Ask someone what comes to mind when you ask about the local arts scene, and chances are good zines won't be the first thing that pops up.
But maybe they should. The Valley of the Sun has had a long history of producing compelling zines. Hoozdo, B-Sides, Pages Per Content, AZKaos, The Underground Publisher's Convention, and The Paper Plane are just a handful of the fascinating DIY publications and events that have cropped up over the years.
Some are still ongoing concerns; others exist only on the shelves of people who found them on record store flier racks and at shows back in the day. Like so many other aspects of the Phoenix arts scene, zines are a subculture whose history is constantly being erased and rewritten.
But perhaps zines will have a bigger and more lasting role to play in the scene, thanks to the efforts of the folks behind the PHX Zine Fest. They're gearing up to host their second annual fest after the success of their 2016 debut. The fest is set to host a large gathering of both local zinesters and creatives from across the country, showcasing some of the best work the indie-publishing community has to offer.
If you missed last year's fest or haven't attended a zine fest before, we have you covered. Here's what you need to know about this year's PHX Zine Fest.
When: Sunday, October 22. The zine fest runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Unexpected Gallery, 734 West Polk Street, in downtown Phoenix.
Cost: Free admission to the event.
Parking: Unexpected Gallery is adjacent to Grand Avenue, so there's lots of free side-street parking on hand. Depending on how busy it gets, though, you may want to bring some change if the only thing left available is metered parking.
What To Bring: First and foremost, cash. While it's safe to assume that many of the vendors on site will have Square readers handy, there's bound to be a few tables that are cash only. It's also strongly recommended that you bring some kind of bag. Most zines are cheap, which means it's easy to walk away from a zine fest with an armload of reading materials. Assume the impulse buy bug is going to bite you and plan accordingly.
And while October is normally a time when the weather stops actively trying to murder us, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a water bottle if you're planning to stay a while.
Accessibility/Safety: The PHX Zine Fest is wheelchair-accessible. The organizers have also declared that the event is a safe space, and that vendors and attendees are strongly encouraged to use proper pronouns. Nametags will be available on-site to let people know how you want to be addressed.
Food: A trio of food trucks will be on hand to keep you refueled and satiated while you're on the prowl for zines. Silent Flight Coffee will be running a full espresso bar, while Mi Vegana Madre will be dishing out vegan tacos. If you want a sweet treat, Curbside Crepes has got you covered.
One thing to note about the trucks: they won't be there for the whole event. They're slated to stick around from 11 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m., so get your grub on while you can.
What To Expect: We went to last year's Zine Fest at the Icehouse as it was winding down, and we were amazed at how busy it was. The warehouse was packed with buyers and ringed with rows of vendors hawking everything from stapled photography zines to fully bound books. One group even had a fortune teller dummy that spat printed zines out of its mouth. The range of materials on hand was staggering.
One can only assume that this year's fest will be just as bustling and varied as its inaugural edition. Since many zinesters print small runs of their work, it's best to show up early before they sell out.
Who Will Be There: The PHX Zine Fest website has a blog that spotlights the many vendors who'll be on-site this year. Looking through all the participants, it's surprising to see how many of them are out-of-towners: Vendors from Utah, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California are among the many DIY publishers who'll be tabling at the event. There's also a lot of locals who'll be peddling their wares at the event. Even if you're someone who's got their finger on the pulse of the indie publishing scene, there's gonna be a lot of names and faces at this fest that'll be new to you.
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Among the plethora of folks who'll be selling zines and art at this year's fest are Amazing Arizona Comics, Rinky Dink Press, Brodacious Period Press, the Joshua Tree Zine Fest, Brad Dwyer Comix, Gothcupcake Press, Bunnyvomit, Femme Fotale, MALA Collectivus, Federal Association of Knowledge and Experimentation, Pink Realm, Fluke Fanzine, Koh Collective, Cap'n Klute's Ocean Almanac, Sour Tide, and many more.
What Will They Be Selling: Fanzines about RuPaul's Drag Race. Haiku collections. Spellbooks and tarot guides. Poetry chapbooks and YA short stories. Radical politics and queer identity zines. Humor zines, diary entries, horoscopes, comic books, and cookbooks. Zines are a cheap and egalitarian way for people to share their quirks and obsessions, so you can expect there'll be a lot of eccentric and esoteric offerings on hand.
What Not To Do: Zines have long been a means for people to share their belief systems and promulgate their values. Odds are good you'll end up seeing things you may not agree with. That's no excuse to lose your chill. Not everything has to be accessible to everybody. There are plenty of other things to look at and pick up.
Note to Families: While some zinesters will sell kid-friendly zines and art, there will also be folks selling materials that may have explicit content and language. So keep an eye on what your kiddos are flipping through.