Redrox Music Festival Highlights Queer Inclusivity in Utah Arts
Held annually in the destination locale of Springdale (near Zion National Park), the Redrox Music Festival provides one of Utah’s most exciting and rewarding festival offerings. Across two days in early November, a flock of Utah performers and a handful of choice, out-of-state headliners descend upon the southern desert for a bout of performances that center some of the strongest LGBTQ+ artistic voices in the state. While the festival retains a focus on alternative folk, country and bluegrass music (as evinced by local acts such as Ginger & the Gents, Aiden Barrick and Early Successional), the 2022 festival also includes indie pop (Marqueza), disco (Goldie and the Guise), punk (Somebody/Anybody), drag performances and more. Reveling in its omnivorous and inclusive approach, Redrox stands as a beacon of queer joy in a state where such a feeling can never be too plentiful.
Initially created as a festival highlighting women artists in the vein of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, RedRox has shifted its focus over the last 14 years and history to emphasize a mission of inclusivity. “This particular music festival … came out of a tradition of lesbian separatism. For its first eight or 10 years, it was for women by women, prioritizing women’s voices,” says Redrox Volunteer Coordinator Jocelyn Johnson. While Johnson emphasizes the importance of these spaces—for the lesbian community at large and, as a queer individual, for her personally—she also notes their potential, if unconscious, sortsightedness surrounding full queer inclusivity. “We deviants flock to a community,” she says, noting that, to her and other organizers at the Festival, gatekeeping this type of community feels at odds with the core tenets of queer coexistence. “We [still] try to represent women on stage, but our definition of women is different from that gender essentialist definition.”
“At this point, we have a staunch commitment to inclusive queer space.”
As it progressed, Redrox began to open up their focus out of a “by womyn, for womyn” box and focus on broader, more divergent queer inclusivity. “We’re fighting the battles that are relevant to younger people today,” says Johnson. An emphasis on youth culture—its wants, needs, proclivities, ideologies and social lives—pervades the festival’s current operations. Johnson says that more than ensuring that Redrox stays up-to-date with changing trends in the women’s and queer communities, this ethos also stems from a need to preserve the longevity and livelihood of those very spaces: “The population we need to work with here and work for here is the younger people who may not survive to elder adulthood if they can’t find safer spaces to be in and if they can’t find themselves represented in music or comedy or drag or whatever form of art we choose to uplift and promote.”
About halfway through its lifetime, the Redrox Festival underwent significant structural change—in leadership, location and mission—as they shifted toward the queer-friendly focus they pride themselves on today. “This festival transitioned to serving a population of queer people and no longer excludes individuals that essentialists don’t identify of women,” says Johnson, explaining that the change in scenery from the festival’s original home in Torrey to Springdale can be partly attributed to instilling this expansive view of sisterhood in Redrox’s mission—“the venue in Torrey no longer welcomed a queer festival, but would have preferred for us to remain a women’s festival.”
“We’re fighting the battles that are relevant to younger people today.”
Springdale has proven an apt home for Redrox’s refocused efforts, a “vibrant and thriving tourist town” with a “strong LGBTQ chamber of commerce in operation,” says Johnson. “Our community is definitely represented there among businesses and among residents.” In addition to the musical and drag performances, Redrox hopes attendees explore the food, beverage and shopping options available to them in Springdale, as well as the fantastic natural scenery just around the corner. “What do you do when you’re outside? Take advantage of being outside!” says Johnson.
Into the future, Redrox hopes to continue adapting to best fit the needs of the ever-shifting community it aims to uplift and serve. “At this point, we have a staunch commitment to inclusive queer space,” says Johnson. “We hope that folks who share that commitment will come and join us.” The Redrox Music Festival takes place Nov. 4–5 in Springdale, Utah. Find more information at redrox-music-festival.ticketleap.com, and follow the organization on Instagram @redroxmusicfestival for continued updates.