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Berlin’s YO! SISSY festival celebrates queer culture

Organizers use Kickstarter to help fund larger 2016 festival

In July 2015, YO! SISSY, Germany’s first large-scale, queer music festival featured over 50 performances in three days, attracting 1,500 attendees. yosissy.com

Berlin has long been a hub of creativity, culture, music and arts — and for one weekend in July 2015, all of that came together for Germany’s first large-scale, queer music festival.

With over 50 performances in three days, including many female and trans-identified performers, the YO! SISSY festival had over 1,500 attendees. Queer headliners like Peaches, Cakes da Killa, Crystal Waters and JD Samson put on loud, colourful and vibrant shows with faux-fur, glitter and butt plugs keeping the weekend just crazy enough to still be sexy.

The weekend festival took place in three of Berlin’s best gay venues. SchwuZ, an LGBT club that recently moved to the trendy Neukölln neighborhood, has long been a supporter of queer acts by playing host to a number of LGBT music and drag performances. With political discussions, seminars and other activism events taking place at SchwuZ, it was a perfect match for the YO! SISSY festival. Canadian indie pop band The Hidden Cameras put on a high-energy set of their self-described “gay church folk music,” playing alongside the new and Berlin-local gay bear choir, the Pet Shop Bears.

Other events and performances at the festival saw large crowds. The closing party at SO36, a punk rock club best known for its monthly gay pop parties, hosted a club full of Berlin’s eclectic queer scene. The energy inside was more than just supportive. You could feel an energy, an excitement — a celebration of queer music and culture all coming together. All sizes and flavors of the LGBT community were represented — in both the audience and the performances — making it one of the most diverse LGBT events in Berlin. There was drag on stage and in the audience, colourful decorations hanging from the ceiling and people spilling out onto the street.

And now, the organizers, Pansy and Scout, want to do it all again in 2016, but bigger and better.

Being a musician and a performance artist isn’t always easy. Neither is it always easy to identify as LGBT. What the YO! SISSY festival accomplished in its inaugural festival was a revival of community and support for queer culture. Opportunity, acceptance and diversity. The primary goal of YO! SISSY is to provide a platform for artists to grow, collaborate and reach a broader audience. The 2015 festival gave many artists an opportunity to perform in front of a new audience. And the friendly and open spirit of the festival allowed artists to mingle with the audience, reinforcing the community spirit so important to many for LGBT culture.

With such a broad selection of musical artists — everything from techno DJs to indie pop and punk rap performance artists, the festival mirrored the diversity of queer Berlin. The organizers recently completed a Kickstarter campaign raising 26,000 euros (almost CAD$40,000) toward this year’s YO! SISSY festival as a way to financially support the artists and make the festival an even greater success.

For the most up-to-date travel information on Gay Berlin, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Read a more in depth review of the 2015 YO! SISSY festival on travelsofadam.com.