Queer punk lives
A Cafe Colonial Valentine’s Day show highlighted trans and gender nonconforming bands
Normally, I do not truck with anything more than a three-band show. But the Valentine’s Day TransGress Fest at Cafe Colonial kept me on board for the full six-band evening. The festival, highlighting bands with transgender and nonbinary members, is a touring offshoot of a longstanding Los Angeles event.
“The reason why I turned it into a tour was because not everybody can come to Los Angeles to see TransgressFest,” said Drew Arriola-Sands, frontwoman of Trap Girl and the festival’s founder. “I didn’t know what to expect with Sacramento, and seeing all these trans people and queer kids was awesome.”
It was my first time catching opening industrial band Killer Couture, who closed its set with a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” One of the members took a power tool to a trashcan as a kind of percussive accompaniment, creating a makeshift pyrotechnics display, though it was quickly nixed when the club intervened.
Also performing were Missing Pigeons, a jazz-post-punk fusion group, which included TransGress’ Sacramento organizer, Temple Kirk.
“Drew is a legend, and Trap Girl is the most important and vital band in the West Coast transgender music community, and to have the opportunity to help them put on this amazing show as well as to open for them with Missing Pigeons is a great honor,” Kirk said.
The Pigeons were followed by the unapologetically brazen Pussy Tuesday from L.A.
Commando—co-fronted by Juba Kalamka of Deep Dickollective and Lynn Breedlove—holds a special place in my heart. Breedlove’s past queercore band, Tribe 8, was included on record label Outpunk’s 1992 There’s a Dyke in the Pit compilation, one of the first punk records in my own teen-era collection.
Toward the end of their slot, Breedlove broke up an otherwise punk-heavy set with a spoken-word piece, which touched on the act of discarding records—specifically Prince records.
“It’s not that I ever stopped loving you. I just thought you’d always be there,” Breedlove said during the piece. It was a sock to the gut, whether you’re a record collector, a Prince fan or none of the above.
Trap Girl’s lyrics can be intense. Rape and assault come up frequently, and that intensity came through in the band’s performance. It’s a challenge to be both entertaining and empowering, but Arriola-Sands and Trap Girl pulled it off, and then some. The night rounded off with the always excellent closers, ¡Las Pulgas!.
TransGress Fest’s lineup wasn’t entirely cohesive: Killer Couture’s industrial vibe made for excellent performance art, but it was out of step with the rest of the punk and hardcore bands that night.
As a gathering though, TransGress Fest Sacramento provided a space where, as Arriola-Sands put it, “trans people and queer kids … all kind of united [with] a sense of community.”