The humble zine has a long and storied history in this country. From Ben Franklin's time as a pseudonymous pamphleteer to one-sheet broadsides helping to spread the word about feminism, labor rights, and anarchism across the country, a little bit of paper, ink, and DIY binding goes a long way. But that doesn't stop some folks from raising an eyebrow whenever they see a book made out of photocopies and staples.
While zines don't have the cache of glossy magazines or bound books, that lack of cultural respect is exactly why they're so valuable. Mediums tend to do their best work when they're not fully appreciated. There are places where the three-stapled, stitched-at-home, folded in your living room while watching The Office zine gets the love and respect it deserves: zine distros and fests. Luckily for local zine aficionados, Phoenix has one of the largest annual zine fests in the Southwest.
Started in 2016, the Phx Zine Fest has grown over the years. For its 2019 installment, the event returns to Grand Avenue, bringing with it its signature mix of zine tables, food trucks, and panel discussions. Here's what you need to know about this year's Phx Zine Fest.
Where: Unexpected Gallery. 734 West Polk Street, just off of Grand Avenue.
Cost: Admission is free.
Parking: There will be limited parking available near
What To Bring: Money for zines and snacks. While most vendors will probably have card readers, there’s also a good chance some merchants might be cash-only, so bring some dead presidents with you. Bringing a tote bag is a wise move. Zines are a lot like potato chips. It’s hard to take just one.
Accessibility/Safety: Unexpected Gallery is wheelchair-accessible. Phx Zine Fest runs its event as a safe space for all participants and attendees. Pronoun nametags will be available free of charge for anyone who doesn't want to be misgendered, and there will also be gender-neutral bathrooms onsite.
Family Friendly: Zine Fest is an all-ages event. Be advised, however, that most of the material on offer at the fest has not been vetted for “appropriateness,” so parents should keep an eye on which books their wee ones are flipping through. Some of the offerings on hand could be decidedly adult or salacious.
Food: Just like in past Zine Fests, there will be food trucks dishing out grub throughout the day. This year’s offerings are Loaded Dogs and Early Bird Phx.
What To Expect: Imagine a First Friday where alternative perspectives and ideas are being sold instead of sunglasses. Zine Fest is a place where all sorts of niche expressions and concepts can be shared. Due to the cheap nature of their production, zines take gatekeepers out of the equation. If you’ve got a few bucks, some glue sticks, a pair of scissors, and access to a copy machine, you can print out your very own piece of literature. Expect a dizzying variety of subject matter and zine-makers. There will also be two panels at this year's festival: "Poder in Action" and "Inclusivity In Comics."
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Who Will Be There: Over 75 zine-makers and distributors will be at this year’s fest. Some of them, like Brad Dwyer Comix, Wasted Ink Zine Distro (who helped found the original Fest), and Amazing Arizona Comics have tabled at previous Phx Zine Fests. And locals who stay up to date on what’s happening in the local lit scene will recognize some of the players at this year’s fest, including Cardboard House Press, Oasis/Holum Press, and Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.
What Will They Be Selling: In addition to zines, many vendors will also be selling a wide range of different merch: buttons, stickers, magnets, art prints, and straight-up books (complete with ISBNs!). Expect to see zines of photographs (like William Mark Sommer’s zines on roadside signs and Americana), poetry (like Not So Young’s work with blackout poetry), cryptids (Flying Donut Press), musings on film and music, and comic books.
What Not To Do: It's not a library, folks. Some amount of lookie-loo-ing is to be expected, but don't be that person who ties up a zinester's table by flipping through every page of their 20-page chapbook.
Phx Zine Fest is scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 20, at Unexpected Gallery.