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Ana Schon's band with guitarist Donovan Milner. Photo by Bryan Liu. Copyright 2023 Bryan Liu.
Ana Schon's band with guitarist Donovan Milner. Photo by Bryan Liu. Copyright 2023 Bryan Liu.

Underground scene forms around Boston DIY music zine Cuckzine

Most people think getting “cucked” is a bad thing, but Jack DeMarco, Andy Babb, and Elle O’Brien just want to share what they love with others.

Each edition of Cuckzine comes with its release party—“Cuckspedition”—which is a house show featuring live bands and exclusive copies of that month’s issue. Guests leave with a cut-and-paste style, hand-folded, DIY collection of local poetry, news, artwork, prints, and interviews with the bands. It’s a magazine by the audience, for the audience.

The last six “Cuckspeditions” have all been hosted at DeMarco and Babb’s shared Jamaica Plain apartment—but the crowd quickly outgrew the space. The publication has come a long way since Cuck Vol. 1 was first published on Feb. 4.

Cuckfest: Cuck the Festival was held Saturday, Sept. 23 at a basement venue in Brookline, where attendees paid $15 at the door. The music started at 5:30 p.m., and the festival lineup included 11 bands with 30-minute sets, among the likes of the Manglers, T!LT, Rain House, Alex Walton, Ana Schon, and Video Days—who intentionally performed in no particular order.

“At NiceFest in Somerville you can see what time everyone’s going on and people just cherry-pick who they want to go see, what’s the point?” said DeMarco.

Cuckfest costs a total of $1200 to produce—$800 to rent the event space, and $400 for insurance. Cuck doesn’t profit from ticket sales or merchandise: The bands get all the revenue. Vendors also distributed artwork, merch, pottery, and clothing.

“We’re fans first, and if you’re having some of your favorite bands come play at your house, they deserve some respect,” said Babb.

Cuck asks concertgoers to privately message their Instagram handle “@cuckzine” for the venue address.

The seventh edition of Cuckzine was an 11×17-inch tabloid, which is much larger than the half-letter sizes used in previous issues. The new issue features exclusive interviews and photos with local bands and musicians like Makeout Palace, rock star Alex Walton, and the Manglers’ lead singer Brian McCaffrey.

Hans Van Der Sande, an evolutionary biology major at Northeastern University, says Cuck Vol. 7 reveals a questionnaire-style tracklist review of Alex Walton’s unreleased album, “Hyperconfessional and Overwhelmingly Sincere,” that Walton will use for her actual album release cover. It’s like her fans are part of her band.

Other sections include a black-and-white, leather-inspired photoshoot starring the CUCK GIRLS by John Pedersen, a snarky “Baby’s First Date” advice column, a memoir about photographs that a late grandfather took, and a deeply intimate personal essay between a man, his asshole, and a bidet.

Cuck is not about which stock is trending, which politician you should vote for, or celebrity drama—readers want an interactive, relevant artifact that reflects their interests. They want to know what it feels like to have a liquid prostate orgasm.

Being at Cuckfest tickles an artistic pickle that a centuries-old sculpture exhibit in a museum gallery just can’t reach. Some issues even interact with the audience.

“I really liked one of the last issues where there was a video game on a QR code that linked to a choose your own adventure game called the Cuckhouse,” said Van Der Sande. “The QR code made it so accessible.”

O’Brien says Cuck lets people become more of themselves. Most of the people who go to live music venues at bars or clubs are looking to get as fucked-up as possible with music in the background. Cuck isn’t about that.

“It’s not like a frat crowd, it’s people coming to see a show and push around a little bit,” said DeMarco.

Recording artist Camille Ingman likens Cuck’s general aesthetic to the Velvet Underground-type, New York Proto-punk era—as the zine repurposes existing media by amplifying the community’s voice, creating an unfiltered and subversive piece of commentary.

“I deal with pretty bad imposter syndrome as an artist,” said Ingman. “But Cuck and Boston’s DIY scene is one of the only places where I don’t feel like I’m not cool enough to be there, it’s not competitive.”

The Alex Walton pin-up and the Kill-Bill-esque spread give Cuck the authentic feel of a ‘90s punk magazine in its countercultural and all-inclusive glory.

Billy Squire, lead guitarist of the Manglers, says it was refreshing to play a gig where they could explore their own musical repertoire. The underground music scene champions complete creative control—which isn’t always the case in Boston’s mainstream art scene.

“We forget what it’s like to hold on to something that was written with no ulterior motive,” said Squire. “Cuck is breaking down the advertising and magazine norms which have been around since MAD.”

Cuckzine is a renaissance. Here is the voice that can scream for itself, here is the room where bodies can mosh together, and here are the blank pages that will fill up with dreams and nuance and a word called love. Cuck’s conviction lies beneath the surface of Boston’s mainstream art scene: “If you can’t accept us, we will.”

Everyone wants to feel like a part of something. And at Cuckfest, they are.

That’s because Cuck is a shared space—it’s the underground venue that can house an entire generation, where the lights are so bright they could be stars, and where for one night and one night only, the music is infinite.

“It’s something physical, which is so precious,” said Babb. “And the exclusivity of only releasing it at shows puts you in the moment.”

Within Boston’s art scene, Cuckfest dares to share: the crowd, the house, the magazine—here is our little secret.

This article was produced for HorizonMass, the independent, student-driven, news outlet of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and is syndicated by BINJ’s MassWire news service. A version of this st also ran in the Berkeley Beacon, the Emerson College student newspaper.

Bryan Liu (they/them) is a HorizonMass reporter and Emerson College student from Jersey who micro-doses on pop culture one social commentary at a time. With a background in living arts, Bryan’s feature writing also explores the greater Boston area and Emersonian culture.

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