Zine Fest Houston 2011, This Saturday
We recently re-did the back room of our house, ripping up the ancient, ancient carpet and slapping down fake wood flooring, and in the process of doing that, I basically had to disassemble and reassemble our entire home office. Which was no mean feat, considering that there’re several bookshelves packed to the gills with CDs, books, magazines, and software. And in the process, I stumbled across a big pile of zines I’d collected over the years, mostly waaaay back in the day, and proceeded to get all misty-eyed and nostalgic about ‘em.
It’s probably difficult for a lot of younger folks to imagine now, in the days of immediate knowledge about anything and everything under the sun, but there once was a time when you couldn’t hear a snippet of a song somewhere (on the radio, most likely, back then), say, “hey, I like that!,” and poof, instantaneously A) find out who does the song, B) download the whole damn album straight to your phone, and C) look up when they’re coming through town.
For that kind of thing, pre-Internet, zines were my lifeline. They were this bastion of obscure, arcane coolness, of knowledge about things that I probably would never have heard about otherwise. Each zine I ran across felt like a new doorway into something my non-big-city-bred self had really never seen much of before: punk rock, anarchism, poetry, art, political protests, and stuff about The Scene in general.
They were all fiercely DIY — they had to be, really — although that didn’t necessarily mean they looked like shit. Audities and Brown Paper Sack, in particular, were beautifully-done, and I’m Not Afraid was no slouch, either. But hey, I loved the scrappier, cut-and-pasted zines, too, like Butch‘s Ah Lost Taco, Brain Cleanser, Flush, This Bag Is Not A Toy, and Toilet Readings. And, of course, the more artistic one’s like Russell Etchen‘s Dance Party, Smack, & Velvet Comics zines, and Patrick Phipps‘ Trick Hips — hell, those are quite possibly still my favorites.
Granted, nowadays you can find pretty much everything in those little bundles of ink, paper, tape, and staples somewhere online, thanks to the Internet, Google, and all the rest. And sadly, it’ll probably be more legible, too. But convenience aside, I think there’s still something inherently cool with a real-live printed/photocopied zine, something you can hold in your hands and read through, page by page.
When I ran across a copy of You Ain’t Punk! or O.X.P.X. at Sound Exchange, it was immediately obvious that this was work, that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears had gone into it. Those zines were labors of love, every single one of ‘em. Whereas, eh, anybody can plunk a blog up online and blather sporadically about stuff they like/hate; there’s nowhere near the same level of commitment involved.
All of which is to explain why I freaking love the very idea ofso damn much — the folks who run the festival (founder Shane Patrick Boyle, in particular) really-and-truly are doing a public service in trying to keep the zine scene here alive & kicking by exposing it to the light of day more than it would likely be otherwise. If I could high-five ‘em en masse, I would, in a heartbeat.
I’m especially psyched because this year’s installment of the festival is fast approaching; on Saturday, May 21st, the 2011 Zine Fest Houston will unfold, on the rooftop over Khon’s (2808 Milam) from 4-10PM. And going by the schedule, it looks pretty damn neat — there are zine readings, a panel discussion with several local zinesters (most of whom I’ve never heard of, out-of-touch as I am), music by fun folks like Organ Failure, Muzak John, and The Grass Skirts, and lots and lots of zine-makers and distros. The full schedule’s over .
Oh, and the whole thing’s free, which makes it even better. I would seriously, seriously encourage anybody and everybody to check out the festival — this is one of the few little corners of the creative world that has yet to be completely mainstreamed (hopefully it never will be), and I was blown away when I last attended one of the earlier Zinefests, back in 2008.
The world of zines is apparently still as full of life as it was back when I was combing the SoundEx and Soundwaves magazine racks for stuff I’d never seen before. I’m going to attempt to make it out, at least for a little while, even if it means dragging one or more of the midgets along…
BTW, make sure you check out the interview over at Free Press Houston that cool dude Ramon Medina did with Lindsey Simard, one of the festival organizers — it’s a good article in general, and there’re some interesting insights into why people do zines to begin with.
These days I don’t have a lot of time for zines, unfortunately; I still pick up ones I’ve never seen before whenever I run across ‘em, and I’ve got a shameful stack on my desk that I need to add to this here Website (in addition to, um, finally porting over the old listings to WordPress…whoops), but between work and midgets and SCR and friends and TV and books, the time I could just plunk down on the couch/beanbag and flip through a half-dozen zines/magazines is long, long gone. sigh.
That said, I’m still fascinated by ‘em, and I’m feeling more & more like I need to find a good home for that stack of old zines from back in the day, somewhere they’ll be appreciated more regularly…