the handkerchief across the head and has all the tattoos. When he speaks, though, he kind of has this soft-spoken, sweet voice. While he was performing, he pulled on stage Catastrophe, this trans hip-hop MC from New York. They did this impromptu duet-slash-performance and it was like "Were they going to make out? Were they going to get it on?" It was hilarious.
DR: One of my favorite artists who's participated in the show almost every year is Aubrey Longley-Cook. He does needlework, basically embroidery, which you don't think of as gallery-setting work. But he does amazing stuff on fabric with thread. This year he's doing a full installation that includes video with pieces. It's all hand-stitched, and he always shows his work in the embroidery hoops as frames. And he always comes up with a fresh idea each year.
What else are you excited about this year?
JM: Katie Red will be performing on Friday night. She's from New Orleans and was at the beginning of this culture of Sissy Bounce, which started in the nightlife scene of New Orleans.
KC: Bounce is kind of between dance music and hip-hop. It's a simplified hip-hop in terms of the rhythms and choruses. It's very call-and-response and interactive with the audiences.
JM: It's kind of a queer, danceable hip-hop.
KC: So there's bounce, which originated in New Orleans, and Sissy Bounce, which was originated by Katie Red, because queer hip-hop MCs weren't necessarily accepted in mainstream hip-hop scenes. So she started doing this stuff and got a really big following. And it's become totally crossover with the regular Bounce community, which is pretty inspiring.
JM: The most memorable parts for me are the Skill-Sharing workshops at Homocon, the Saturday event. We just provide many workshops to educate people and get people talking about specific issues. This year one issue we're focusing on is HB 87 and immigration justice. One thing we're going to do to encourage political conversation is to have these giant Post-its on a wall and call them Analog Twitters. We'll write things about specific issues on a Post-it and encourage response and conversation on it.
KC: Sunday we have the park day, which is one of my favorites, because it's everyone hanging out in Piedmont Park. We play games and talk and eat barbecue, and it feels so open in terms of community — more older people and people with children come to that. And we do a MondoHomo human pyramid.
JM: Our theme this year is "Gettin' It On," and we're all about celebrating queer sex, because we think queer sex is awesome and we love doing it. Sometimes it's not easy, but there's that one part of saying "I'm gay," and the other part that means "getting it on."
KC: And being gay.
Listen to an expanded podcast version of this conversation
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