I Know a Place
When Maggie Rogers headlined night one of DC’s All Things Go Music Festival this fall, she marveled at the crowd and said simply, “I feel so safe right now.” To say the feeling was mutual would be an understatement.
Hosted at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, on September 30 and October 1, the festival boasted acts that included Rogers, Boygenius, Lana Del Rey, Carly Rae Jepsen, MUNA, Tegan & Sara, and more. It wasn’t lost on folks how special it was to have femme and queer artists leading as headliners and top-line performers. The expedition channeled Lilith Fair, but for a new generation and even more queer.
The independent festival started in 2014 as DC’s “fall classic,” and has upgraded venues from Union Market to Yards Park at the Capital Waterfront in 2016 (15,000 capacity) to Merriweather in 2021 (20,000 capacity). The 2023 iteration, the first to span multiple days, sold-out in a matter of minutes back in April. Organizers reported this year was its “biggest yet,” and that its “ethos is rooted in inclusivity—and built around a vibrant community of music fans.”
This year, that vibrant community translated to quite noticeably queer. Several performers informally surveyed the audience, such as queer sister duo Tegan & Sara, who, before playing a love song, asked if anyone was there with their partner to a muted response. They followed with “scream if you’re gay!” to a thunderous roar. Later, the pair, best known for the 2013 hit single “Closer,” talked about being openly queer in the industry for over 20 years, and only now experiencing the joyful culmination in one of the most inclusively queer lineups of any major festival of the past several years.
That context led fans to note how inclusivity is such an intentional effort. The presence of Amplify Her Voice, which advocates for gender equality in the music industry through events and programs, provided one such intentional impact this year. The organization offered an opportunity for women and non-men to take part in its All Access program and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the festival, venue, and network with other like-minded individuals.
Similarly, new artists like Ethel Cain, whose debut album Preacher’s Daughter came out just last year, ushered in a new crop of femme/queer performers. Her identity as a transgender woman (from Florida, no less) was not lost on the audience, but fans celebrated her arresting artistry above all else. Last year, Cain’s Southern Gothic conceptual and cathartic storytelling earned critical praise and an opening slot on Florence + the Machine’s Dance Fever tour. Here, her music translated to soaring anthems perfect for the amphitheater setting, like the Springsteen-adjacent “American Teenager” and the epic odyssey, “Thoroughfare.”
Elsewhere, LGBTQ+ allies like Carly Rae Jepsen and Lana Del Rey, well known for their dedicated queer fanbases, performed electric sets. Jepsen, who turned the success of 2012 superhit “Call Me Maybe” into the leading discography of poptimism (the critical reappraisal of pop music as something worth regarding with the same critical praise as rock music), leaned into campy sensibilities for a joyous romp of a performance. Later, fans of Lana Del Rey proved the loudest, screaming in piercing decibels at a surprise performance with Jack Antonoff for “Margaret” and “Venice Bitch.”
Meanwhile, the supergroup Boygenius, consisting of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, delivered a masterful show. The trio’s ethos matched the festival’s quite well: their namesake is a play on the gender imbalance for naming geniuses, they covered Rolling Stone in a staged nod to Nirvana’s 1993 covershoot, and they’ve earned critical praise from alternative rock spaces usually reserved for men. Demonstrating the band’s range, acoustic highlights “Cool About It” and “We’re In Love” drew an attentive hush from the crowd, while anthemic rockers “$20” and “Salt In the Wound” required sing-shouting the lyrics with fervor.
It wasn’t a competition, but MUNA, another queer trio who recently enjoyed a headlining tour and opening slots for Boygenius and Taylor Swift, likely showcased the queerest show of the weekend. The band, whose style defines as synth-laden emotional pop, kicked things off with a tribute to going out to gay bars (“What I Want”), dedicated their country-tinged ballad (“Kind of Girl”) to any trans attendees, and closed with an ode to sapphic love (“Silk Chiffon”).
Even still, their debut single, “I Know a Place,” summarized the weekend’s mission best. Released shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, the song celebrates safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community: “But if you want to go out dancing / I know a place / I know a place we can go / Where everyone’s gonna lay down their weapons,” so it goes.
By imagining this sort of radical and utopic vision from MUNA, and overall, from All Things Go, this testament translates to cherishing safety and uplifting a sense of community in daily practice. Women, LGBTQ+ folks, and femme-presenting individuals are far from safe in every space; it’s our work ahead to intentionally forge a better, more positive environment so that we all may one day say, “I know a place.” ▼
Matty Brown is the Communications Manager at CAMP Rehoboth.