By Anna Daugherty, Emma Ledford and Alex Vickery
More than 100 LGBTQIA musicians, artists, drag performers and comedians from around the world took the stage for the inaugural Stargayzer Festival on Sept. 12-14 at Pine Street Station.
Despite the rainy weather, Austinites of all ages and orientations turned out to support the diverse range of talent within the queer community.
“We’ve got comedians and drag and performance art and we even have yoga and visual artists,” festival organizer Brett Hornsby said. “I think a lot of other pride events just kind of focus on one area alone, and so we just wanted to be as diverse as we could and show the broad spectrum that is being offered.”
Stargayzer has been years in the making, Hornsby said. Over the last five years, he was inspired by the diverse range of queer artists he met while touring with performer Christeene Vale.
“I think by [touring] I discovered how much incredible queer talent there is all over the world and how it’s kind of being overlooked,” Hornsby said. “I wanted to bring everyone together and make something that’s focused just on that.”
Scheduling Stargayzer for the weekend before Austin Pride Week wasn’t intentional, Hornsby said, but it was good timing. The weather, though, was less than ideal, as rain soaked the festival grounds all day Friday and part of Saturday.
The festival atmosphere, however, was anything but gloomy. Austin-based comedic drag performer Rebecca Havemeyer embraced the unexpected weather.
“I like how we have rain. We never have rain in Austin,” Havemeyer said. “The grass is growing and the ants are crawling.”
Tamara Hoover and Maggie Lea, co-owners of queer-friendly bar Cheer Up Charlie’s, said that Hornsby came to them with the idea for Stargayzer about six months ago. They jumped at the opportunity to see the Cheer Up community in a different element and location.
“Overall, this community has come out no matter what weather parameters they were given,” Hoover said. “It’s been a really awesome display of how supportive our Austin community is for each other.”
Lea agreed, adding that many festivalgoers didn’t just come for the headliners, but to support the lesser-known local bands and the Austin queer community as a whole.
When Hornsby began booking for the festival, he started with the better-known artists. He ended up getting so many submissions that he had to start turning people down.
“We discovered, on top of everything else, how much crazy stuff was out there, so going through it was really fun,” Hornsby said. “People are like, ‘Oh, you booked all the gay artists in the world!’ But that’s not true at all. There’s so many more.”
Regina The Gentlelady and her band Light Fires traveled all the way from Toronto for the festival. They played pride festivals before, but were attracted to Stargayzer because of the quality and diversity of the talent.
“It’s just a nice showcase of queer talent, and a really broad range of things,” she said. “There’s drag queens and then there’s bands that you wouldn’t even necessarily know are queer, or don’t have a queer agenda or anything, but they just are.”
Though it had its share of challenges, Hornsby hopes the first Stargayzer Festival will create a foundation for the event to happen again next year.
“There’s a lot of groups to juggle and shuffle, but they’ve all been patient and really excited to be a part of something like this,” he said. “We want to make this happen. And whatever happens, happens.”