FREAKZ FEST: a celebration of Minneapolis punk


Photos and words by Nikhil Kumaran

On Saturday night, a celebration of Minneapolis punk, unbridled aggression, and unabashed freakiness took center stage. Taking place in the Jackson Flats art space on the Northeast side of town, the night was filled with torrents of moshing, silly string, costumes, and fake blood. When walking into the art space, I was greeted with decorations-galore, as streamers were hung from the door, inflatables crowded the stage and the dimly lit yet colorful stage space complemented the room.

Haze Gazer kicked off the festival, but in a way that I’ve never seen them perform. The lead guitarist and vocalist of the band performed a more intimate acoustic solo set. The performance was warm and accompanied by raw and honest vocals. The music drew in the crowd and the slower, more reserved performance gave the audience space to reflect on the lyrics – as opposed to a typical Haze Gazer sludge metal thrash.

Next up was Scatter. This was one of the bands on the lineup I wasn’t as familiar with. Filling the room with heavy distortion and movement, the band immediately ramped up the energy. You could tell that their strongest fans pushed their way to the front row, where they thrashed to the band’s infectious groove and mind-melting music. After the band played their last song, most of the mosh pit enjoyers went outside to catch their breath and get some fresh air. After all, they were going to need it for who was up next.

Popstar was next to take the stage. The best way to describe this band is sludgy yet glitchy at the same time. One of the most unique things that I’ve seen was how they started their performance. They played audio clips that used AI to replicate the voices of famous musicians, actors, and President Biden to say things like “listen to Popstar” (which I confirmed with the band after the show). Throughout the set, the band played viciously. They swung themselves across the stage and the crowd loved it.

Murf, the notoriously growing punk noise band, was a group that a lot of people were there to see. Before playing, many of the members changed into costumes on stage, spanning from a tracksuit donned with the pattern of dollar bills, an executioner’s hood, an orange prison jumpsuit, and a t-shirt with a pattern that mimicked a tuxedo. These mismatched musicians really knew how to amp a crowd up. Their engagement with the crowd was great and their stage presence was electric, vigorous, and hellish. I swear, the music made me want to jump in the pit (if it wasn’t for the camera I had draped across my shoulder). From rubbing fake blood on themselves, to then spitting it out at the crowd, Murf really left their mark on the audience.

Anita Velveeta was another artist who had a good amount of her fanbase attend. Supported by a bassist and a drummer, she started off the set with a cover of Frank Zappa’s Black Napkins which the crowd appreciated. Every time she announced the next song, the crowd cheered as their eyes lit up with excitement. Some of the more devoted fans sang along to her songs word by word, which not only emphasized the support behind Velveeta’s music but also the event’s devotion to local music. 

Accompanied by her DJ, Riotgrrrl Darko, a local princess rager, maintained the evening’s high energy while switching things up and incorporating trap, grimecore, and more bass-shaking beats. Darko preferred to be up close and personal with her audience, taking a step forward from the designated stage area. The crowd fed off her energy, and essentially turned the performance into a full-blown dance party. The concertgoers were hyping each other up, smiling, laughing, and enjoying themselves throughout the performance.

Lastly, RiGBY hit the stage. One of the newer bands in the lineup, I was most excited to see/hear what they had to bring for the show. Before their set, two of the band members grabbed streamers and ran amongst the crowd to bring their energy back up to perform, as they had been moshing all night to the previous bands. RiGBY’s performance was a chaotic barrage of gritty vocals. The music was intense and vigorous, feeling like a release of pent-up aggression. At this point, the mosh pit melted into more of a pulsating entity of movement, sharing in the experience of the band’s unbridled and unapologetic performance.

The smiles on the faces of both participants and spectators underscored a collective excitement and communal spirit, which defined a great night of Minneapolis punk revelry.