MusicMusic Features

Chillith Fair Aims to Inform and Inspire

Last summer, the first annual Chillith Fair festival took place over the course of two nights at Go Bar. Described by founder Phelan LaVelle as “a celebration of women, gender non-conforming, trans and queer identities,” Chillith Fair blends art, musical performances and poetry all in the name of charity and awareness. This year, LaVelle looks to further enrich and inform the Athens community with a second event, officially titled Chillith Fair 2, at Go Bar on Sept. 10.

LaVelle—who, in addition to her philanthropic endeavors, is well known in the Athens music scene as the lead singer and guitarist of Shade—created Chillith Fair without much of an initial plan. “It was honestly whimsical in its formation,” she says. “We didn’t really have specific objectives outside of recognizing and utilizing the gravity of the scene for good.”

The 2015 event was a success, raising $1,600 for the Athens Area Homeless Shelter. For LaVelle, this was a life-changing, eye-opening moment.

“It felt so powerful. It made me think of philanthropy in a different way,” she says “Historically, philanthropy in this country has been exclusive to the elite, a hobby of the super rich. But what is money? Power. What is power? Energy. What does everybody in the Athens artistic community have loads of? Energy, creative force, moral empathy. And so we subverted the structure of philanthropy and gathered our collective energy to create positive change in the community.”

This year, proceeds will be donated to two volunteer-based organizations that “require as much exposure and assistance as they can get,” according to LaVelle. The first organization is the Magnolia Fund, a grassroots reproductive-rights network founded by three Athenians and based out of Atlanta that provides abortion assistance to low-income people across the Southeast. The second is the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, a local group that advocates for racial justice and equality while uplifting and combating discrimination against Athens’ African-American community.

Outside of its financial donations, Chillith Fair has grander social ambitions. LaVelle hopes the event, as it grows, “becomes a tool to inform and engage the community in positive social action.” She describes this year’s festival as “a demonstration of intersectional feminism, a concept which holds that all oppressive institutions are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from each other, and so each must be treated as [being as] completely intolerable as the next.”

LaVelle acknowledges that in a community like Athens, where many folks work low-income jobs, giving back can be hard. “When you’re giving $15 that represents two hours of work at your job, it can hurt, I get it,” she says. “But maybe that pain you feel can reveal a passion for an issue that you’ve been meaning to support.”

This year’s music lineup features artists from across the Athens-music spectrum, from veterans to relative newcomers. Some of the names on the bill include Tunabunny, Shehehe, Coco and Clair Clair and LaVelle’s own Crunchy. In terms of what to expect from the event, LaVelle says it will be “just as kick-ass as last year… It will feature sick bands, tarot readings, poetry, relevant charity and social information, hot dogs from Hi-Lo, dancing, laughing, face painting, cookies from The Grit, balloons [and more]. It’ll be rad.”

LaVelle hopes everyone who attends Chillith Fair leaves with this bit of knowledge: “These neighbors, these peers, these artists, this positivity surrounding you in your life—this is the community that you inhabit right now. You are participating in a demonstration of love and creativity, and I hope you will walk away feeling lifted.”