Lady Bunny. RuPaul. Bianca Del Rio. New York has served as an incubator for some of the most beloved and influential drag stars of all time. So it’s no surprise that a new breed of queen is percolating here—the arty, punkish and frequently hirsute gender benders of the House of Bushwig collective, whose third annual Bushwig fete hits north Brooklyn this weekend. This year’s version expands to two full days, and its creators want it to be more than just a bunch of queens clowning onstage.
“We want to make Bushwig a grassroots, radical, queer festival that includes music and art, and make it a focal point of [the queer scene],” says Simon Leahy (a.k.a. Babes Trust), who cofounded the event with rising drag star Horrorchata (who goes by Matty Beats in boy form). “We wanted to showcase that there’s more to drag than just lip-synching to Britney songs.” To that end, this year’s fest is packed with musical performances, including sets by local rapper AB Soto, British singer-songwriter Poisonous Relationship and Matmos side project Soft Pink Truth, as well as sets by DJs including JD Samson and Amber Valentine.
Of course, the event is called Bushwig, and it’s still very much a celebration of the gender-bending arts. The performers will push the limits of what most people think of drag—beards, shaved heads, fright masks—but its founders definitely have a healthy respect for the past. “Wigstock is a big inspiration,” says Horrorchata of Lady Bunny’s iconic drag fest that happened in the East Village from the ’80s up until the early aughts. “In the ’90s, it was the East Village drag scene that was kind of pushing boundaries, making drag more of an art form,” says Leahy. “And now it’s Bushwick, because all the young, broke artists live here.”
But it’s not just starving Bushwickites performing at this year’s fest. In addition to talent flying in from around the world, some of the folks behind that East Village scene of yore, including Linda Simpson and Penny Arcade, are set to take the stage at Secret Project Robot this weekend. “This year, there are quite a few performers who have just started doing drag, and quite a few more who have been doing drag for 10 or 20 years,” Leahy explains. “To be honest, there’s no shortage of drag queens.”—Ethan LaC