This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Riley talks to Margaret about building DIY spaces, how to plan events, and how to build a culture around your events of inclusivity and solidarity.
The Pansy Collective can be found on Instagram @Pansy.Colletive.
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: Riley on DIY Spaces
**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy. I have just found out that my co-host, Inmn, has a voice that’s similar enough to mine that people don’t know which one of us is hosting. So, you can tell it’s me because I am charming and perfect…Shit, so is Inmn…Okay, so that’s not really what matters here. What matters here is that today, we are going to be talking about–a lot of people have written in and been like, "But I don’t have community. You talk about community preparedness all the time." And obviously, subculture isn’t the only type of community, but it’s one of them. And we’re going to talk about subculture. And we’re gonna talk about DIY subculture. And we’re gonna talk about fucking doing shit yourself. And we’re gonna talk to someone who has a lot of experience of doing that at the intersection of marginalizations and not just reproducing cis white hetero stuff. So, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Doo doo doo doo doo. Doo. [Singing a simple melody with words]
**Margaret ** 01:34
And we’re back. Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then why you think I’ve brought you on this podcast.
**Riley ** 02:06
Hey Y’all. Yeah, my name is Riley. He/him pronouns. You brought me on this podcast because we’re friends. And also because we’ve played some shows together and done some things together. And I’d like to think that we have some shared affinity and maybe even that we are in community together. So yeah, yeah. I think that’s kind of why I’m here.
**Margaret ** 02:36
Okay. Well, you have experience…When I was like, trying to think I was like, "Who do I know who has experience building DIY scenes and like punk scenes and musical "subgenric" scenes. That’s definitely a word. Don’t look it up. Do you have experience doing that? What’s your experience doing that?
**Riley ** 03:00
Yeah, you know, I do have some experience doing it. You said "a lot." I would say "limited." But, I organize with a collective here in Asheville, North Carolina called Pansy Collective. We call ourselves the "benefit booking collective" because a lot of what we do is book DIY shows to raise money for either trans people’s surgical, or medical, or just living expenses, and also for grassroots projects that don’t get funding any other way. Yeah, so we book shows, we throw parties, we also organize popular education and workshops and kind of use the concept of DIY community in a punk way to push people further to the left.
**Margaret ** 03:56
I, I really liked that. I think…I don’t know if it was the first time I met you, or just the first time I saw you play, was coming on 10 years ago now. And you were playing this playing this show. And the thing that just like really immediately struck me was how much it felt like…When I first got into when I was like a teenager, I didn’t give a shit about punk because…I don’t know, the punk on the radio was fine, but it just…Like I liked Sisters of Mercy instead. Well, at the time I probably like Marilyn Manson instead, but we’ll pretend like I only ever listened to Sisters of Mercy. And then when I like fell into anarchism and I started going to these like basement shows in Baltimore and there was this shared sense of like urgency to change the world, and that this is a thing that we are doing collectively and a thing we’re doing from direct action, even if it just meant that the five foot tall singer was screaming, "I’m going to break a 40 on the motherfucking Nazis face!" or whatever, right? You know, it’s like, you like believed her, right? Cuz she was telling the truth. Like, she probably got arrested for that. Well, yeah. And like, a 17 year old from that scene caught 27 felonies for beating up Nazis like two months later…and beat all the charges. She beat all the charges. And so this is what struck me, is that when I went and saw you play, it was like one of the times I really felt that again. And it felt like there was like something there. And I’m wondering if you want to talk about like…well, I guess like punk and about what draws you to it, what keeps you there, and what you’re excited about DIY scenes for? Or any of that shit.
**Riley ** 05:43
Yeah, I mean, I can’t pretend like punk music wasn’t a facet of what radicalized me, right? And, I think exposure to–I mean, I wasn’t a punk when I was in high school. And I was into riot girl feminism, specifically, was like a really point–and I feel like almost embarrassed to talk about it now, but let’s own that for a second, right?
**Margaret ** 06:10
**Riley ** 06:11
Or, what brought me into that was also another facet of radicalization, which was seeking resources for being sexually assaulted at a young age, right? So I’m like, getting politicized through finding feminism and having these kinds of first moments of…You know, I grew up in real rural North Carolina. There’s not scenes where I’m from, right? There’s not even punks where I’m from. And kind of ideas of resistance, even ideas of bodily autonomy, and that what may be happening to you isn’t your fault, and that maybe it’s okay to be queer, you know, like, these were like, really groundbreaking ideas as a teenager. And so I’m finding these bands that are kind of espousing these ideologies, and carrying energy that I had no outlet for–or maybe just had really unhealthy outlets for–before I started listening to punk heavily. And then, really moving to Asheville as soon as I turned 18 because in this area, the queer and trans people from rural spots are told, "If you want to go somewhere to find where the other gay people are, go to Asheville." And so I just listened to that and went where I could. And I mean, I had some really pivotal moments, both good and bad, you know, and I’m in really this kind of naive idea that like, "Oh, you know, I’m coming into this from a feminist lens, so punks must be not misogynists, right?" [Margaret laughs] And then I learned that that wasn’t true really quickly because I started having shitty experiences in mosh pits and, you know, getting groped, and my friends getting groped, and, you know, just having, I mean, just unsafe experiences that also really, you know, pissed me off because it felt so not…like this is inherently against the ethos of what this genre is in my mind because, you know, I know this is what this is, like not even knowing that there’s just a whole slew of apolitical [punks]–or people who, you know, who’re here for different reasons–you know, but it really…I saw a space that was missing. And it wasn’t just me, it was, you know, an entire group of young-really-fucking-pissed-off-with-a-lot-of-trauma-and-something-to-prove-about-it queers who enacted a little bit of a takeover in, I don’t know, like the early 2010s. And so, the punk scene in Asheville shifted from really…I mean, dude centric, to suddenly there’s like, it’s just like, these young mad queers who are wearing pink pink studs. And this is like, a few years before G.L.O.S.S came out but I feel like that era just really, yeah, there was a takeover that we both participated in.
**Margaret ** 09:24
I kind of…I kind of watched it, but I really appreciated it and I…Yeah, okay. So I guess one of the things that people mention to me a lot when I, you know, when I talk about individual and community preparedness, right, all the time, and usually people are alienated by one of those two words. And either people are like individual community preparedness is just preppers doing nonsense. And then, or, community preparedness doesn’t resonate with people literally because a lot of people don’t have community. We live in this very isolated and isolating culture, right? And so one of the things that people say, you know, the reason that I…I was driving and I was like thinking about this problem, I was thinking about how people write this to me and I’m always just like, "I don’t know, just fix it." And I’m like, that’s not a useful answer to provide to people. And I was like, who do I know who perpetuates a subcultural space–that’s funny. Usually, when we say "perpetuate," you mean something bad. But like, in this case, you know, "makes continue" is actually sometimes a very good word, if it’s a good thing being perpetuated. [And I was like, who do I know who perpetuates a subcultural space and] Makes the subcultural space happen and happen on a DIY level. And so I was really excited to talk to you about it. But, so, the core of my question is like, you talked about how there’s not really scenes where you’re from? So what do you do? I mean, I guess in this case, the answer is you move to Asheville and then take over the scene, but that’s not a bad…
**Riley ** 10:53
Yeah. If in places where there’s not…I mean, there’s a particular context here because it’s a small town, but it has a long standing history of punk activity, right? But thinking about the community I’m from, which I’m going to be moving back to pretty soon because I can’t afford to stay in the town that I’m in. So, you know, I think about starting small and finding who is around and building with them because deep…Yeah, the way that artists, like rural artists, and the kind of freaky performers that live out in the woods, the way that they move in this area is by finding finding the, you know, the few people around them that they can build with and going from there, even if it’s just one, even if it’s just one person, or connecting to the internet. But, yeah, I mean, the way that we kind of worked to hit that mark and strive to support everyone is, one, by just casting a wide net. And that’s, you know, thinking about how a lot of times, to find, whether it’s just connecting with other queer people in a rural area, I mean, you gotta travel far. And so casting a wide net to people who maybe are outside of the friend groups, or maybe are outside of the social networks, and really specifying what your actual affinity is. Like, I see you at shows all the time, but what do we actually have in common? And build from there.
**Margaret ** 12:33
I like that because, actually, one of the next questions I wanted to ask you is about how I know other people who are not interested in punk because they feel like punk is like cool kids, right? And they’re not cool. So, they clearly don’t belong. And, that’s…I’d love to be like, "Oh, it’s just not true. Punks are all totally welcoming." And like, you know, you just described a bunch of experiences of punks not being welcoming. My first…The one punk in my high school got really mad. He decided I was becoming a leftist, which actually wasn’t true at the time. I was a nothingist. Not in a cool way. I was just a kid. But, he like pulled me aside and he was like, "You have to listen to this." And he put like punk music on my headphones. But it was right-wing punk. And the only thing I remember is–I haven’t actually bothered to look up a band that says this–but it’s "Down on your…" I remember this very clearly. I was like 16 at the time and it’s, "Down on your knees with a gun to your head. You’re better off dead than fucking red." And so it’s like Nazi punk shit, right? He wasn’t a skinhead. He had a big mohawk and like…And I was like, "Man, this was not interested in me at all. Like, what the fuck?" But okay, so punk isn’t always welcoming to people. But how do we make it more welcoming to people? Two questions: One, if you’re already in the scene, how do you make it more welcoming to people, and two, if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, a 16 year old or a 35 year old or a 73 year old, and you’re like, "This has interested me, but I don’t feel…I don’t know whether this is the kind of space I can get into." Like, how do you get into it? Or how do you help people get into it? Kind of a tangential question, sorry.
**Riley ** 14:07
I think about…I don’t want to say, "Just be fucking nice to people," but maybe maybe part of it is like be fucking nice to people. And don’t reenact the high school lunch table drama-trauma of whatever everyone is holding. Yeah, I think about getting kind of like cornered by these kind of like gatekeepy dudes when I first moved here like, you know, it’s kind of this typical like, "Oh, do you know this band, do you know that band? Do you even know what you know…" I remember this guy.
**Margaret ** 14:48
[Laughing] People really did that to you?
**Riley ** 14:50
At a show that I booked! Being like, "Do you even know what a mosh pit is?"
**Margaret ** 14:55
[Incredulously] No, what’s that?
**Riley ** 14:58
No, no, I don’t. Sorry. [dry] I actually said, "Is it like this?" and then punched him…Right in the Pensacola. But yeah, I mean, if you’re in a position of power, in a position of, you know, some sort of…Like, maybe you know the people around you and you’re seeing people that don’t, or…Yeah, just engaging people and, you know, making a point to make people feel welcome is a really easy start. And if you’re feeling unsure, I…Yeah, I don’t know what to say. Because I don’t…I think that attending shows and going out to social things, especially in this day and age, is such a small, small sliver of what DIY community feels like now. And so I’m also pushing back on the bounds of what even counts as a DIY event anymore? I’m like, how about that? How about that workshop? Or how about the trans woman’s picnic? Or how about… yeah, the firestorm book club, I’m thinking about so many other spaces that count in my mind under this DIY punk ethos umbrella.
**Margaret ** 16:23
That makes a lot of sense to me, especially as someone who doesn’t…My write up about the anarchist bookfair I just attended and played was, "This is great. Why do shows start so late? Some of us are old. Why are there kids on my lawn? Why did I have to walk uphill both ways to get here?" But, what you’re saying about like just like being nice to people, it’s funny how that sounds like an easy answer, but it’s like actually the easy answer. And it’s actually not that hard. Like, I think about…I’ve spent a lot of time in like nerd spaces subculturally. Like, I’ve spent a lot of time at like nerd conventions of various types, right? And like, one of the things that is a cultural norm that people are trying to normalize at science fiction conventions and shit is that if you’re like standing in a circle of people and you see someone standing at the periphery of the circle, to open up the circle, and so that that person is now standing in the circle. And even if they don’t say anything, they’re now standing in the circle the same as everyone else, right? And, you know, and you don’t have like necessarily as literal of a thing, because like science fiction conventions, there’s literally people standing around in circles all weekend. Like, yes, it’s kind of…
**Riley ** 17:40
Like, I mean, people have a lot of drama on the other side of it about taking people, taking strangers in, you know. Who is this stranger in the wilderness? You know, I’m thinking about how people have been like, you know, "Who is that new person standing over there looking like they’re trying to account for something," you know? "That person’s a cop, probably!" you know? Or like people start doing all of this in your head speculation and I feel like, you know what’s a really good way to try to figure out if someone is a cop or not? Go up and say, "Hi." Go up and have a little conversation. It’s really easy to tell really quickly versus just mean mugging the shit out of somebody, you know? You’ll never find out anything that way. But yeah, I think people have a lot of trauma on both sides. Like, I don’t know that person. It’s like, put yourself out there. Or don’t. You also don’t have to talk to anybody at the show. [Laughing]
**Margaret ** 18:41
Yeah, that’s true, too. Okay, so you’re talking about like what DIY feels like now and how it’s different, right? And, I really appreciate that as, you know, as someone who like…I’ll go to shows forever. And I’ll ideally, play shows forever, but it’s not as much what I’m interested in engaging in. And so with Pansy Collective, do you put on a lot of different types of stuff? Or do you just feel like the larger community that you’re part of like you put on lots of stuff? Like, what are some of the things that people could be doing?
**Riley ** 19:11
Yeah, I mean, we…I will say that My only interest these days is booking benefits. And my only interest is, you know…Back in pre lockdown times, we would set up shows for bands that are rolling through town, we would organize a fest specifically for rural queer and trans independent artists of all different, you know, way different genres. And nowadays, most of what we do is just trying to fund our struggling community anarchist projects by booking parties. And it’s all over the place. I mean, we recently did a cake sitting benefit where we had someone bake 20 cakes and people sat on them and it raised a bunch of money for the book fair. You know, just like it varies from random, gay, pervy dance parties to punk shows to workshop series. We give the people what they want. But, it’s kind of like it’s either a gay dance party or a punk show, is kind of what it boils down to.
**Margaret ** 20:25
I think I’ve been to a like–I don’t know if it was you all that put it on, seems like it would have been–like a wrestling competition?
**Riley ** 20:34
Yes, the lube wrestling competition. That was a fun one. That was definitely a pre-lockdown party for sure. But yeah. I mean, something I think about too with booking benefits is you want to hit a good like…So I think about what it takes to book a benefit that is both accessible to our community, who is broke as fuck, and also will raise money for whatever projects. And I mean, the projects that we’ve been funding lately have been the queer powered prison books project here in Asheville that sends free books to incarcerated queer and trans people.
**Margaret ** 21:18
Is that Tranzmission?
**Riley ** 21:19
Yeah, Tranzmission Prison Project,
**Margaret ** 21:21
Which people can look up and support if they would like. It’s been around for decades at this point and often has been one of the only projects doing this work at a time when it’s incredibly essential. Anyway…
**Riley ** 21:35
Yeah, they get so many letters in and really just rely on community support to get the books out to people. So yeah, we’ve been supporting projects like that. And I think about what it takes to, you know, kind of hit this mark of like, okay, we want this event to be accessible to everyone and we also want to make sure that we raise enough money to support the project and pay artists well, right? Because at a certain point, we realized that if we want to book the artists that we want to book, they need support getting…You know, like, booking especially–and we kind of learned this lesson through co-organizing with some Black trans performers and promoters from Richmond in 2019–like, if you want to book Black and brown artists, you need to pay people well because at the end of the day, if you’re just asking artists to donate their time and labor to perform a benefit then only the people who have the privilege and access to be able to donate that time and labor end up being able to perform, and those people are, by and large, white people. So yeah, we really shifted our values to like, just because we’re booking a benefit doesn’t mean that artists aren’t going to get paid well. Everyone. And on top of that, hitting the mark to make sure that, you know, the community project gets a little something too, it’s a hard mark to hit. But, you know, I think about going back to that lube wrestling event, which was truly iconic, and you know, charging five bucks at the door and five bucks to enter and making everything always, "If you don’t have the money to donate it, don’t worry about it."
**Margaret ** 23:29
I think…This is really interesting to me. One thing that’s changed a lot from like early aughts anarchism, which is as far back as I can speak to personally, was, you know, this culture of, like now we pay people. Like now it’s like not bad to get paid for the work that you do. And in retrospect, it almost seems odd, like the whole thing is we come out of this like working class movement, you know? But, I also understand why we had this like, volunteerism thing, right, you know? But, I also…I’m glad we moved out of it. But one of the things that’s so interesting to me about like benefits, right, is that it really points out, it highlights to me that there’s two points to benefit. One is to raise money. But the other is–well, there’s three points. You’re raising money. You’re raising awareness about the issue. And you’re also building community and you’re tying the community to activism directly. And when I think about how to fund a project, like the Empire Records model has never been accurate. Like you’re never just like, "Oh, we got to save the struggling, small business run by a white guy. But, we are gonna do it, and we’re gonna throw a party, and now it’s saved because we raised so much money." And that is not the right attitude about benefits. But instead, because I think if I’m like, man, if I really want to fund a project…Well, historically–and I would never recommend this. Anarchists usually do crime in order to fund projects–but, usually people just go out and like are either like get yucky tech jobs, and then just like one person is going to throw down as much money as like the next 50 people who come to the benefit. And that’s great. And that’s good. And that is a good thing to do and people who have access to work to get a bunch of money should put those resources into the movement, but it doesn’t build community the way that a benefit does. And to me these seem like they go really well together.
**Riley ** 25:28
I think so too. Yeah, I think it’s…you know, it serves the purpose of, yes, us getting together. And I’m really thinking in this kind of specific queer and trans lens. Like us just getting together is a radical act. And also, to push that a little bit further, we’re getting together to support people that are behind bars, that we’re trying to break down this barrier and break down these walls, and part of how we can do that and kind of, you know, disintegrate the myth that there’s any difference between our queer and trans siblings on the inside versus us is by just naming it every chance we get, and normalizing that conversation and really bringing it to the table because there probably are people in the room present who maybe haven’t decarceralized their ideologies, or maybe just haven’t had a chance to think about it. And I don’t think that, I don’t know, college classrooms or, you know, on the internet are the only places that we can kind of have these conversations or draw this awareness, you know?
**Margaret ** 26:37
Because there’s also podcasts.
**Riley ** 26:38
There’s also podcasts. Or, just listening to me drunk ramble at you at a party. I don’t know. I’m sure that I’ve single handedly turned at least two people onto our side that way.
**Margaret ** 26:56
That rules. And if they all turned two people on by drunk ramblin to them at a bar then…
**Riley ** 27:00
**Margaret ** 27:01
**Riley ** 27:06
I mean, and also I think about, you know, as a promoter, I feel like I need to qualify after saying that I’m drunk rambling at people, that setting up a fucking table with a bunch of harm reduction supplies and just leaving it, setting up a bunch of free shit at a show and just leaving it. If you’re thinking about like I want to way to radicalized the party spaces in my town without having to lean in too far, or don’t want to be there the whole time, show up with a bunch of zines, and Narcan, and condoms, and leave them on a table and scoot.
**Margaret ** 27:45
No, see, this makes sense to me. And it also is like, as someone who’s like fairly…I don’t think I’m anti-social, especially since anti-social implies, like, against people hanging out having fun. Although at various points I have been against people having fun. That’s how I got the name Killjoy. Right. But, you know, as someone who doesn’t go to parties as my like, hobby, right, tabeling is perfect. Tabling is…like going to the space and being like, "I have a purpose. There’s a reason I’m here." And, you know, if you’re someone who’s listening, and you’re like worried about how to be…yeah, how to be contributing, like especially if…A lot of people I think struggle to be just an attendee, right? And so yeah, if you set up a little harm reduction distro, or a zine distro, or a combination of the two, or whatever else, you can set up and leave, or you can set it up and hang out and be like, "No, it’s cool. I’m supposed to be here. I’m sitting behind a table. That’s why I’m not dancing. Everyone thinks I’m not dancing, because I don’t like dancing, but it’s actually because I’m stuck. behind a table."
**Riley ** 28:49
I have an important job to do.
**Margaret ** 28:50
Yeah, totally. I would definitely be dancing and enjoying dancing, but I’m stuck behind this table. If anyone identifies with that.
**Riley ** 29:00
Exactly. I just I want to push like, one no-fun-insurrecto listening to this to go to like one dance party and have a couple conversations with people. And I want to have…I want to challenge one listener who’s constantly at the dance parties to like, I don’t know, go to a gun range or listen to this podcast or something. Yeah.
**Margaret ** 29:20
And actually, because you talked about how like punk rock radicalized you, right? And sometimes when I talk to people and people are a little bit dismissive of that, you know, or usually about their own stories. I’ve never heard anyone be dismissive of other people getting radicalized that way. But you know, it’s like people are like, "Oh, like Green Day got me in," or whatever, you know? And I’m like, well, one, Green Day–I don’t know if they still do, but they throw…like when the AK Press ware house burned down, they threw a benefit and this is well after they were famous as fuck–but, I think that actually there’s like something to the fact that subculture carries the flame when larger social movements have gone away. I actually think that this happened in the 1940s. Sorry, everything I do now has to tie into history because it’s what I do, is read history books all day. But, like, there’s like this dead period in anarchism and actually most leftist stuff that isn’t like purely Bolshevism or whatever, right? After World War II, a lot of us died. And the people carrying the flame were like art movements, and anarcho pacifists in New York City, and Jewish anarchists, who were primarily focusing on the cultural things that they were reproducing in their own culture. And, I think that the same is also true of the like 80s and 90s, that punk and other subcultures carried the flame, not just of anarchism but a whole lot of radical ideas through this very dead period. Obviously, a ton of shit was happening. But overall, there wasn’t as much radicalism in the United States as there is more recently. So, I think subculture’s a brilliant way to get people in. Yeah, I don’t know.
**Riley ** 31:05
Yeah, and the internet, I think, has really played a big role in this too because we think about aesthetics, and social media, and how…Yeah, I think about how Covid and the internet usage in the cultures that kind of arose when everyone was, you know, really not able to get together. Punk aesthetics has maybe been like a unifying point. And that that can be a point of radicalization too. It’s like, okay, we’re getting together for this. And like, if it’s the right people engaging, right, it’s like, we’re coming together for this need to belong, and kind of unifying around a common interest, a common hobby, a common sound, whatever it may be, right? And it’s bringing that, you know, the ethics, and the core values, and the core tenets back up and kind of, you know, passing along, if we’re carrying the torch, we’re also passing it along, right?
**Margaret ** 32:00
Setting people on fire, you mean? [Joking] Okay, so, what does it look like to throw a benefit? Just like, run me through it. I want to throw a benefit. What do I do?
**Riley ** 32:15
Yeah, first thing you need to do is identify when and what the goal is. So if you, you know, you say, we have this action going down. We want to do this thing. It’s going to take this much money. It’s going to be on this date, so we need to have a thing say that’s gonna happen a month away. We’re gonna book thing. I mean, I would encourage people to not start planning an event within one month of when they plan on executing whatever event it may be. Find a location. Things that I encourage people to consider are just general access of that location. If it’s a bar? Or is it going to be an all ages type thing? If it is a DIY space, what does the accessibility of that space look like? Think about physical accessibility, whether or not there will be like an open outdoor space or if it will be enclosed. Whether or not you’re going to ask people to wear masks at the space, just kind of general accessibility concerns. Once you have your location locked down. And, you know, there’s other things that maybe you’d consider. Maybe you have a connection with somebody who has a space. Maybe it’s someone’s basement. There’s a…Maybe it’s under a bridge somewhere. I mean, you can do anything anywhere. Whatever it takes. And the more DIY you want to go, and by that, I mean, like, if you want to say throw a party under a bridge, identify your people that are going to help you because you cannot do that on your own, right? And so if you…say you and I are now just throwing a party under a bridge, that’s what we decided on. Identify what you need and that’s going to look like…
**Margaret ** 34:13
So we need a generator…
**Riley ** 34:15
Find your people who are going to perform. What is this going to look like? Is it going to be…Are we throwing a goth rave and Nomadic Warmachine’s is going to play? Great. Okay, so now we communicate with our artists in the totally professional and respectful way.
**Margaret ** 34:32
Promised him that it starts at 7pm and is over by 1am.
**Riley ** 34:36
Yes, yes. Or you don’t and you don’t hold to that at all. [Joking] Yeah, communicate well with your artists. Figure out what their rate may be. And then, once that is secured, then you have your artists, you have your location, you have your date. You need to make your promotional materials and you need to secure your speakers, PA, fog machine…I don’t know, whatever you decide that you need. And I mean, I really encourage people to do whatever they want. So, get your lube and giant pools for your lube wrestling party. Whatever it is. But, I don’t know, Asheville loves a gimmick. So, we’re always throwing a gimmick in there. You know, I also like…Encourage people to figure out what the people around them like. But yeah, so we’re at the point now where we have our artists, and our location, and our venue, and we have a flyer, and we have a PA secured. And then, you just put the word out there. I love to hit the streets with a staple gun. And I think that that is a perfectly fine thing to do. And social media is great as well. We promote online, and we promote in the streets, and we pass out handbills at other events. And that’s my three main modes of promoting. Maybe you have a listserv in your community that you can let people know. Maybe you can ask the performers to promote it on their networks as well. Maybe your friends with one of the performers with a podcast who can mention it on her podcast. It’s about reaching out. I mean, always, always communal over individual when it comes to doing anything, I guess, but doing this as well. You know, reach out to all of your networks and make it less about who it is and more about what it is and what brings us together. And then you do it. And, I mean, unfortunately, we have to take safe…pretty serious safety considerations into the parties that we throw because of threats of violence in the past. Yeah, Margaret and I have both been doxxed after various things that have happened in Asheville that were just fun little events. And so yeah, maybe there’s…and again, this is like where I go to collectives and the people you know and the people you trust because we aren’t cop callers. And if something were to go down at one of our shows, we put pretty intentional consideration into safety planning, having a medic there in case someone, you know, breaks their leg at lube wrestling, or if, you know, if something really hits the fan, just having having safety plans in place feels important too. What is the evacuation plan if the cops bust up your under the bridge rave? And how can you make sure that everyone is accounted for and that, you know, the marginalized people present are not just left to, you know…that people have each other’s backs. And building that culture does start, I think, with the people who are hosting the event.
**Margaret ** 38:07
No, that makes a lot of sense to me. Every part of that. And one of the…to the not leaving people behind thing, one of the things that I think actually really behooves experienced…People have experience in the streets and have experience with conflict with police. I have a pretty strong sense of self preservation. And I tend to know the best exit at any given point. And I’m pretty good at getting out of situations. What actually behooves me in crises is to use the fact that I have that experience to not be the first one out. But instead, to help the people who don’t have that experience to get out. The more experienced people should be the people who are taking a higher level of risk. The organizers should be the people taking a higher level of risk. The organizers will be more in the know. They’ll be more aware of when police are coming, you know, blah, blah, blah. And it’s a time to be brave. Most, you know, obviously most DIY shows and stuff have nothing of the sort, you know, like but no, I really like….
**Riley ** 39:16
Yeah, I’m just thinking about a time, I’m thinking about a time that some gay college kids here in Asheville threw a house party and some random dude that was a neighbor wandered up on the party and he was being weird. So, he got asked to leave. So he came back with a gun and he fired off a round into the ground, but he was obliterated wasted. And, I mean people people handled it…They responded quickly and handled it as well as they could. But, you know, after that happened, some anarchist homies came through and did porch sitting on their porch for a couple of weeks, but also sat down with them like, "Hey, let’s let’s make some safety planning for if this happens in the future," and that actually brought like probably 15 or 20 people that I would have never thought they would show any interest in community safety work, you know? And this goes back to just discounting people or not being maybe kind of people like, consider the Yes….
**Margaret ** 40:24
These like apolitical party kids…
**Riley ** 40:27
These a political party kids could be on our team with one…It takes not…you know, it’s maybe they already are, you know? And that was a really powerful experience because I think…We felt very grateful on both sides. And there was no, there wasn’t really a both sides, which we all really kind of knew each other. But, you know, there was a divide. Oh, those kids aren’t really with our shit. Oh, those people aren’t really, you know? And it was a really unifying moment. Like, yeah, now these party college kids are really down with the struggle and will show up to do porch sitting for others if they need it, you know? And it sucks that it takes a near tragedy for that to happen. But, what came out of it was we safety plan for everything now. You know what I’m saying? Like, we’re running scenarios like it’s…you know? I mean, because that’s what makes me feel like at the actual event, I can relax, because I know, "Well, if something goes down, we have a plan for it." And actually, I mean, the queer and trans events are not getting any safer, not because of anything we’re doing but because of increased violence. So, I don’t know what…I’m not gonna stop being with my people. So, at the very least, I can increase safety for them. And for myself. And you can do it for me, like, it’s not just… Yeah, we work together for that.
**Margaret ** 41:59
No, I love it. And the ethos of, "We keep us safe," we just have to like actually mean it and we have to actually think about what it involves. No, this ties in so well to one of the things that I talk about a lot on the show where I’m like, one of the reasons I have a go bag is because I live in the woods and wildfire is a thing that exists. And so I prepare for that. And now I don’t worry about it all the time. And what you’re talking about, like yeah, I was recently at the Asheville Anarchist Book Fair–I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. I’m not doxxing myself by saying this, I did a talk, played a show. It was very fun. You all did a great job. Yeah. And, I didn’t worry incredibly about my safety because of that, because I knew that there were people there doing security. I knew that they were not power hungry type people. If anyone listening is like thinking about doing community defense, that’s amazing and beautiful and essential, and takes a certain mindset, and it takes a certain calmness, and it takes a certain…the kind of person who is not looking to exert power over other people. You know? Anyone who thinks in their heart is a petty tyrant, you should be the person to distribute condoms for free and instead, which is also essential. And now don’t go up to everyone who’s distributing condoms and decide that they’re a petty tyrant. Unless they’re not letting you have condoms. Unless they’re like, "You don’t need a condom, you’re not getting laid," then you should be opposed to them.
**Riley ** 43:32
Flip the table.
**Margaret ** 43:34
That’s right. Fuck your safer sex. We live danger…[Joking tone] I don’t…No, that’s like…I really like how much this immediately ties into all the preparedness stuff, because this is what community preparedness is, is building culture, building community. Because the other thing, the way you’re talking about this, this is community organizing. [Riley makes an affirmative sound] And like people, I think sometimes think of subcultural spaces, whether it’s queer dance parties or punk shows or raves or whatever, as being outside of…people think subculture is distinct from culture, but there is no culture. There’s no mainstream culture. You ever talk to a normal person. They’re not normal. Like, they may dress as normal as they want, but everyone’s got something. You’re like, you’re talking to someone and then they’re like, "And the aliens…" and you’re like, "Huh."
**Riley ** 44:29
I thought you were into a thing by the way you dress, but you’re into a thing.
**Margaret ** 44:34
Exactly. And like, we just have a myriad of intersecting subcultures and we shouldn’t be…I don’t know. I think that building subculture and especially intersecting subcultures, and like…Like I love that at the book fair, there was a lot of different genres and there was a lot of different things happening. It wasn’t just punk, right? And I love punk, but not as much as I love goth, and you, you know, like, I don’t know, those weren’t the only two genres. I’m just…Yeah.
**Riley ** 45:07
Yeah, we had a really great time. And I am thinking more about this safety and what the role of, you know, I think about what my asks are as a promoter of people who are willing to show up to do some role of safety at our events. And I’m back at it again, be nice to people. Like that is one of my main asks over and over again, like, the main energy, I mean…it’s a really…And I can usually from talking to someone for a few minutes, gauge to some level, what their ability to do deescalate a situation is. And just like you said, if someone is coming in hot with something to prove, it’s like, "No, you’re going to be serving beans and rice because that is not the energy we need," you know? And that is…I just have to honor the de-escalation training and the safety trainings that I’ve received that taught me that, you know, we don’t need to reproduce militancy, or ugly masculinity, or yeah…There is no aspect of that, that keeps us safe. And I have been able to do more with my gay voice, and my demeanor, and my just looking someone in the eyes and smiling at them and asking them and like, you know, trying to build points of affinity to de-escalate a situation have been able to accomplish more that way than I’ve ever been able to accomplish by like, trying to get buck with somebody and trying to like…I’m doing something on a camera that people can’t see…
**Margaret ** 46:55
Just imagine, just imagine. Riley. Fist up. Head side-to-side. Shoulders also side-to-side…
**Riley ** 47:03
It looks like I’m doing a bird mating dance.
**Margaret ** 47:09
Well, no, and I, I like that too. Because it’s like, it’s also like, because most of it is that and then sometimes a bunch of people sit on your porch all week with guns. And while doing that, are not not macho, are communicating, are friendly, are friendly with neighbors, aren’t walking around with long guns. I mean, obviously, there are situations in this world where that is necessary. But that’s not usually what we’re talking about. You know, usually we’re talking about people who have specific training that is, especially in medical and like keeping people safe, but also includes like, concealed carry and all of these things. You know, that is a…Whenever non Americans listen to some of the stuff that I talk about, people are like, "Well, fuck, y’all are in trouble." And I’m like "Yeah, we’re in trouble!"
**Riley ** 47:58
We really are.
**Margaret ** 48:02
It’s the "I’m in danger," meme, but it’s like, but it’s okay. Like, that’s the other thing that you’re talking about being like…you know, you don’t go to a movie and you’re like, "Why are they showing us the fire movie, the fire exit movie." I guess they don’t do this anymore. When I was a kid, you would go to the movie and it would show you like, "Please note the nearest exits." You know, it doesn’t mean that the fucking movie theaters gonna burn down. It means that it might and you should know what to do. You know? And, so like bad things happen. Still, probably driving to and from things is more dangerous than doing things like that is…I remember I was reading about like wolf attacks, and like bear attacks, and shit, well camping, and everything was like, "Yeah, you know what the most dangerous part of camping is? Driving to the camping spot." And I say that not because it’s like, everything’s safe, but rather we clearly do accept danger. That is part of living.
**Riley ** 49:13
Yeah, I just want the danger to be like getting consensually kicked in the face during one of your friends sets in a pit and not like someone throwing punches and calling you slurs outside.
**Margaret ** 49:26
Totally. And if I want…if that happens, everyone to know that the plan is to beat that person into the ground and no one talked to the police about what happened.
**Riley ** 49:37
We saw nothing.
**Margaret ** 49:37
We all talked to lawyers instead.
**Riley ** 49:40
**Margaret ** 49:42
No, no. Okay. I like this. This has me excited. Every now and then I’m like…most of the time, I’m happy that I live in the woods and don’t do anything. And sometimes. I’m like, wait, sometimes I miss the fact that I did all of these things and I will do these things again. Okay, so you hinted at it a bunch of different times and you talked about different ways to be inclusive, including accessibility of the space for people of different mobility needs, accessibility of letting people know what the Covid risk is, and even like letting people know what the accessibility is, right? Like, own up to it if your space is not wheelchair accessible. And actually, hopefully, by owning up to it, you’re kind of like slowly pressuring yourself…Tell me if I’m going about this wrong, but in my mind that you like then kind of slowly pressure yourself to be like, "Oh, I really hate saying that it’s not wheelchair accessible, maybe we should…"
**Riley ** 50:30
Right, like, maybe I should find a wheelchair accessible place. Even, because that’s something I’ve really processed. I have to give it to a local group DIYabled to really push for accessible spaces within the DIY community here in Asheville. Because I really assessed it with this person, her name is Priya, who kind of runs that group. Like, I want to find these spaces that are accessible, but it’s, you know, it’s…We live in the mountains. There are…a lot of them just aren’t. And, you know, I feel, you know, all this guilt about that. And she’s like, "No, like, disabled people greatly appreciate you just saying it. Like, no shame, no shade, like, just let people know so they’re not haulin ass all the way out there to find out when they get there, or having to ask first." Like, yes, it does put that pressure on. And even if you aren’t like, I really want to find them accessible space, and the space just simply isn’t accessible, naming it is increasing access because it’s not forcing someone to travel to a place that they can’t actually get into, you know? So, no shade at all, if you can’t find that kind of space, but…
**Margaret ** 51:47
And that makes sense. And then like one of the things that I think about…I’m someone who, you know, I’m very Covid careful, let’s say. And, like, I really appreciate when places are like honest about like, you know, "Hey, masking is going to be encouraged," or, "Hey, masking…" Like, like, the thing that would make me sad is if you go to a space that’s like, "Masking required," and then like the organizers aren’t wearing masks and no one’s wearing masks. I’d rather you just didn’t put that on the flyer at that point, right? Because then you can make…I can make my own decisions around that. And, you know, I’ll…And so like putting on the flyer, like, "Outside space is available," you know, or whatever, right? Like, no, that’s interesting. And so, okay, so I’m wondering what other inclusivity, not just accessibility, but like inclusivity things are. Like you mentioned, for example, about paying people. Like that helps remove barriers of access, you know, for Black and brown folks and for people who suffer from class oppression as well. What are some of the other hot tips for inclusivity with Riley? [Said like it’s the name of a talk show segment]
**Riley ** 53:04
Let me think about that for a second, because I think that at the end of the day, it just boils down to like who is…Maybe it doesn’t boil down to who is organizing, but um…Yeah, I wonder like, who is the event actually for and what is the goal? What is the goal? You know, because I think about, you know, how different Pansy Collective might look if the intention was to book queer artists but we weren’t in ourselves queer. Or, if I was just like a punk promoter who was like, "I want to make my shows better," but wasn’t actually gay. I don’t know if it would feel differently. So I’m just like, actually, maybe part of it is…us? We got to be the ones doing it.
**Margaret ** 54:05
You mean, like, doing it ourselves like it is in the name?
**Riley ** 54:09
It’s almost as if we’re doing it ourselves. They should call that something do
**Margaret ** 54:15
DO. We’ll call it DO. [Both are laughing at the dry joke]
**Riley ** 54:18
I actually do remember at some point writing something about Pansy Collective and I like closed it off on this line that I was so proud of that was like, "We call it DIY, but really it’s DIT, doing it together." And that rings fucking true. I mean, it’s a little doing it together…
**Margaret ** 54:41
That’s a little ditty [Makes "Eh, eh" noises to affirm it’s a joke]
**Riley ** 54:43
Yeah, exactly. I think about taking the ego out of it. Or I’m like…Yeah, revisiting the…From a promoter aspect, the thing that I really hate to see from promoters, and the thing that we were able to kind of try our best to circumvent as a collective, was this, you know, we don’t want it to be about like who it is that’s doing the thing, you know? And for a long time, we try really hard to make the face behind who Pansy Collective was anonymous, for safety reasons, because I don’t know, I’ve named this a little bit already, but at the time in 2016 and 17 when we started organizing together, the block was really hot. And white supremacists were told to start keeping an eye on Asheville. And so there was a lot of attention on what we were doing. So, we tried to stay anonymous, partially for safety reasons, but partially because it felt less like…yeah, like a cool kid club, ego stroked. You know, this is me doing this. And instead it’s like, "No, this is, this is a collective and this is this collective is you, and it’s me, and it’s everyone, and it doesn’t matter who it is, because it’s about the thing. It’s not about who’s booking it. I think about that approach from a promoter standpoint as a way to circumvent the "cool kid shit" that makes spaces feel really unwelcoming. Because if you’re not in it then you’re not welcome. And it’s like, well, yeah, if it’s nothing to be in then we’re all here together. And we’re all on the same level.
**Margaret ** 56:34
No, that’s interesting. So what brought you to move away from that?
**Riley ** 56:36
Um, I don’t think that…Well, I got less scared of…I got less..After getting doxxed, I got less scared, I guess, because it’s…You know, it’s just like, "Oh, y’all aren’t gonna fucking bust a grape. Like what?" You know, and like this the…our biggest fear happened. And then we…
**Margaret ** 57:04
And then nothing happened.
**Riley ** 57:05
And then we took a concealed carry class together. I mean, I don’t know. Can I say that? Can I name that we did that?
**Margaret ** 57:11
I’m out about…I’ve talked about how after getting doxxed, I got my concealed carry. Yeah.
**Riley ** 57:15
Yeah. And so like, I mean, I was with Margaret on that. I mean, it was probably like 20 or 30 of us, and big props to the person that helped organize getting us all together for that. But yeah, I mean, we really responded like, alright, like, if y’all wanna fuck with us, we’re gonna up our defense and keep rolling, and we did and it’s fine. And so I got less scared because I’m like, "They don’t want any smoke with us." Like, what, you know, blast our dead names. Do whatever. I don’t give a shit. We’re really not…We’ve really been putting up with this shit for our whole lives. So it’s not that big of a deal.
**Margaret ** 57:59
Like when they’re like, "Oh, we’re gonna tell your parents that you’re a queer anarchists." And I’m like, "Oh, they know."
**Riley ** 58:05
They know. They already hate me for it. Don’t worry.
**Margaret ** 58:10
That’s either happened in a good way or bad way already for everyone.
**Riley ** 58:16
Yeah, no, exactly. It’s like I’m sorry that you lost your job for being a Nazi–No, I’m not–but it doesn’t really work, like what you’re gonna tell my leftist coffee shop job that I’m part of antifa? That got me a raise actually.
**Margaret ** 58:30
Yeah, and even like, you know, one of the people who was doxxed who worked at a coffee shop didn’t even have a good relationship with the owners of the coffee shop, and the coffee shop was like, "What? That sucks fuck them." You know? Like no one’s like mad. Yeah, it’s not samie-samie. They think it samie-samie, but they live in a weird bubble where antifa is bad and everyone is aware that Nazis are bad.
**Riley ** 58:55
Everyone knows that Nazis are bad. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that is very well said. So I mean, I still feel..like you know, I still feel like it’s important that at whatever event I’m really impressed by organizers, not even just at an event in the streets too, you know. I mean, it’s very off putting, and you can tell very quickly if somebody is–my partner calls it "All up in the videos dancin."
**Margaret ** 59:27
Like people who are clout chasing?
**Riley ** 59:29
Yeah. Are you here to, you know, are you here to make a difference? Or are you here to be seen as a good person? You know, and that doesn’t run as deep at a party because it’s like we’re all here to do something. It doesn’t matter. But yeah, playing a role, whether it’s running sound, doing security, handing some artists some money, working behind the table, whatever. Taking the ego out of it makes the event more accessible for everyone, including you.
**Margaret ** 1:00:03
Yeah. No, that makes sense to me.
**Riley ** 1:00:06
I mean that for artists too. Like, I don’t want to book people who are more about themselves than about the community they’re playing with.
**Margaret ** 1:00:16
Yeah, totally. Because then it’s like, I want to celebrate people within my community doing something amazing. But not in this way that makes me think that they’re amazing and I’m not, right? When we put people on stages–I mean, obviously, sometimes stages are useful for literal accessibility, actually, so that everyone can see and things like that–but when we elevate people metaphorically, like, this is what I like about punk, the thing that really got me about punk and why I started liking the music more was the sense of like, someone from our crowd has emerged and shown and been, you know, and it could be about their name, it can be about the thing that they’ve done, and then they come back into the crowd, and then they are of us, and they’re coming from us. And I really like that because then we can celebrate what makes us each individual and exceptional, but not in a way that says that these people are better than us, you know?
**Riley ** 1:01:16
Yeah, definitely. And I mean, that’s why I also never want it to get any bigger than it is, right, right? You know, I love when punk projects keep it to a certain size, you know, I don’t want to be working with large venues, I don’t want to be working with tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t want to be working with green rooms. And yeah, there’s just…I am of a particular…I don’t even know what it is. I just want to do all that, you know? I feel more comfortable in somebody’s hot basement or in a shitty dive bar or under a bridge, I guess?
**Margaret ** 1:02:00
No, it makes sense. I think of like…I think of it as like, are there ways where if we get…because I think Chumbawamba rules, right? They did their sell out thing, they got a ton of money, they financed all of these projects, and it was always a compromise. And it like, wasn’t an easy thing, right? And then they like blew their, you know, celebrity and like went back to doing DIY shit. And like, that’s fucking great. And like, so I think that like…I think we sort of need both. I actually do think we need the stadium stuff. Because if the stadium stuff is also like, financing us? But it’s not building the DIY culture. It’s kind of like the tech bro who gives tons of money, rules and is great and is amazing, and it is a sacrifice that someone is making to spend all their time working if they are capable of producing…like someone who’s capable of getting a lot of money by working I actually think it’s like a really good idea for them to do that so they get a bunch of money and give it to things you know?
**Riley ** 1:02:00
Yeah. I’m not mad at that at all.
**Margaret ** 1:02:02
Yeah. I think it’s funny. I think Chumbawamba would have…like I think people would have been so much less mad at them if it had happened now instead of…or maybe I just say this because now I get paid to podcast? [laughing] I don’t know, maybe I have a bias here…
**Riley ** 1:03:21
Maybe you get knocked down, but then you get back up again. Maybe it’s that.
**Margaret ** 1:03:24
I know. Never gonna keep me down. Well, okay, so is there any like standout question that I didn’t ask you that I probably should have or do you have any like final words or?
**Riley ** 1:03:40
No, I…Let me think about that for a second. I don’t know. I think I just want people to get out there and do it. Yeah, start that project. Put yourself out there. Share it with us. Come through Asheville. We’ll book you.
**Margaret ** 1:04:05
Hell yeah. Yeah, the secret is to really begin. Do the thing that you want to do. That’s what’s so great about DIY is that it actually doesn’t matter if it sucks. Like, just do it. And then if you don’t like it, do it better next time. And if you do like it, and no one else likes it, just keep doing it. Fuck it. Whatever. Eventually the people who think what you’re doing is cool will show up. I never thought there would be a goth night at an anarchist bookfair but I’ve been in a lot of goth bands and finally I got to play an anarchist bookfair so it all works out. Okay, well how can people either find you or your projects?
**Riley ** 1:04:44
Y’all can check out Pansy Collective on Instagram. It’s Pansy.Collective. Um, that’s kind of it. Thank you, Margaret.
**Margaret ** 1:04:52
Yeah, thank you so much.
**Margaret ** 1:05:00
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, you should go out and start a band or start booking benefits or go to an event and make friends with people or don’t make friends with people or don’t be a cool kid at the thing if you’re already in the in-crowd. Or, you can financially support us because we don’t pay–at the moment we don’t pay the hosts which is fine–but we do pay the transcriptionist and the audio editor because they’re doing the like completely thankless work. And so, thanks, by the way, both the transcriptionist and audio editor who have to hear me say this. You can support us by supporting us on Patreon. It’s patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. We send out a zine every month to our backers at $10 or more. We have another podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness where we do a free audio version and an interview with the person who has recorded the zine or who wrote the zine…Put the verbs in the right order on your own time. And in particular, we would like to thank Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous–that’s a good choice–Funder, Jans, Oxalice, Janice & O’dell, Paige, Aly, Paparouna, Milicia, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, Shawn, S.J., Paige, Mikki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Cat J., Staro, Jenipher, Eleanor, Kirk, Sam, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the dog. Thank you Hoss the dog and everyone be as well as you can and we’ll talk to you soon.
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