Dylan Jones


Felt tip pens, dodgems, and Mutya at London’s gay music festival

To be honest, we hadn’t heard about Summer Rites festival until a tall, elven lad in a BOY London cap and green leggings stuffed one of their flyers down our shirt in one of East London’s less reputable gay venues, before rolling his eyes back in his head and muttering the cryptic, incongruously phrased promise; “You’ll have one hell of a blast, yeah, wassup.”

Summer Rites is an annual gay East London music festival which makes Saturday nights at Heaven seem like Frappuccino happy hour at Tunbridge Wells Starbucks. Drag queens squatted behind portaloos crying their mascara into plastic cups of Prosecco, dodgem cars bearing squealing bears ricocheted off each other to Bad Girls by M.I.A., a terror tower fired comatose bands of inebriated lesbians 100 feet into the air, and all while Mutya Buena stomped up and down a hastily erected stage in a baseball jacket bellowing Overload by the original Sugababes. Soon to be known as Mutya Keisha Siobhan. Hashtag MKS.

The inimitable highlight though, was the hilariously, unfathomably surreal drag queen bingo, led by seminal scenester Jonny Woo and his motley crew of accomplices in various states of undress; Ma Butcher, sporting a pig nose and some Tesco bags, John Sizzle sporting blinding colours and some wonderfully disconcerting facial hair, and Amber Swallows, sporting barely anything. If there’s anywhere the concept of bingo is impractical, it’s at a festival, involving hundreds of people. Jonny and the crew’s antidote was hurling fifty-strong packets of pound shop felt tip pens at people, shortly followed by a confetti of bingo tickets. Everything went surprisingly smoothly until number 69 was called, which triggered a muscular man who didn’t know a word of English being stripped to his pants, someone’s wig falling off, and everything descending into writhing neon anarchy.

Next we headed to the Tranny Detention Facility, a small holiday caravan wrapped in black tassels and security tape. Its small, flapping door belched out a never ending parade of tall, strutting divas onto a catwalk and our friend grinded so enthusiastically to 212 by Azealia Banks that his provocatively constrictive shorts ripped all up the crotch. A beautiful, genderless person with a broken umbrella and headdress helped him up.

A refreshingly unexpected aspect of the day was The Security. That’s not an underground German dance duo, or a uniform orientated bear bondage society. We’re talking about the actual security. Fluorescent jackets, boots, crew cuts. At Summer Rites they were friendly, articulate, helpful and seemed to view everything with an air of wry, mild amusement. We saw a boy stagger up to the bouncers at one of the dance tents, hand extended in a wordless plea. Without missing a beat, said bouncer pressed lube and condoms into said boy’s hand, turned him around, patted him on the head, and sent him on his way. A little like blind man’s bluff. But with string vests and When Love Takes Over by Kelly Rowland. Hospitable security should be expected, but in a city whose nightlife seems to be increasingly orientated around paying to be insulted, it was a welcome respite.

After a short break by the leather stall, it was off to the food and drink stands for some tequila and paella, then back to the main stage for Cazwell and Amanda Lepore (pictured). All rippling muscles and sexily American expletives, Cazwell bounced up and down in high-tops, opening with seminal classic I Seen Beyonce At Burger King. He was closely followed by classily collagened Amanda Lepore, coiffed to the hilt and swishing a sequin ball gown, which she soon flung off to reveal absolutely nothing underneath. Well, some nipple tassels. She sung, among others, Turn Me Over, featuring the lyrics “turn me on, turn me over, my boyfriend’s gone, so come on over.”

As the skies darkened over East London’s increasingly We Found Love-esque brutalist vista, the first broody knells of Overload chimed and Mutya stomped up to the front of the stage, hair askew, hoop earrings ajangle. During Song 4 Mutya, her stonkingly electronic anthem with Groove Armada, we got so excited we accidentally stepped on someone’s sparkly purple jelly shoes. After her, Boy George waltzed out and was his phantasmagorical, ethereal self.

We had a few more shots of tequila and kissed a boy in a trilby on the Northern line all the way home, much to the confused amusement of some Texan tourists. We ordered a Veggie Feast from Dominoes, fell asleep with all our clothes on, and woke up the next morning with bits of green pepper stuck to our face and Mutya’s voice ringing in our ears; “LISTEN GUYS LISTEN! I LOVE THE GAYS!”. 25 quid well spent.

Find more info on Summer Rites here.

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