Orlando's 'Hawt & Popular' zine gets ready to rumble

This week brings a new zine release, live music, wrestling ... and a punk prom

Orlando's 'Hawt & Popular' zine gets ready to rumble
photo by Christian Vasquez

"I'm really proud of Orlando's art scene right now. And I feel like people who feel like they need to move out to LA or New York or Austin or any of those places, they're not looking hard enough at what we got going on here."

When you hear there's an event happening in Orlando called "Parking Lot of Pain," you're going to want to learn more. That's how Orlando Weekly found ourselves on the phone with an artist and writer who goes under the moniker of Doug Luggage, reflecting on Orlando's DIY scene and sharing all the essential details about the agony-soaked asphalt in question.

The event is part of the gala release party for Hawt & Popular Volume 3.2, the latest installment of Luggage's anthology zine, featuring local writings, visual art and photography. This particular issue features all of the above, plus stunning photos of the "This Is Hasselberry" hardcore/metal fest, chronicles of workers with awful bosses and UFO sightings. (This is deep Central Florida, in other words.)

While the pandemic may have put a temporary pause to Luggage and co.'s zine creations, these days Hawt & Popular is back with a vengeance. A literal vengeance, in fact. The May 31 release party will feature four wrestling matches with the independent wrestlers who make up Sparks Booking. The pro-grapps will be followed by a show featuring four metal bands: Breed, Hollow Leg, Weak and Hate It!, held in the parking lot of The S.P.O.T., a DIY venue in east Orlando that recently celebrated its first anniversary. There will be about 50 physical copies of the issue available for purchase, and a digital version will be available online in June.

For Luggage, zines are a labor of love and a medium for cultural expression and resistance. "I think zines are really cool because of that punk rock DIY ethic that comes with self-publishing. And I love how there's no real rules to it," says Luggage. "I never really know what I'm getting when I grab one. And the freedom that people have to spotlight anybody or publish anyone's words that's probably not getting published anywhere else, I think is really cool."

The Hawt & Popular release show is not the sole soiree Luggage is involved in this weekend. On Saturday, in collaboration with Ghouls & Ghouls, Punx Prom is happening. As the website describes, it's "a not-so-formal night of music and friends with less slow dancing and more slam dancing." The event will be held at Castle Smoke, a smoke shop and DIY haven in Casselberry.

"We're going for this end-of-the-school-year, adult punk prom thing going on. And we're going to decorate the space," says Luggage. "We're going to have a whole photobooth setup and then of course some killer music." In addition to the prom vibes, there are six acts playing — including Snotnoze Saleem and M.A.C.E. — along with zine and food vendors throughout the night. (Make sure to peep the Strawberry Switchblade-homage flyer on Instagram: @ghoulsandghouls.)

A Pensacola native, Luggage entered the Orlando DIY scene in 2016 and believes the community is on the precipice of breaking through on countless fronts. "The scene is, to me, the strongest it's been since I got involved," says Luggage.

As DIY venues and artists are increasingly priced out of downtown Orlando and thereabouts due to unchecked corporate greed, it's beautiful to see new spaces emerge in new areas. The S.P.O.T. and Castle Smoke are vibrant testament to the enduring DIY spirit.

"There's so many cool things happening right now," Luggage says, "and I think Orlando is having a moment. It's really anybody's time right now."

And on Friday, your time will be 6 p.m. at the Parking Lot of Pain.

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