A STAPLE of Savannah's house show scene, QuoLab has welcomed countless bands, artists, and innovators from around the nation to perform in an intimate, intentional environment. Established by co-facilitators Raine and Greg just under two years ago, QuoLab is, first and foremost, a queer safe(r) DIY space, celebrating artistry by folks with alternative perspectivse and emerging experiences of art for social action.
Last year, the ‘Lab hosted The World’s Smallest Music Festival, an event featuring QuoLab regulars and fresh talent over a period of a few days. Now, WSMF is back as W2SMF with a bigger bill and even more activities.
Celebrated musicians like Sister Helen, Fake Sick, Apollo Akembe, Disapoura, Pamela and her Sons, and Ganges Phalanges are coming to town for the festivities, while locals like Cunabear, The House of Gunt, Valore, Lotion in the Basket, Josh Taft, and more will show what Savannah has to offer.
And it’s more than music: throughout the festival, there will be art installations from creators like Mahima Dhesi, Mel Walton, and Lauren Schwind; a remote project from Ross Fish and Courtney Crews; Civil Liberties Yoga with Brittany Johnson; an info session with Savannah Food Not Bombs, and workshops including “What is Intentional Space?,” “Zines and Self-Publishing,” and “Self and Community Care.” Plus, attendees can look forward to eats from Sly’s Sliders and Fries, Per, Haxan Supper Club, handcrafted energy drinks by Steph Russ, and more.
We chatted with Raine and Greg about intentional space, QuoLab’s growth, and the array of artistry that QuoLab will host this weekend.
Having gone through the first fest, how did you approach this one? What did you learn from the last one?
Raine: A lot of it was figuring out what things were that came up as spatial issues during the festival.
Greg: Prioritizing where we need to focus our energy based on logistics, artists, and scheduling rather than creating a new space, like we were trying last year. The scale is at least two, three times larger, too.
Raine: Making sure we can work more with other people doing stuff in the community. Getting more volunteers and having our friends or other venues host artists, since we can't host all touring acts every night here for three nights.
A lot of the artists have played here before, or tried to and it hasn’t worked out. Which is good, because it feels like people are more familiar with what to expect. It’s very clear this year, especially with trying to establish a better framework for artists.
How would you describe World’s Smallest Music Festival for people who haven’t been?
Greg: Lots of colors! Lots of people, lots of sounds and stimuli.
Raine: It's a space that prioritizes what a lot of people don't see in other venues, that prioritizes everyone's comfort as far as interacting with things like large crowds, live music, and people's different perspectives on art.
Greg: It's upholding our general principle of maintaining a safe space and accountability for things that go on, things that are said, but at a larger scale.
Raine: We're going to have a clothing swap in full swing, and we're finalizing details of workshops. The first one will be us talking about intentional space, which, I've been doing a lot of reading about what that actually looks like, especially in the framework of white queer people trying to commandeer the term 'intentional' and 'safer space.' Anyone who is interested about what we're trying to do with the space explicit outside of just experiencing it can get a feel for that.
Greg: Or just outside the general understanding of what 'intentional space' means and what our specific philosophy is.
How has your philosophy and overall mission for QuoLab changed since you opened? Do you find that your personal definition of 'intentional space' has shifted?
Raine: I think for any person, understanding that people of color and black people will never really have safer spaces, and no matter what white queer people can do to separate themselves from other anti-black attitudes by just creating rules around how a space operates isn't going to ensure every time that people are safe, especially people of color. That has changed my perspective a lot about how to interact with people in the space and express core values so people don't feel uncomfortable or feel like there's some sort of learning curve or expectation to fit into whitened language to understand traumas and stuff like that.
You've mentioned before having a good relationship with your landlord and talked about how this area is changing. How have you navigated that?
Greg: It's always really rough, because we are, in effect, first-wave gentrifiers, and not being in the position to make the financial decision or the social decisions of who remains in this neighborhood—
Raine: —Long term, we don't belong in this neighborhood, but our landlord sees what we do as a benefit right now.
Greg: Considering how our neighbors have been pushed out since we've moved in here—I can only speak for myself—but it's something that bothers me all the time, and it's something I think a lot about and is something I've had a very hard time finding any kind of resolution for, other than just doing our best to reach out to our neighbors and let them know this isn't just a space for SCAD kids. If you hear music playing, come over.
Raine: I've been thinking a lot about how this space operates outside of having shows and what work we can do simultaneously to sort of weigh out the cons of taking up gentrified space...trying to take as much responsibility for that is important.
World's Smallest Music Festival seems to really show everything QuoLab has to offer.
Raine: It's an open house, of sorts. There's definitely more people who come during the festival who don't come on a regular basis, or people who've never come before, which is great.
Greg: It's like an extreme version of a QuoLab show! We have our friends in various different places, putting them all in one space with music, restaurants, and workshops.
And it's a mix of artists from all over the country.
Raine: A lot of artists are staying for a couple of days, which is really great. As far as lineup is concerned, we wanted to make sure people can meet each other and share music in some capacity. We prefer to put someone who's never played a show before on a lineup so they can meet a band you can tell they'd get a lot from getting to know, rather than booking someone that has good cred as a local artist. Otherwise, the scene will never get any bigger if people can't get on to shows.
A lot of locals have found footing and grown at QuoLab, too.
Raine: It's been cool to watch, and it feels like a lot of people know that this is a space where they can experiment as artists.
Greg: It's great hearing people who just step into it. Like Cunabear—he's been making intensely amazing electronic hip-hop in his bedroom for years and never played out. Hearing what he had to say about QuoLab, where he was immediately able to pick up on this is a space that's comfortable to experiment in musically, was really nice.
The World's Second Smallest Music Festival
Full schedule online at connectsavannah.com
Tickets via QuoLab on Facebook