The BFF in BFF Fest does a backflip off your mind by standing for Best Fest Forever, a crushingly sincere way to describe the three culture-filled days of a summer festival put on by Detroit's Seraphine Collective. The group's ever-observant focus on the participation of women, people of color, and LGBTQA performers is the backbone of the fest: Their aim is to be progressively considerate in curating the lineup. This cannot be done without the unequivocal love and support for one another implied by that other youthful notion BFF usually stands for, with the intensity and fervor that anyone who is not a straight white male has to fight with in order to be seen or heard.
Seraphine Collective is the community of female-identified musicians that makes this all possible. Established roughly three years ago by Lauren Rossi, 2016 marks the third year they've put on this fest, which has grown from strictly a music festival into much more.
The music: The soundtrack to spending all day at the beach with your best friends, followed by the despairingly pensive conclusions made when summer, the party, and our delusions about modern life have all come to an end — presented in a multitude of genres, from electronic soul to socially conscious post-punk to jangly surf pop to supremely sexy R&B.
The art: The theme of this year's art show is "The Softer Side," and it will remain on display for a month after BFF Fest ends.
The workshops: A variety of stuff including the philosophy and practice of Deep Listening, putting an end to street harassment, the self-love of masturbation, hoop dancing, and 'zine making.
To find out a bit more about what makes this year different, and which acts you should be especially excited about, we spoke with founding Seraphine Collective members Dina Bankole and Rachel Thompson.
Metro Times: What was putting together the third iteration of the festival like?
Dina Bankole: The scope and dream for BFF Fest gets bigger every year! This leads to a lot more work and stress, but more excitement for what we accomplish every year. Our planning process gets more and more streamlined, but since we're at another new venue this time around, we had to adjust our plans. Thankfully, El Club is pretty much perfect — there's plenty of wall space for our 30-artist-strong art show, bands can finally play outside during the day, the sound and lighting inside is amazing, the capacity is just right, and there's food!
Rachel Thompson: Although I've been a part of Seraphine Collective from the beginning, this was my first year being involved in planning BFF Fest. I have such a deeper respect for how much work this all is this time around — holy shit. This is also the first year we've hosted the fest in my neighborhood in Southwest, and I'm thrilled about involving friends, inviting neighbors, and having a bilingual poster. (Thanks Jesus Gutierrez!) I'm also obsessed with the promo video which we've never had before. Sacramento Knoxx created it; he's a badass filmmaker/organizer/emcee/educator/friend from Southwest. Personally, I'm most excited about dancing my ass off, learning new things, and continuing to build the Seraphine community.
MT: The second fest expanded to include an art show, and now the third has grown even more to include workshops. How did that happen?
Bankole: It's been a long-time goal of mine to have BFF Fest outside in the sun and we are finally able to make this happen this year. This freed up the inside and we had the idea to host workshops (bands are outside from 3 p.m.-7 p.m., and inside after that). We always invite community organizations to table at the fest, but workshops would allow them to really talk about their missions and engage people.
Thompson: I was in the process of planning the Beatmatch Brunch with Mother Cyborg workshop last April, and I was having so much fun and learning so much that I decided there should be workshops at BFF Fest. Since part of what Seraphine hopes to accomplish at the festival is "providing a forum for authentic new connections and thoughtful exploration of how music intersects with identity, community consciousness, and activism efforts in Detroit," feminist workshops seemed like a necessary addition. We're really excited to test it out this year, and we have some truly amazing facilitators that we've had the pleasure of getting to know over the last month.
MT: What are some acts playing the festival that are particularly deserving of our attention?
Bankole: I highly recommend seeing Alexia Avina (from Montreal), Fox Face (from Milwaukee — their song on the BFF Mixtape is amazing), Britney Stoney, Bevlove, Stef Chura, and Deadbeat Beat! And, shameless plug: You should see my band Casual Sweetheart, too.
Rachel: I will shamelessly recommend the people I booked: Britney Stoney (amazing), D.S. Sense (awesome female MC), Mother Cyborg (awesome DJ), and Stacey "Hottwaxx" Hale (godmother of house music!). Also, everyone Dina said.
BFF Fest takes place from Friday, July 29-Sunday, July 31 at El Club; 4114 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; elclubdetroit.com. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 day of show. Two-day passes are $20. The art show starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 29, with performances beginning at 10 p.m. Doors at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdy, July 30, with performances starting at 3 p.m. Brunch, DJs, and more takes place on Sunday, July 31 from noon-4 p.m.