Queer As Punk
Photo by Matt OttoIf you wanna put together a big summertime punk rock festival, you're gonna want an arena. You're gonna want a fat, mom's-credit-card-friendly double-digit ticket price. And you'll definitely need to stock up on assholes—to shout, "Show us your tits!" through the PA between songs, to strip scrawny little kids of their wallet chains and spiky bracelets at the security checkpoints, and to file in the front gate by the testosto-riffic tens of thousands.
But if you're Rudy Scutter, you don't need any of that.
Last June, in the heart of Los Angeles, the city that belched bro-core forth upon the world, was Rudy's Scutterfest, a topnotch collection of the best queer/girl/just-fucking-awesome DIY bands, headlining over three days of panel discussions, film, poetry and more. Sure, it's tiny by comparison—a hundred or so die-hard nice kids, instead of 10,000 boners—but it's so much more somehow. Fuck the meatheads who did a drive-by shouting outside LA's Fais Do Do; inside, Molly from Bratmobile was DJ-ing (as "DJ Eifel Tower," if we remember right), San Francisco Goth punks Subtonix were shrieking through what turned out to be one of their only SoCal shows ever, and everybody you'd never see hanging out together was there at Scutterfest, playing Ping-Pong and, you know, hanging out together.
You got the babyfaced kids who drive in from OC to see bands start at midnight at LA's Club Milk. You got the riot-grrrl veterans who you'd figured had moved to Portland. You got the idealists who actually would get up at 11 a.m. so they could discourse on sex and gender issues in independent music. You even got the nerdos with such hyperobscure taste that they actually got all aflutter over a Los Angeles performance by Subtonix—present company enthusiastically included.
And you got it all for five dirty punk rock dollars, with no corporate sponsors, no profiteering behind-the-scenes puppeteers, no paternalistic politics poked into your back, no assholes anywhere in sight—nothing besides one cheerfully self-effacing guy and his well-worn address book.
He'd be the one stamping you at the door as you walk in: Rudy Scutter, a.k.a. Rudy Bleu when's he's using his secret non-fest-related identity. And this year, you get Rudy Scutter in Orange County—in a Scutter first, he's expanding the 2002 fest beyond LA to include one show at the Youth Drop-In Center in Garden Grove, with proceeds benefitting the Scutter queer-youth-in-the-arts scholarship fund.
"I think the kids in OC need something," he says. "There's really not a lot of queer bands playing OC—and with queer youth in OC, there is this show, where they can be themselves and have fun and meet other kids in their area that they might not even know are queer. It's targeted to them, and I don't think they've ever been targeted in that way: just asking them to come and have fun and learn and reach out with other kids, instead of, like, 'Let us mold you into what we think this is.' And if the kids from LA don't wanna make the drive—well, we'll see what happens."
Before we start this conversation, Rudy says he feels bad for talking trash on OC in an old interview—see, he's a really nice guy, but we don't blame him for a word of it. When he used to come to shows out in OC, dipshits would talk trash on him—all the way across those dark parking lots and up until he got inside his car. "It just seemed like there was too much testosterone going around," he says.
But he still got a significant OC presence at Scutter last year, including a possibly more significant overlap with Koo's Cafe's SoapboXX Sessions women-in-independent-music program. He also got all kinds of letters and e-mails from kids—Scutter skews young and hip and refreshingly non-jaded—out here in the hinterlands whose parents weren't going to drive them into LA for a show (especially, in some cases, if they figured out Scutter's queer-positive position). That's kind of a great thing about Rudy Scutter, though—you can be a kid and write him a letter and ask him to bring all these bands to your town, and he will do it. In fact, that's how he set up the whole Scutterfest in the first place.
"The first Bikini Kill record I bought, I wrote them right away," he says. "Like, 'I'm not a girl, but I totally know what you're saying.' And that led me to other bands that were queer, like Pansy Division and Huggy Bear. I was networking with all these people—now I realize, 'Wow, that's a big deal.' But at the time, it just felt normal. They weren't rock stars to me; they were just people singing songs and writing rants I believed in and felt really passionate about."
He had grown up queer and trying to hide it in a first-generation Mexican immigrant family in East LA, getting pushed down the stairs at school and having to flat-out run to the bus after class—and then having to patch up a smile for his parents by the time he made it home. "They wouldn't understand," he says. "To them, it was like, 'If this is happening to you, why don't you change?'"
So he put all his bruised-up energy into his records. "Listening to Heavens to Betsy or crying to the Smiths or whatever," he says, laughing. He then started writing those letters to the people who made the records, and the encouragement they sent back pushed him into publishing his own zine. He called it Scutter, lifting the name Scudder from the film Maurice and changing it to avoid copyright repercussions—Scudder being a manservant everyone looks down on, until one of the upper-crusters is able to peel away his prejudice and with Scudder find true love—and man, did he ever get letters then.
Kids liked the bands he wrote about—all his old pen pals, like Bis and Ozma and That Dog—but they really wrote back to talk with him about his article on body image ("Size Shouldn't Matter But It Does"). Like Rudy, there were kids out there who couldn't wedge into punk culture and couldn't get any traction in mainstream gay culture ("My friends would be like, 'So are you going to Pride?' And we'd be like, 'Yeeeeaah.' Because we're supposed to," Rudy says. "But we'd go and notice we're just walking around in circles.").
By the time he had been laid off from his job at Medicare ("Real cool," he says, rolling his eyes), he had done seven or so issues of interviews (Rose McGowan to Bruce La Bruce to Pansy Division to Kathleen Hanna) and articles, put out a Scutter record, even booked some shows. Suddenly, he had a lot of time on his hands. By that summer, he had put together the first Scutterfest, again by tapping his pen pals (and their pen pals and their pen pals' pen pals). And now he's bringing it—with homocore-before-homocore-was-cool Pansy Division, with his own band $3 Puta, with a phalanx of spoken-word and punk and indie performers—to Orange County.
"It's easy to figure out why I do Scutterfest," he says. "I'd come home and listen to records, and that's what made me feel good, knowing other people went through what I was going through. And then it all felt okay."
Scutterfest with Pansy Division, Best Revenge, Allen Bleyle, Bobot Adrenaline, Greg Camilleri, the End of the World, the 14 Year Old Girls, Kim Kinakin, Nomy Lamm, Maps to Great Speed, Running Ragged and $3 Puta at the Drop-In Center, 12800 Garden Grove Blvd., Ste. F, Garden Grove, (714) 648-0937. Sat., 4 p.m. $5 donation. All ages.
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