Every Memorial Day weekend for the past 12 years, artists and audiences have flocked to Asheville for three days of shows, classes and festivity at the Americana Burlesque & Sideshow Festival, aka ABSFest. Unlike the mainstream glamourfests and competitions now held world-wide, ABSFest keeps the focus on creativity, empowerment and the political edge!
Our roots are in Keeping It Weird, Asheville-style. Producer Lauren ‘Madame Onça’ O’Leary started in the River District (way back before it was called that!) The festival brings out both beloved bohemians from the local arts community and award-winning stars from the world outside.
This year’s headliners are the West Coast sweetheart Ona Monsoon from Portland, OR, and May Hemmer, the Cocoa Barbie, newly relocated to NC from New Orleans. May is ecstatic to have a chance to do the Weird Stuff here, the saucy and political stuff not usually welcome in competitions and pageants. Ona astounded Asheville last year with her comic gender-bending tease, and we just HAD to have her back. (You can catch them both in the Saturday Spectacular at the Orange Peel, hosted by Madame Onça.)
Festival-goers at the Grey Eagle experience our bigger-than-ever Friday show with FanDom tribute acts to everything you’ve ever loved, from Dr. Who to Game of Thrones, the Muppets to Johnny Cash. Friday VIPS enjoy the pre-show Book Publishing Party for the newest tome of the Sideshow bible, ‘Shocked and Amazed’ by historian James Taylor.
On Saturday, ABSFest offers workshops where participants learn music, marketing, the art of the tease and more. As part of this year’s educational mission, join us for a FREE community discussion on the experience of marginalized people such as People of Color and LGBTQ+ in performance.
Close the weekend out with our fanciful Sunday Burlesque Brunch: Fairy-Tale Edition, hosted at the Grey Eagle by Asheville’s own ToyBox, America’s Favorite Cartoon Witch.