Bushwig, a drag and music festival founded in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood, is not a continuation of the long-running Lower Manhattan festival Wigstock, created and run by Lady Bunny in the 1980s through the early 2000s.
Times have changed, and New York has changed, particularly due to gentrification, says Bushwig co-founder Simon Leahy, who performs as Babes Trust. Some of the old-school drag performers won't travel to outer boroughs.
"Some old drag queens are like, 'It's too far. It's like a $20 cab ride,'" Leahy says via phone from RuPaul's DragCon in Los Angeles. "They're all like, 'It's not the same as it was in the East Village.'"
Drag performance has come a long way in recent years, especially as RuPaul's Drag Race helped popularize it and made celebrities out of many contestants. Drag performers now have more options both in terms of their act (focusing on fashion and runways, lip synching and music, comedy) and in venues and jobs.
Leahy says the drag scene is big in Bushwick.
"There's a drag queen for every block in the neighborhood," he says. "There are lots of young artists, and there's a young gay community here."
Hosting karaoke nights and DJing are regular gigs for many drag performers, but Leahy has been able to stop doing such shows to focus on his band, Bottoms. He plays keyboards for the punk-inspired electropop outfit, and Leahy says its upcoming performance in New Orleans may be its final show.
"We've broken up like five or six times," he says. "We were broken up and then got booked to play in Europe. We were like, 'We can get back toget-her for that.'"
Leahy grew up in England and started performing in drag as a teenager. He moved to New York with his now ex-husband in the early 2000s.
Bottoms headlines the first Bushwig festival in New Orleans, which is at Castillo Blanco beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. The festival features more than 40 drag performances by visiting and local artists, music, art installations, vendors and more. The festival is both in and outdoors, and performances begin in the afternoon.
"Faces are going to be melting off," Leahy says with a laugh. "We're going to have to get some large industrial fans."
Leahy and drag performer Horrorchata created Bushwig in 2012. The first event was at an alternative arts space called Secret Project Robot. Leahy met Quinton and Miss Pussycat at the space, and that connection helped them plan Bushwig in New Orleans. Quintron and Miss Pussycat will perform at the festival.
Bushwig quickly became popular in New York and had to move to the Knockdown Center in Queens, an art and performance space that can accommodate more than 2,000 attendees. It's now a two-day event that includes drag performance, live music, burlesque and more.
Bushwig in New Orleans features Horrorchata, Bottoms, Keltnny Galliano (aka Katey Red), Neon Burgundy, Merrie Cherry, Chris of Hur, Charlene, Aurora Gozmic, Suburbia, Pepper Pepper, Oblivia, Slenderella and many others. There are food and drink vendors and a dance party follows the performances.