A festival whose lineup consists mostly of people of color and/or queer folks (OR queers of color) in the traditional, conservative Austrian capital? Yes, please!
In the age of racially biased police brutality, rise of the alt right, and alarming amount of racist violence, Hyperreality was merely just a festival. It was a statement.
Taking place in an old industrial premise at the outskirts of Vienna, Hyperreality, part of the weeks-long program Wiener Festwochen stretching throughout both May and June, blessed the locals with one of freshest, most interesting lineups of this year’s European festival scene. For three days, stars of the alt contemporary club scene, both already established and up-and-coming, were invited to show their crafts(wo)manship. The long weekend was kicked off on Thursday, with concerts by Fauna, Arca, and Aïsha Devi.
We only joined on Friday night, but boy, was it a ride! Kelela’s ethereal show brought us to the church, quite literally – the fierce singer, wearing an all-white outfit, reminded of a divinely angelic creature, glistening in the bright-shining spotlights. FAKA’s set can be only described as “FIRE!!”. The South African duo, who are real experts on mixing African rhythms with danceable beats, turned the room into a raging dance floor full of twerking and bouncing bodies, and brought silly, exhausted-but-happy smiles to many faces. Definitely our highlight of the festival – and probably one of the best shows I’ve personally ever been to?
While the main shows took place at the upstairs “Zusammenbau,” the underground “Materialmagazin” was all about full-blown partying! We came to dance our booties off on both Friday and Saturday, and we sure weren’t disappointed. Perhaps thanks to quite a small size of the downstairs venue, divided into two stages, it wasn’t difficult to get the visitors, and, in fact, the walls and windows too, shaking to the blasted rhythms. The first night saw a proper parade of queer black excellence in the form of Qween Beat Showcase with the likes of Cakes da Killa, MikeQ, Ash B., LSDXOXO and many more in one room, while the other hosted powerful women as Nina Kraviz, JASSS, or Machine Woman on the decks. Saturday’s roster was even more pumped, with performances by Flohio (so much power!), Sega Bodega, Shygirl, Ziúr, Tygapaw, Born in Flamez, DJ Lycox (yasss), STILL, and so many more, brought to a close by the babes DJ Haram and Kablam. We left sweaty, tired, slightly sore, but so satisfied.
Even though diversity and representation on stage was definitely not a problem, it wasn’t so in all of the aspects of the festival. If you just stopped for a bit and looked around, you’d realize that the staff (people at the bar, merch store, ticket office,…) is basically all white, and that the security fits in the unfortunate macho men category. This choice definitely distorted the otherwise welcoming atmosphere, and made the festival’s dedication to embracing empowerment fall flat. You see, all I’m saying is that if you decide to focus on giving platform to those often marginalized, and even showcase this idea in your merch with anti-racist slogans (all criticism aside, the red Keine Angst hoodie with the quote “It’s racism that leads to fear, not the other way around” on the back has become my favorite clothing item ever since), you need to incorporate this agenda in all parts of your event. Having worked in festival management myself, I know it is not a simple task, but it sure isn’t impossible.
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