|In this series, we’ll be getting to know some of the Austinites who produce our favorite local events. This week, a Q&A with queer party icon Jeremy von Stilb, aka Mouthfeel. |
L+B: Tell us a little about the Austin events that you produce.
Jeremy von Stilb: I produce a number of different events around Austin, mostly with a queer bent. With my friends I produce the Contrast Film Festival, which celebrates boundary-pushing art by female and queer artists, and the Double Scorpio rave which is total free-for-all that happens in a CrossFit gym.
I also do all sorts of one-off events. Last year that included This Is Not A Cult, which was a multimedia self-help show that stars conceptual aerobics guru Erica Nix and took place at the Austin Motel pool with the audience floating on pool noodles (how was that for a run on sentence?), and Butch Queen, which is hosted by Louisianna Purchase and features people who have never done drag before getting paired with an experienced queen to put together a performance and compete for a cash prize.
[Editor’s note: I went to This Is Not a Cult, and it was excellent. That sort of event is, like, this newsletter’s raison d’etre.]
L+B: What’s the most memorable or unexpected thing that’s ever happened at an event you produced?
Jeremy von Stilb: Some friends and I got together and organized a dance party on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion to protest the anti-transgender bathroom bill that was being proposed. We had DJs and choreographed dancing. About 500 people showed up in costumes and with signs showing their support for trans youth.
Leading up to it we got some national press which was exciting, but what was strangest was that InfoWars sent an undercover reporter to do a hit piece on the event. A woman dressed in a wig and colorful tights going by the name “Rainbow Snatch” came with a camera crew. She was trying to pose as if she was sympathetic to the cause and was asking gotcha questions to queers who were participating in the protest. It felt both a bit violating but also validating, because it meant we were reaching beyond our usual audience.
L+B: Tell us about an event you’ve produced that you were particularly proud of.
Jeremy von Stilb: It’s called Magical Realness, and I’ve done it four times in eight years. It’s a drag ball with open runway categories and then a drag competition, and it has always been rooted in creating awareness around HIV prevention and treatment. Eight years ago HIV rates were on the rise, and this felt like the best way to reach people at that moment.
Back when I did the first one it felt really raw and wild. Drag still wasn’t super popular in Austin and so for a lot of the people participating they were trying something new. There are a number of people there who were trying performing out for the first time and are still out there doing shows today. It was such a messy night, and I nearly had a nervous break down putting it on, but it did turn out to be magic. It also took my life in an unexpected direction: that was my first HIV awareness event, and it ended up leading me to working in HIV advocacy full time. Never underestimate the power of a ratty wig and too much makeup!
L+B: For how long have you been producing events here?
Jeremy von Stilb: I got my start nine years ago throwing weekly dance parties at Cheer Up Charlies. Each week had a different theme. One was an incognito event in which everyone was asked to show up in disguise, another was for Freud’s birthday party and featured two unlicensed, professionally unsound people offering dream interpretations to guests. That sort of thing.
L+B: Is there any sort of unifying theme, idea, or aesthetic behind all your events?
Jeremy von Stilb: I think there’s always been a political angle to what I do. Sometimes it’s overt, other times it’s more subtle, but the anger I feel about how our government treats us fuels me to create spaces for people to shine within. The most important element of what I do is that it is all collaborative. I’m a small part of this larger thing and I’m really, really lucky to be friends with so many talented people. I’m just building a stage for these incredible people to blow everyone’s minds.
L+B: Who are some local event producers whom you admire, or favorite venues to work with?
Jeremy von Stilb: My favorite spots are the Museum of Human Achievement, Cheer Up Charlies, and Coconut Club. Fusebox also bends my brain in half year after year. I learn and grow so much every time I attend one of their events. Also I’m so stoked on p1nkstar and y2k. They went from zero to 60 in like two years, and are really reinvigorating the club scene and bringing opportunities for new and young performers.
L+B: While we’re all stuck at home, are there any streaming events that you’d recommend?
Jeremy von Stilb: CHORIZO FUNK! He is streaming three or more nights a week, totally different vibe each time. Super trippy cumbia, disco, reggaeton. He is going in! I’m proud of him and find it really inspiring that he has been so on top of streaming. Plus he plays beautiful music that will make you happy, which we all need right now.