Not so long ago, punk hardcore was dominated by tough guys who liked to throw themselves around in a mosh pit. It wasn't a female-friendly culture, and its agenda did not include pro-women ideals of sexuality.
UW Union South's Slutfest (Friday, April 7, 6 p.m.-midnight; and Saturday, April 8, 4 p.m.-midnight) shows that hardcore is not all tough guys anymore. Case in point: Event founder and organizer Nicole Pagowsky, 24, for whom do-it-yourself resistance to mainstream ways extends to matters of gender and sex.
"Punk culture and ideals promote all body types, all sexualities, all genders and all esthetics," she says.
For Pagowsky, hardcore isn't about tough guys at all. "It's DIY hardcore," she says, "as in music created, promoted and pursued on every level by the kids, leaving out any sort of corporate atmosphere. It has a sense of urgency, community and social conscience."
Indeed, the very name Slutfest exemplifies hardcore's unique brand of counterculture.
"It's not about reclaiming the word slut," says Pagowsky. "It's more like, if someone calls you a name, it sucks, but instead of being upset, do something constructive with it."
Pagowsky founded Slutfest in 2004 out of frustration. "There were lots of other music festivals around the country that I could never go to. So I started rounding up bands that I wanted to see. Fortunately, most of them could come."
The bands she invited this year are not entirely of the hardcore variety, but include indie, metal and experimental acts. Her favorites include the Madison-based heavy, hardcore band Murder of Crows and Chicago's anti-corporate punkers Hewhocorrupts.
"I first got into punk when I was 13," says Pagowsky, who grew up in suburban Chicago. "I didn't totally fit in at high school, and one day I went to the record store by my house and found a Black Flag CD. It sounded passionate to me, and like something you could actually become involved in. It felt like a community.
"From there I made a couple of friends in school who were also involved in punk. The more I was exposed to, the more I liked what the bands talked about - the values and this idea of doing it yourself."
Slutfest is free, with more than 20 bands scheduled. They include Iowa's Raccoo-oo-oon (eclectic indie rock), Sioux City's Swing by Seven (punk/comedy), Louisiana's Black Cobra (sludge hardcore), Milwaukee's Protestant (skate thrash) and Omaha's Eyes of Verotika (screamo).
Cherry Pop Burlesque, A Woman's Touch, Sex Outloud and Planned Parenthood will make presentations. "We'll reveal some sexy secrets of the neo-burlesque scene and demo fun ways to help develop a positive body image," says Olive Talique of Cherry Pop Burlesque.
This year, Slutfest has added films to its lineup. Four features from Philadelphia's independent Lost Film Festival include Still We Ride, a documentary about the mass arrests in New York City before the 2004 Republican National Convention, and By Hook or by Crook, a film about "working-class butches and the ladies who love them."
For Pagowsky, Slutfest is ultimately more than the sum of its parts: "It's great to have a community come together, of all different kinds of people, to be able to discuss and relate to one another."