Philly punk party Rockers! returns to showcase diversity in a multisensory weekend festival
Few events can sustain themselves for periods of over 10 years. Few shows offer such diversity in terms of people, genres, and art. That’s what makes Rockers! so unique; it has both.
A long-running music and art showcase that promotes diversity, Rockers! began because of a desire to see more bands of color playing punk shows.
Camae Defstar is one of the founding organizers of Rockers! and books almost all of the shows. Defstar started Rockers! around 2005 with her friend and band member, Rebecca Roe.
Growing up, Defstar didn’t see people of color in punk music. They didn’t receive recognition. She felt like she was the only one into the punk scene. She says Rockers! showcases bands who have something to say and don’t fit the traditional mold of their respective genres.
“We wanted our band, the Mighty Paradocs to play. We didn’t know too much about booking, so we said ‘Hey let’s book an event with bands we like and want to play with.”
Rockers began at the now-defunct venue Aqua Lounge that was located near Front and Girard Streets. The series then moved to Tritone on South Street, where it grew and created a community.
“There [at Tritone] we started to have a community of artists that were trying to play but didn’t have the access or connections to do so. That’s how Rockers started getting steam,” said Defstar.
Tritone was the host location of Rockers until the venue closed in 2012. During that year, Kung Fu Necktie became the frequent site of Rockers.
Joe Jordan, former Mighty Paradocs drummer, has been a part of Rockers since its inception. Now, he creates music under the name the Joe Jordan Experiment. He still is a “regular” at the shows as a performer and spectator. He said Rockers gave him a sense of community.
“It’s like a home for a lot of us bands,” Jordan said. “I’d liken it to CBGB’s during its punk heyday. No fighting, just high-energy excitement. Usually people of color. [but] it’s all-inclusive. People of colors… any color…white, black, red. It’s about unity,” he said.
This weekend Rockers returns for a three-night mini-fest after a winter hiatus. The event is not strictly about bands. There will be readings, workshops and DJs as well.
The mini-fest formed around Breathing Light, a Chicago band, who was coming to town for the weekend. They will be playing both Friday and Saturday nights. Band leader Yumii Thecato also runs a community movement called Slash ‘Em Up, which shares similarities with Rockers.
According to Defstar, this weekend is a collaboration between both movements.
She booked Breathing Light for two nights, which is when it blossomed into a fest of sorts. “It became a Rockers weekend,” Defstar said.
Also to note is a change in setting from Kung Fu Necktie. Three different locations serve as the hosts of this weekend’s fest.
Friday night’s show takes place at LAVA space. The bill includes the aforementioned Breathing Light, NYC’s Aye Nako and locals Opaque Hand, marking their first performance as a band. Defstar DJs as Moor Mother Goddess throughout the evening. Philly Metropolarity, a sci-fi reading collective, will be performing as well.
The fest continues Saturday night at the Great Indoors with Breathing Light headlining again. Also on the line-up are Philly’s Trophy Wife, Alex Smith, the Mighty Paradocs, and New York’s A Truth.
The members of Trophy Wife feel grateful to have been asked to be a part of this Rockers weekend. Diane Foglizzo, guitarist of the band, commented on the impact of Rockers.
“Often it’s a misperception of punk as a white person’s music and not in communities of color, but that’s inaccurate,” Foglizzo says. “We are a part of a music genre that is diverse, and there are punk bands of color all over the world.”
“We are honored to be a part of this,” added drummer Katy Otto.
The Joe Jordan Experiment plays Sunday, the final night of Rockers, at Dahlak, located at 47th Street and Baltimore Avenue. He’ll be playing new songs from the band’s upcoming debut LP. Joining him is DC’s Throwdown Syndicate and a new Philly band Justice League.
Jordan feels excited to play again at Rockers and comments on the audiovisual nature of the shows. “It heightens all your senses. There’s something to see. There’s something to hear. You can almost taste it,” he said.
“One thing we are about is politics, a band having things to say. Not feeling lame for wanting to speak out for things going on in their heart or in the world,” Defstar said.