By Emily Eveland
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If you attend enough live shows in the Twin Cities, you'll be exposed to nearly every genre and style of music within the diverse scene that we're fortunate to have here. But we haven't seen everything just yet. Big Freedia, the self-proclaimed Queen Diva of New Orleans bounce music, is rolling into the Turf Club with the type of untamed, uninhibited party we haven't seen in these parts. When asked what we can expect at her upcoming performance, Freedia says, "It's very important that people come to my show to be free, let their hair down, and express themselves. And that's what everyone can expect from every Big Freedia show!"
For those unfamiliar with bounce music, allow Big Freedia to explain: "Bounce is an up-tempo, party-club music. It originated from New Orleans and it's been around for two decades." Her concise description doesn't quite shed enough light on her rambunctious regional scene, however. Bounce features bass-heavy, lightning-fast beats with extremely catchy choruses that everyone—from the artists onstage to the fans dancing wildly in the crowd—repeat as if they were mantras. It's a style and sound that is drawn straight from the turbulent streets of New Orleans, with the chanting of the Mardi Gras Indians influencing the lyrics as much as the sexual rawness found within the hip hop of the Big Easy. Bounce is made to get you to move something and move it fast.
Freedia has confidently drawn on the Crescent City's rich musical history to enhance her energetic sound, claiming that the music of New Orleans has "had a huge influence on my life and music, of course. The jazz, the bounce, the Mardi Gras Indians—all of it has had a profound influence on my life. It's who I am." And exactly who Big Freedia is may be just as interesting as the bounce scene she is involved in. Freedia is a physically imposing, 6-foot-2 ball of endless energy, who dresses as extravagantly and stylishly as she lives. And, while being genetically male, Freedia is a gay performer who is referred to by her friends and fans alike in a strictly feminine sense. Her music is all about inclusion, and she feels that bridging the gap between music fans who perhaps haven't been exposed to her type of colorful scene is "very important. Being a gay artist, I feel I represent the community all over the world. But that said, I want everyone to feel welcome at a Big Freedia show. Bounce is for everyone!"
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Her musical career began 15 years ago at the Walter L. Cohen High School in New Orleans, where she served as the choir director through her senior year. That brand of soulful interaction still shapes her music to this day, as her live shows frequently feature call-and-response audience participation conducted by Freedia herself. She went on to perform as a backup dancer to Katey Red, a young drag queen who shook up the bounce scene so much in New Orleans that a sub-genre, "sissy bounce," was created just to describe it. While Freedia and others shy away from that terminology (wanting instead to just be called bounce musicians), they have drawn together and given a voice to a wide array of fans of all stripes. "I found myself through music, but as a person, I've always been about bringing people together. And music bridges all genders, colors, creeds. Brings everyone together. Believe it, people who come to my show are from all different walks of life, colors, gay, straight."
And her distinct sound has attracted the attention of plenty of high-profile musicians from outside the bounce scene as well, as Big Freedia has performed all around the U.S. with diverse artists like Spank Rock, the Rapture, 7 Seconds, Ninjasonik, Monique, and Snoop Dogg. "I love to collaborate and perform with as many different people as possible, she says. Rappers, rockers, punk rockers, everyone!" And she's still hoping to land some dream collaborations in the future with Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Beyoncé all on her short list.
While she's not that familiar with the Twin Cities music scene (as our scene might not be as familiar with her), she's planning on heating things up while winning over plenty of new fans during her first local performance, even with winter setting in. "I don't know much about the music scene in Minnesota, but I love traveling to different cities and experiencing the scenes. There isn't a city in America that doesn't have something unique and special about it. And believe it, people will warm up real quick at my show!"
BIG FREEDIA & THE DIVAS will perform with Marijuana Deathsquads, Spyder Baybie Raw Dog & 2% Muck, and Plain Ole Bill on THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486