Bushwig is upon us again.
Created by DJ Horrorchatta and Babes Trust in 2012, the now-annual drag festival was inspired by Bushwick’s art-punk queens. Over the next six years, the fest moved from backyards and DIY venues to the massive Knockdown Center in Queens, all the while maintaining its gender-bending devil-may-care attitude. It’s better than Pride, tbh.
This year’s lineup features heavyweights like Alaska Thunderfuck, Sasha Velour, Aja, and Lady Bunny, along with more than 150 other queens, each of them determined to one-up themselves and each other.
To get a sense of the stunts these queens might pull, here are some of our favorite performances from Bushwig past.
Amber Alert @ Bushwig 2017
Amber Alert has been on the Brooklyn scene for a long time, so we should have all known when she told us “I’m just doing Cher,” she had some tricks up her sleeve. A bearded queen with a love for camp and trash glamour, Amber Alert straddles the continuum of queens onstage at the fest. This Benjamin Button take on “If I Could Turn Back Time” is both on the nose and totally bonkers. The diaper reveal is still one of my fave drag moments of all time.
Sasha Velour “Hopelessly Devoted to You” @ Bushwig 2015
Two years before Sasha Velour won Drag Race and inspired queens everywhere to stash petals under their wigs, she was performing at Bushwig. This performance, captured by North Brooklyn DJ Cameron Cole, both encapsulates Sasha Velour’s arty approach (Gollum looks! Quotes from Silence Of The Lambs!) and Bushwig’s atmosphere. We have Merrie Cherrie, a queen that many call the Mother of Brooklyn, giving a half-drunken introduction where she shadily implies that she wants in on Sasha’s next project. We have Charlene, who last year was crowned Ms. Bushwig, loudly cackling offstage and waving what looks like an aerosol can (#whippets) as a lighter. Sasha shows the thought-out approach she’s known for, but Bushwig’s ragtag environment seeps in: when she dons a wig onstage she checks it multiple to make sure it’s not coming loose as she performs.
Lady Simon @ Bushwig 2014
Lady Simon is a longtime fixture who will also be performing at this year’s Bushwig. In 2014, she was one of the top queens presiding over what was then just a fledgling party in the backyard of the old Secret Project Robot (the space is now occupied by the arts org Rubulad). Even though the scene was at its scrappiest then, Lady Simon pulled out all the stops in this highbrow Sia number. She had multiple dancers, a nude angelic twink, and most of all brought the unhinged energy that Sia deserves.
Charlene @ Bushwig 2014
As I already mentioned, Charlene is the reigning queen of Bushwig. As a proud trans woman, she’s always shown a lot of body in order to challenge our notions of what bodies “should” look like, but this performance takes the cake. Charlene mockingly lip syncs the Brad Paisley song “I’m Still a Guy” while tucking her junk onstage, and then subverts the whole thing with a well-timed Cher song. It’s got the visceral thrill of the best performances, but also questions the notion of gender essentialism.
Imp Kid @ Bushwig 2016
Before the Chicago musician, performer, and Instagram star Imp Kid appeared on the pages of Pitchfork, she was performing at Bushwig. Hilarious and fabulous at once, this performance highlights the uselessness of asking “What is this?” at Bushwig. Just go with it. (Fun fact: Her massive dress got caught on the stairs, and as I was trying to help her down she just shrugged the whole thing off and stomped over to the dressing room naked.)
Neon Calypso @ Bushwig 2017
This Boston queen has been known to mix politics into her drag, performing numbers critiquing capitalism and Sasha Velour’s nightgowns. Even knowing this going in wouldn’t have prepared the Bushwig audience for what was next. Neon Calypso wasn’t content to just perform a Missy Elliott megamix with more energy that Alyssa Edwards. She also took some time to make sure the audience learned a thing or two about representation and offered her own definition of feminism. I can’t wait to see what she does this year.
Bushwig is Sept 8th and 9th at The Knockdown Center 52-19 Flushing Ave, Maspeth, New York City. For tickets and additional info visit bushwig.com.
Header image by Maro Hagopian via Bushwig