It didn’t take long for Boston’s Smash It Dead Fest to start to establish a following within the national punk scene. Now in it’s fourth year, the three-day festival, which will take place this weekend at the Cambridge YMCA and the Democracy Center, has become recognized for not only luring both well-known and local hardcore and punk outfits, but also for serving as an annual meeting place for people looking to further the conversation about rape culture, anti-oppressive politics, safer spaces, and inclusion within the punk community.
Rooted largely in a punk ethos, the festival fosters refreshing ideas about speaking out against larger problems like racism, homophobia, and sexism through facilitated workshops and discussions, and by booking bands that support the spirit and mission of the festival. This year’s Smash It Dead Fest, which will raise funds for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, will definitely not disappoint with scheduled sets from California punks Permanent Ruin, and Providence-based Downtown Boys among others. It seems, however, that most of this year’s hype surrounds the local acts that fill a large amount of the festival’s spots. We spoke with a member of the Smash It Dead Fest collective, Ali Donohue (also of the bands Tomboy and Fleabite), to see what bands she was looking forward to this weekend and why she thinks the DIY punk scene is the perfect platform to springboard intelligent conversation.
Q: What bands are you looking forward to the most this year?
A: This is such as hard question, because I have so many friends coming into town to play the festival. I’m really excited for a lot of the locals playing this year. Funeral Cone, Animal Mother, Spitting Earth, Leather Daddy, Disipline, Rash Tongue, Shrew, basically every local band. A lot of them are newer, so either I haven’t seen them before or have only seem them once or twice. I’m also very excited to see Downtown Boys from Providence, Crabapple from San Fran and Young Trynas from Baltimore/DC.
Q: How did you go about picking bands for this year’s lineup?
A: We think about the local bands that are new, because I think with any kind of festival it’s really important to represent your local scene there and have bands play that locals are excited about, even if people don’t know the headliners they will come because their friends are playing.
A lot of us also think about friends throughout the country, or bands that we think are cool because of their politics, or how those bands are active in their communities in different ways. Like Permanent Ruin. Miriam is a really cool lady of color who does cool stuff. And members of Crabapple organized a festival similar to ours California called Think and Die Thinking Fest. Also we try to give space to folks that either identify as women or have queer members, POC or trans members because all those folk are usually seriously underrepresented in scenes, so we aim to provide a space for people with marginalized identities to take center stage at Smash it Dead.
Q: Why do you think Boston has been such a great place to start something like this?
A: Boston is a pretty cool place right now. There is a lot going on. Our underground music scene was given national spotlight because the cops were on Facebook and trying to get into our shows. We were are being talked about nationally.It’s interesting, but it’s not unwarranted to me. There are so many talented people here doing different things and it’s really cool to see those things overlap. I think anyplace is a good place for a fest like this to happen. Get together with your buddies and organize around a cause you think is important. It’s been great to have the support of the larger music community and I’m excited to see everyone come out and have a good time.
Q: Tell us a little about the workshops that are taking place this year?
A: There is going to be a People of Color Caucus led by Suzy X, she is in the band Shady Hawkins, and she is also a really talented artist and illustrator. She makes really cool zines and stuff like that and as a self-identified woman of color she has a lot to say about her experiences in punk. There’s also an anti-racism workshop going on simultaneously, so I am very excited for that and looking forward to attending. I feel like this year more than ever, thinking about race when intentionally organizing the festival, has been more on our minds as we move forward and do our best to be good allies and cultivate conversation around inclusivity and how to be proactively anti-racist.
Q: Why is the DIY punk culture such a good platform for bringing attention to the ideas and issues that BARCC and Smash it Dead Fest are interested in bringing attention to?
A: Punk has always inspired people to speak out against different things historically, like the government and politics; there is this culture of dissatisfaction with the mainstream in punk. These issues like rape culture, racism, homophobia and the like are mainstream issues, that happen everywhere, even within the punk community. We want to use punk as a platform to say that we’re not going to take it and push back against these things.We need to be organizing around these issues and talking about them because if we’re not, then who will?
[Photo Credit Ali Donohue]