John Waters Loves Hosting Mosswood Meltdown Festival Because 'Punks' Have 'Always Been My People' (Exclusive)

The Pope of Trash tells PEOPLE about returning to the festival and looking for something to "startle" him as a judge of its drag contest

<p>Tim Mosenfelder/Getty</p> John Waters

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

John Waters
  • John Waters is returning as the host of Mosswood Meltdown, a punk music festival held in Oakland, California

  • This year's lineup includes The B-52s, The Mummies, Redd Kross, Pure Hell, Hunx and His Punx, Big Freedia and many more

  • Waters will judge this year's first-ever Peaches Christ Drag Contest and tells PEOPLE he's hoping to "see something that would surprise me and make me laugh"

For John Waters, home is where the punks are.

The iconic Hairspray and Pink Flamingos filmmaker, 78, is gearing up to return as the host of Mosswood Meltdown, a punk music festival held at Mosswood Park in Oakland, California, from July 6-7 — and he's ready to get weird.

"Punks, they've always been my people. I feel the most comfortable in the punk-rock atmosphere because it's mixed sexually. It's down-low gay a lot," the Pope of Trash tells PEOPLE. "It's also good for girls that are either so beautiful that they purposely make themselves ugly, or girls who might be considered ugly to stupid people that make themselves uglier on purpose to look great. It's a great look for any extreme people."

<p>Stefanie Keenan/VF24/WireImage</p> John Waters

Stefanie Keenan/VF24/WireImage

John Waters

Related: Inside the Mosswood Meltdown Music Festival, Which Took Over Oakland This Weekend (PHOTOS)

About a decade ago, Waters got involved with the festival through organizer Mark Ribak. ("He's great and has a great taste — straight guy, but really, really open to everything," says the multi-hyphenate.) Since then, he's continuously hosted the event and seen memorable performances from Iggy Pop, Devo and The Jesus and Mary Chain, among others.

This year, Mosswood Meltdown features a rare headlining performance from The B-52s, while acts including The Mummies, Redd Kross, Pure Hell, Hunx and His Punx, Big Freedia and many more will also take the stage throughout the weekend.

Waters is particularly "excited" to see the "Love Shack" performers, as well as Hunx and His Punx, which features Seth Bogart — who "did all the swag" for the Serial Mom auteur's ongoing Academy Museum exhibition — and Shannon Shaw, a "dear friend, who's Kim Novak and Divine put together and can sing as well as Patsy Cline."

<p>Amanda Edwards/Getty</p> John Waters

Amanda Edwards/Getty

John Waters

Related: The B-52s' Cindy Wilson Says Their Farewell Tour Won't Be the End of the Band: 'Not 100% Gone' (Exclusive)

Attendees will also likely catch him watching sets from Pansy Division, Gibby Haynes, Bush Tetras, Big Freedia and most others — as he'll be delivering introductory remarks for each act on the lineup. Crafting a speech for each artist or band isn't easy, but it is fun for Waters, especially "finding out some of the ones I don't know.

"Some of them haven't played in 20 years together," he says. "It's great nostalgia, but at the same time, their punk-rock [era] was from 10 years old to 80. And you see 80-year-olds, a few of them attempting to stage dive, which is risky because they weigh more."

One major addition to the festival this year is its drag contest, which Waters will co-host along Peaches Christ, "who's always been a punk-rock drag queen."

<p>VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty</p> John Waters


John Waters

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"I hope we have ‘Slamming Carol Channing’ and ‘Mrs. Sid Vicious.’ There could be a lot of great punk [drag personas] — ‘Debbie Too Hairy,'" suggests Waters, who's looking to "see something that would surprise me and make me laugh."

"When I had the John Waters summer camp last year, one of the guys that won the contest was ‘Straight Divine,’ and it was a total straight guy in the red dress with a gun saying, 'Hey man, how you doing?' Carrying around a can of Budweiser. It was hilarious," he recalls. "So, any way you can startle and make me laugh always wins. I think Peaches, who's my good friend, would agree."

<p>New Line Cinema</p> Divine in John Waters' 'Pink Flamingos.'

New Line Cinema

Divine in John Waters' 'Pink Flamingos.'

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Above all, the Pope of Trash wants to see festival-goers arrive "with a new punk look this year," and he's overflowing with free ideas.

"You could have bondage-preppy, like Bermuda shorts with a t-shirt with an alligator eating the Ralph Lauren polo player," says Waters with a laugh. "You can come up with a whole new thing — a slightly feminine rapper, Emin-Femme, the shady lady herself."

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