The Inaugural Washashore Music and Arts Festival
by Steve Desroches
TOP IMAGE: The Dragon Sisters
Creative energy requires constant fuel. How an artist as an individual feeds the furnace of creation and imagination is one thing, but how an entire community does so successfully is nothing short of a perpetual miracle. And small Provincetown has managed to maintain its outsized artistic culture for over a century now since the founding of the art colony in 1899. Key ingredients to not just ensuring the survival of the arts in Provincetown, but also keeping it relevant and robust, are a consistent influx of new ideas and viewpoints. Better still is finding a way to balance that innovation with tradition and to engage in thoughtful exchange among medium, genre, and generations. That’s part of the driving principles behind the Washashore Music and Arts Festival, a new venture making its debut this Indigenous Peoples’ Day Weekend in Provincetown.
Presented by the Provincetown Brewing Company and produced by Jonathan Hawkins of Live From Provincetown and Alex Dropo of NYA Presents, the vision is to have the three-day Washashore Festival grow into a “queer South by Southwest,” says Hawkins, referring to the annual mid-March multimedia festival in Austin, Texas. With the goal of introducing Provincetown to new queer musical artists, and vice versa, the Washashore Festival is bringing in a cadre of musicians, performance artists, drag queens, and DJs, programming them along with acts based in Provincetown. In addition to introducing artists that have never been to or have never performed in Provincetown, it also seeks to make the LGBTQ+ culture and community in town accessible to a younger and more diverse group of people, as for many years said community has often been largely white, older, and wealthy. In order for Provincetown to continue to be on the vanguard of art, queer culture, and progressive thought, its rebellious, free spirit needs intergenerational dialogue and a commitment to accessibility beyond the rich, while also tackling racism and elitism.
“We want to help keep Provincetown queer and accessible,” says Hawkins, sitting by the window at the Brewing Company on a rainy late September day. “Provincetown has long been a home to the outsider, and it not just markets itself as a place for free expression and the individual, especially the queer community, but prides itself on it. You have to make it accessible to the very people that for decades have come here to be part of all of that. We want to make space for the next generation of queer artists and fold them into the mix of Provincetown.”
One of the key aspects of the Washashore Festival is bringing in young artists, though not to the exclusion of older musicians and performers. Since the dawn of the new millennium Provincetown has had a nagging problem in that young people are often driven away by the high cost of living, particularly housing, as well as even visiting. It’s a region-wide issue as Cape Cod and the Islands have experienced an exodus of the young beginning with Generation X and on down. It’s really the Baby Boomers that had the last experience when the Cape was more accessible to younger generations, and in turn it’s largely that generation that sets the tone for most aspects of life here, often by the sheer demographics. Hawkins and Dropo laugh when talking about commercial radio on the Cape and how when approaching the bridges stations seem to switch over to Jim Croce or Carole King immediately, letting you know who’s in charge.
Dropo, a native of Sandwich, remembers as a gay youth he couldn’t wait to leave Cape Cod. And as he got older Provincetown didn’t resonate, as the perception was the town was not for young people, and largely for the wealthy. But things in Provincetown are changing and there are increasingly younger people visiting, and moving to town as they are drawn to the very things generations before them were. So it’s not so much an issue of “build it and they will come,” it’s more about making space for a new generation. The Washashore Festival features LGBTQ+ musicians of not just multiple generations, but also genres, including country singer Ty Herndon, pop star Vincint, hip hop drag duo The Dragon Sisters, singer-songwriter Kate Yeager as well as local favorites Donnelly & Richardson, Zoe Lewis, Thirsty Burlington, and Qya Cristal. And the Festival is embracing the Brewing Company’s “draftivism,” which raises funds for progressive causes as they look to raise money and work with the Wampanoag Tribe.
“We really want to contribute to change,” says Dropo, who has moved to Provincetown year-round from New York. “It was always hard to see a way to make a life here. But there are so many young creative entrepreneurs and artists that could contribute so much to Provincetown. We’re trying to create something for ourselves, a self-expression, rather than expect someone else to do it.”
The Washashore Music and Arts Festival runs Friday, October 8 through Sunday, October 10 at the Provincetown Brewing Company, 141 Bradford St., the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., and the Red Room at Velvet, 258 Commercial St. Tickets are available at provincetownbrewingco.com/washashore. For more information call 508.413.9076.