Music festivals in the Twin Cities have become homogenized, with each new lineup announcement looking like a photocopy of the last.
First Father John Misty is at the Basilica.Then Father John Misty is at Rock the Garden.Hey look, it’s Father John Misty at Surly Brewing Festival Field. Before long, Josh Tillman is headlining Soundset, and no one stops to question whose spot he might be taking.
Moodie Black rapper K Death has always been a force for expressing discontent in the Twin Cities, and now she’s focusing that energy into positive social change. As a trans woman, K is all too familiar with erasure, and she saw an opportunity in the festival scene to gain critical visibility for herself and artists who face the same biases.
“I’ve gotten used to doing everything on our own, that this just seemed like the culmination of all of that,” K says. “Once you’ve done all this and you’re stuck at a certain level, what are you gonna do now? Might as well start your own festival.”
Moodhouse Fest, which will be held at Du Nord Craft Spirits on October 19, hopes to correct the many things popular music festivals get wrong. Going from noon to midnight across two stages, the festival gives a platform to marginalized and underrepresented populations in music. Queer people, women, and people of color—as well as allies—are championed in a dynamic lineup that features Dalek, Ceschi, Ecid, Murf, New Primals, and Lizea Harper among its 21 performers.
“It came out of the frustration of not being invited to a lot of festivals over the years, so I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’ll just do my own,’” K says. “As you get older, you start to see that it’s not about you. I want to be able to facilitate having something for other people.”
Moodie Black’s music is dark and confrontational, not a vibe that business-minded festival bookers look for in their headliners. K accepts this, and that Moodie isn’t for all people. But she also knows that there are dozens of similar acts getting passed over, too—acts that haven’t had the benefit of Moodie’s decade-plus of underground influence and indie-label backing.
For Moodhouse Fest, K set out to bring together every noise-rap band on one bill. As the forebears of the genre (K owns the domain noiserap.com), Moodie Black feel a stewardship for their style of music, and the dream was to get Jpegmafia, Clipping, Dalek, Dem Atlas, and, shit, even Death Grips in one place to celebrate the weird world they’ve created.
Industry roadblocks prevented that, but in the disappointment, K found a higher purpose. Instead, she decided to mix the genre inclusivity with a radical queer focus and an artist-to-artist ethos. Moodhouse Fest is still heavy on dark music—from industrial DJs to grindcore punk to depression rap—but that’s in service of a festival that champions the populations that mainstream festivals have ostracized.
“What I want to do is utilize some of my musician privilege,” K says, referring to the connections and acclaim that Moodie Black have garnered since 2008. If she can use her platform responsibly, maybe the next Moodie Black won’t have such a hard time breaking through. “That’s why music scenes have been struggling, it’s because bands that break through don’t come back and facilitate. If they do come back, it’s with the usual people, the Current or First Avenue. Why don’t they come back and do something with Xochi de la Luna? They’re not obligated to, of course, but if I get a chance, I want to do that.”
There’s still some stigma that comes from calling your fest “inclusive.” K knows that the second you affix words like “queer,” “feminist,” or even “alternative” to your event, you risk alienating those people who feel well-represented at Father John Misty shows. The divide deepens, and your landmark event for representation winds up attended by the marginalized alone.
So K is careful how she markets Moodhouse Fest. The bill is primarily underrepresented voices, but she’s booked them alongside allies, aiming at true inclusion. It’s not K’s responsibility to make the privileged feel comfortable, but in order to facilitate true cross-pollination at Moodhouse Fest, everyone has to feel the draw from first glance.
“No one in this city has really propped up these people,” K says. “There are all of these events, which are amazing, but all the events we’re doing are seen in a different way, and that sets us up to fail.”
To make good on that promise, K is providing an unprecedented level of transparency and access. VIP ticketholders are invited to load-in and soundcheck, giving curious musicians a glimpse into how a festival gets put together. If you can’t make it in person, the event will be broadcast free at moodhouse.us. If you are able to make it, K will be preparing breakfast tacos (with vegan options) for all VIPs and people who arrive in time for the show’s 11 a.m. doors.
“That’s what Moodhouse is all about,” K says. “It’s not a normal festival.”