Image courtesy of Long Beach Zine Fest. Photos by Asia Morris of the LBZF 2016 Program Zine and from LBZF 2015.
On Sunday, April 24 from 11:00AM to 5:00PM the 2nd Annual Long Beach Zine Fest (LBZF) will take over more of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) than ever before, with celebrated local musicians such as Avi Buffalo, Bootleg Orchestra and DJ Dennis Owens, set to perform in the Sculpture Garden, a newly added reading room in the lobby for zine fans to take a break from the noise, how-to workshops, amazing panels, a free bike valet, and so much more.
“What I think is the coolest is that it’s like an amped up version of what we did last year,” Sarah Bennett, one of the 12 LBZF organizers, told the Long Beach Post. “We realized that we can pull this off, that people will come out for these different activations and the different programming that we did and so now we’re able to offer even more of an incentive to come for those kinds of things.”
Last year, the inaugural LBZF drew more than 2,500 attendees to MOLAA, where connections were made, local bands performed, zines were purchased and stories were shared, several via a panel of some of Los Angeles County’s zinester vets, including Greg Narvas, drummer for ska and reggae outfit Hepcat and writer and artist of the comic zine I Was A Teenage Filipino Skinhead.
As quoted in the 2015 article, Narvas described the state of the zine in the 80s and 90s, saying, “[...]zines were a way that people could express themselves and write scathing reviews of anything. [...]and you could just drop it off at a record store and sell it for 50 cents. But it was raw, it was courageous, it was candid, and that’s the way it was back then because you didn’t have social media, you didn’t have anything else to express yourself on a whim.”
Now five years after the Los Angeles Zine Fest (LAZF) was kicked into gear, artists and writers are more passionate than ever about self-publishing their work, about making sure that their rants and raves and their passion projects are accessible to the public in an intimate, hand-held way, despite the rampant availability of social media platforms begging to be used instead. With the successful first LBZF a proud notch in their belt, the LBZF organizers see the event’s potential to be a regional hub for Southern California zinesters and zine fests.
“We really want the [LBZF] to be this regional zine fest, like the bind that ties, which Long Beach is as a city,” said Bennett. “There’s so many zine fests, but each one has its character and its own place. We’re able to be the regional one where we [can host] the local zinesters and then we can pull from all over the place and then we can have a place where we can have these regional conversations.”
By conversations, Bennett is referring to the upcoming LBZF panel, entitled "The State of the Zine in Southern California," where organizers of zine fests situated in the SoCal area will discuss where the zine is headed and where it’s been. It’s a panel where attendees, whether they’re familiar with SoCal zine culture or are just diving in, can learn from those at the helm of the movement.
“Now let’s reflect,” Bennett continued, a zine-maker herself. “It’s been five years since LA started, four since IE started, three since OC and San Diego, and we’re in our second year. So let’s talk about what’s going on.”
LBZF will also bring OC Weekly Editor Gustavo Arellano, Arts Council for Long Beach Executive Director Griselda Suarez, Long Beach Public Library Librarian Ziba Perez Zehdar and This American Life contributor Davy Rothbart to MOLAA as panelists, creating a draw not only for those interested in self-publishing, but attendees interested in what these purveyors of the published word have to say about the state of DIY creativity in their niche worlds.
“I think the people in Long Beach feel really empowered to take their city into their own hands,” said Gabriela Martinez, Curator of Education at MOLAA, who played a hand in bringing this LBZF to fruition. “There’s art everywhere. There’s so many writers and illustrators and this brings them all together. So it’s really neat to have a centralized location where people can come in and not just enjoy the artwork but also financially support the artists who put it out there.”
Asking Bennett why the hours and hours spent organizing LBZF is well worth it, was like asking a bird why it flies. You don’t think, you just do, and that’s because it’s your passion. You have no choice but to want to put your work out there and in this case, the dedicated LBZF committee, a team of passionate Long Beach artists, writers, zine-makers and avid community members, are here for the zinesters.
“The whole idea about zines is accessibility, and keeping costs down and part of that requires some sort of volunteerism of time and the zinesters are volunteering their time,” she said. “Why do people put on punk shows in their houses? It’s kind of the same idea, you’re not expecting to get paid at all.”
Ellen Marie Bae, a local artist/illustrator who goes by Baecon Bits as her zine moniker, who tabled at the first LBZF, told the Post that the zine movement especially spoke to her because of its immediacy.
“There's a sort of immediateness of holding a zine in your hands," she said. "And it makes you realize and respect that somebody took the time to self-publish it.”
Bae goes to zine fests for the experience of sharing what she makes with others. She’s made friends and connections with other creatives, and thanks to LBZF, feels as if she’s truly connecting with her community and her home, she said. As a Long Beach resident of five years, she said she's looking forward to this upcoming event, voicing that the interest in zines has grown significantly since last year. Bae is looking forward to meeting all the new tablers who will descend on MOLAA come Sunday.
“I will get paid emotionally for a whole day when my city comes out to celebrate zines,” Bennett said, matter-of-factly. “That’s so cool.”
MOLAA is located at 628 Alamitos Avenue.