By AK Freytag/DJ Main Squeeze
Freak Freely is the festival I’ve been most excited about this summer. With a strong emphasis on intentionality and building community through art, this fest is coming at a time in Portland that is absolutely crucial.
I sat down with the fest’s organizers, Corby Plumb of Totally Different Head, and Mara Appel Des Lauriers of LITTLE OBSESSIONS. The pair met last year through the magic of Instagram and pandemic boredom, becoming fast friends through their love of music, zine-making, and inclusivity.
“I like to surround myself with people who know more than I do about things,” Mara told me. “I heard about (Corby’s) zine, and I was just getting into zine crap; I’ve never done one before. I just felt like I had a lot to say that I have never given myself the opportunity to do.”
I met Corby in 2012 when he was organizing shows with the small group WHATEVER UNDERGROUND in Honolulu. Before meeting this group, I was a teenager very into DIY culture and eager to make art with others, but didn’t know if those people existed where I grew up.
“All this other shit sucks, how can I make it better? How can I make my own little world in it?” asked Corby. “That’s all DIY has ever been for me – alternatives to shitty things.”
Vulnerability is a big component of this fest. Many artists haven’t performed before in the way they will during the weekend; some have never performed in front of others, period. “It’s cool to see big things happen for reasons that have nothing to do with getting ahead or climbing the ladder,” said Mara.
When asked about the decision to start her zine, a risk that gave her the confidence to organize the fest, she told me, “I wanted to give a try talking about living with and through the art that you’re around. It’s good to have a point of view, to use your voice that’s yours, and to embrace the experiences you’ve had. It’s not something to be ashamed of.”
“We’re living through progressively more challenging times on all levels, and art puts iron in your back bone,” said Corby. “It gives you a shield; it gives you power in yourself.”
A strong component in Freak Freely is connecting parts of Portland that normally wouldn’t interact. Corby and Mara believe the organizers, artists, and audience all play an equal role in that connection. “That’s the thing – anyone can do this kind of stuff and be involved in it,” said Corby. “It’s just people realizing you don’t have to just be a spectator. People want to know that there is an interested community of fellow artists and musicians and people that care about music. You are a part of a bigger community, you can be a part of this, you can be a part of art, and you can make art.”
“I’m so excited to see something that is taking a slap at weaving together different cliques, mediums, everything,” Mara told me. “It’s not just diversity for the sake of diversity. It’s coming from a totally different place.”
Leading up to the weekend, there are several fundraising shows, including the one pictured above. 100% of proceeds of all events will be given to the artists performing. Tickets for the fest are $15/day or $25/weekend pass and can be purchased in advance. Freak Freely will be a one-time only event, but the pair hope to see more DIY events pop up around town in its place.
“Going through the pandemic, everyone that doesn’t fit into a certain mold is trying to find their place again,” said Corby. “Now they can start finding each other. Supporting this is supporting something bigger. If we can figure out this festival, we can figure out bigger things. Then we can figure out fixing the fucked up parts of the world, whatever that entails.”