Long Beach Zine Fest Celebrates a Community Made From Scratch

Handmade rainbow craziness (Long Beach Zine Fest Instagram)

Throngs of hipsters, families and hipster-families attended this year’s Long Beach Zine Fest at the Expo Arts Center, a community arts hub in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood, on September 15.

Upon entering, attendees faced a delectable spread of colorfully decorated tables with artists selling their wares — T-shirts, funky prints, and of course, zines galore covering everything from ableism to rap lyrics written in calligraphy.

The event, meant to promote zines, independent publishing and DIY culture, pushed artists to get creative with their self-promotion techniques.

One booth, Heck Ketchup Co., distributed tiny fortunes. Mine said, “A phase of jaded suspicion will soften when you meet the world’s only trustworthy seagull,” so obviously I had to buy two shirts.

Cynthia Navarro of Tiny Splendor, a collective publishing press, commented on the familial feel of Long Beach zine fests, while passing out free risograph posters of trippy Kewpie doll heads.

It feels like everyone knows each other,” said Navarro. “Everyone seems so present.”

This year’s fest also offered panels, workshops, vegan fare, and a filtered water station.

With over 130 zinsters’ work to peruse, it was easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of material. However, since organizers divided the marketplace into aisles, I was able to sidle through without being swallowed by the much-tattooed masses.

After browsing the marketplace, attendees could rest and pore over their purchases in an air-conditioned lounge accompanied by DJ Dennis Owens’ beats; or check out the live music lineup, quarantined in an adjoining auditorium, that featured five local Long Beach bands: Modus, Saint Shivers, Mikey Backpack, Meow Twins, and BLCKNOISE.

Mikey Backpack (Anne Marie Lawson)

In the theater, maroon velvet curtains parted to reveal a stage flanked by sets from a past community performance. Fake plants including cardboard cattails and trees covered in plastic foliage lined the room’s perimeter, surrounding the risers stacked with white folding chairs.

At 2 p.m., indie-electronic artist Mikey Backpack performed an entertaining, feel-good set, backed by a trio of eclectic characters: a trumpeter, robot, and pigtailed young lady holding a cardboard cloud emblazoned with “Mikey” in marker. If we could all be so lucky.

His upbeat lyricism, playful melodies, and yellow smiley face shirt aimed to inspire the audience to make something creative and positive.

The following band, Meow Twins, was not nearly as mellow.

We play rock and roll that reminds you of the dirty streets of Long Beach,” said Meow Twins bassist, Lily Stretz.

Their music featured high-energy everything. Intense build-ups released in flurry of screams stirred the crowd. The guitarist had a bright coral pink custom guitar, that I learned (fun fact!) was made by Stretz’s father. He went crazy on that thing.

I want people to release all that stress from the week because that’s what we do. This is my release. I want everyone to feel that “Auuugh!” said Stretz.

And people did. I observed lots of head banging, and if this show had been in someone’s garage on a Friday night, people would mosh. In fact, those who attended either of these sets will recall the lone young man in sunglasses and a black cowboy hat who thrashed around the front of the stage, embodying the DIY spirit.

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