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Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14

Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Pride in Concert
With Betty Who, Thea Austen, Thelma Houston, Steve Grand, and more
Loring Park, Minneapolis
Saturday, June 28, 2014


There were many kinds of people represented at the Pride Festival. It almost seemed like a safe space State Fair. PDA is not stigmatized, talking openly and frankly about sex and sexuality is encouraged instead of silenced, and people generally feel free to be themselves. The energy in the air was palpable.

An itinerary to navigate the bands, rappers, and dancers spread across the park's four stages was amended several times due to the incessant rain and a number of set cancellations. Much of the event was spent underneath tents, desperately attempting to escape getting drenched. Still, many were eagerly awaiting music -- some twerking in the bingo tent or occupying front row for an empty stage. With a planned line-up as packed with artists as this year's festival, there was still plenty of music to take in between storms passing.

Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

The first act I caught was Kaoz, whose EnterSextions album made it onto our best albums list for 2013. It's pretty great to hear explicit sex raps outside in the middle of the day, and Kaoz proved himself one of the city's rawest through sheer unflinching lyricism. Behind the songs were messages about safe sex, healthy relationship models, and positive self-image, and Kaoz is among the best I've seen locally to handle message and content. He did skip a song that he said used the N-word too many times, and it was nice to see that he made the distinction of what constitutes profanity. Sex is more than okay to confront head-on, and Kaoz's unfiltered but nuanced approach to dirty rap fit well within the context of the day. The Power To The People stage continued on with dance routines from the impressive Energy Dance Collective, who powered through some excellent routines to the sounds of Beyonce and Le1f.


Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Elsewhere, Sleeper and the Sleepless were performing quieter acoustic material, with some excellent harmonizing and a great sense of songwriting. They had an array of fans seated in the grass before them, who really ate up the cover of Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." Afterwards, I caught a short glimpse of some of the drag performances at the Rainbow Stage, complete with an interpreter. But around 3 p.m., the storm moved over the park and it began to rain heavily. With news of lightning on the way, stages were shut down and music put on hold. Artists like King Fuvi, the Levelheads, and Candy Shop got to do brief performances when the air cleared for a moment, but then the onslaught of rain began to hit hard again and an indefinite hiatus was called. At this point most people were populating the beer tent, screaming for the thunder and full of potential energy. 


Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

It wasn't until around 6:20 that sound on the main Loring Stage began to start back up, and eventually Steve Grand brought his full band to the stage to an excited, patient, and wet audience. Grand opened with his viral hit "All-American Boy," a twangy come-on where he tries to steal a girl's boyfriend at a party. The song which helped Grand's project become the third-most successful Kickstarter ever was the clear hit of the set, though the applause stayed consistent through his less well-known songs. He utilized the band to a great degree with covers of "Benny and the Jets" and "Dancing In the Dark," and his countrified sound played well as a contrasting opener to the three divas to follow.

 

Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
A little after 8 p.m. the legendary Thelma Houston brought a classic Motown flavor, running through a medley of R&B and disco favorites that everyone sang along to. Wearing a long orange dress that flowed beautifully in the wind, Houston put on a strong set of throwbacks, complete with her son Rodney dancing alongside. The audience maintained their attentiveness, and though the numbers of people that stayed to this point was not huge, everyone who was present was giving off enough energy to make up for those missing.

Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
Shortly afterwards, singer Thea Austen, best known for Snap!'s "Rhythm Is A Dancer," stepped to the stage for some '90s deep house. With an even more impressive voice than is revealed on recordings, Austen belted the hooks to "Rhythm" and "I've Got The Power" with real strength, and was clearly having a lot of fun onstage. She kept saying she wanted to come down and join the crowd but was afraid her stiletto boots would get stuck in the mud. Eventually she couldn't help herself and came down, reveling with those at the front and spreading great vibes. Her set was very bouncy and fun, translating a real club feel to a soggy field.

Pride in Concert at Loring Park, 6/28/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
Betty Who closed out the night, and those who had been through the whole harrowing day were still remarkably responsive. With a three-piece band behind her, the Australian pop singer worked her way through an array of love songs with sashays and gyrations abound. After doing a cover of Destiny's Child's "Say My Name," someone among the enthralled audience threw her a shirt that said "Don't Worry Be Yonce" -- clearly Queen Bey gets due respect among those present. By this point everyone had been handed foam glow rods to swing with abandon and the vibrancy was at an incredible high.

Ending on her biggest hit "Somebody Loves You," the audience was at peak excitement to close out a day full of it. Only the first of a two day event, Pride hit an valiant and determined high despite the very rainy circumstances. There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

Personal Bias: To be honest, I would've left after the first rain downfall had I not been covering it. Nothing on the acts, but my patience for being a drowned rat is thinner than everyone else's it seems; I was roundly impressed with everyone's intrepid attendance.

Just outside the border to Loring Park were a dedicated three, complete with signs informing everyone they're going to hell and a rotating cast of citizens prepared to debate. (Their clearly erroneous religious arguments were refuted beyond simply being dumb by the wide array of churches with tents inside the park.)


Random Notebook Dump: I won $20 at the Bingo tent!

Overheard In The Crowd: "She got Gaga boots on! Get it girl!" -- an impressed audience member for Harrie Bradshaw's drag dance performance.

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