Val Cavanagh grew up surrounded by music.
But, despite their long journey learning new instruments and playing in bands of all genres, they always felt a sense of loneliness.
“I’ve been playing music since I was 14 in the central New York area, and personally, I felt a bit of an outcast,” they said. “Like, there aren’t many others like me as a black and queer artist myself.”
With the advent of social media, young black and LGBTQ+ artists have better access to more musicians from all walks of life, but creative fields remain dominated by white and cis men, they said. So they decided to create their own music festival – Forevermore Fest, a mix between a street fair and a neighborhood party that would celebrate marginalized artists.
This festival takes place next Saturday, July 30, in East Syracuse.
“The idea started when my friends and I were like hey, it would be super fun to just have a day where we can hang out and play music all day,” Cavanagh said. “Then we discussed the idea more and more and it snowballed into giving a platform to black and gay artists in the Northeast.”
The 26-year-old musician’s journey began in primary school, when he joined the marching band and learned the clarinet. Around this time, Cavanagh’s father-in-law, a luthier – a craftsman who builds and repairs stringed instruments – came into their lives, so the instruments lay everywhere, ready to be plucked, strummed and mastered.
“I’ve always been surrounded by musical instruments,” said Cavanagh, who uses the pronouns they/them/she/her. “I was in an orchestra and any other musical endeavors throughout high school that I could be in.”
Their musical tastes ranged from hardcore to pop rock to pop music, and they hopped from band to band, genre to genre, drawing inspiration from artists such as Julian Baker, A Great Big Pile of Leaves and Tyler the Creator. . Today, they primarily focus on sound engineering and music production at multiple studios in downtown Syracuse.
Forevermore Fest will feature local talent, as well as bands and solo artists from the northeast region. Besides the music, the event will see art vendors selling their wares, food trucks and a drag racing performance.
With Forevermore Fest, Cavanagh hopes to not only showcase Black and LGBTQ+ artists, but also inspire budding creatives who are looking for someone like them doing what they love, just as Cavanagh once wanted.
“We exist,” Cavanagh said. “And I just want people to be able to feel safe and not just go out and enjoy a show, but also pursue a career in the arts, to show them that it’s possible.”
When: Saturday July 30; noon to 10 p.m.
Where: Silver Street Community Center
Who plays: Valentvne, A Day Without Love, Keyz, Amphette, Justin Arena, Evelyn Gray, CHISongwriter, Jeremy Romance, Tula Vera, Winter Wolf, BXTCHWRXSTS, Cats Cradle and The Dilators.
Sponsored by: Wool Skateboards, Towsley Guitars and Love Studios.
For more information: loveneuwanda@gmail(dot)com