Despite Capacity And Sound Issues, LA! PRIDE’s Day 1 Music Line Up Delivered The Goods Review: Kehlani, Icona Pop, Superfruit, Lauren Ruth Ward, Kim Petras & Jesse Saint John @ LA PRIDE 6/9/18
LOS ANGELES, CA- For the past several years, LA! Pride has consistently put together a stellar line-up for their annual music festival. 2017 proved to be no exception. With a top-shelf line-up that was dominated by women, tickets for this year’s festival sold out for the first time ever (hear that Goldenvoice? … FYF … cough cough …).
With it’s growing popularity, came a few growing pains. Ticket holders on Saturday were turned away after the venue had reached it’s maximum capacity, and there were a handful of issues at the soundboard which not only disrupted the audience’s enjoyment of various performances, but also drew the visible ire of a handful of the performers. But even with the missteps and mishaps, LA! Pride was still able to provide over 70,000 people with three stages hosting over 50 performers .
On Saturday, Blurred Culture spent all of its time watching the various performances on the Festival’s main stage. While we would have loved to catch performances by Keri Hilson, Leikeli47 and Jesslove, knowing from year’s past, set times on the smaller stages are a little more flexible (delayed), and it would have been a shame to miss a main stage performance if time was spent waiting on another stage’s performance.
Kicking off the main stage performances was one of the few men to grace the LA! Pride main stage: Jesse Saint John. While his career as a recording artist is relatively new (he has only two songs available on Spotify), Jesse has an long established career in the music game as a songwriter. Having written for the likes of Britney Spears, Camila Cabello and Charli XCX, we’d say his career is quite prolific.
Jesse knows how to write catchy hooks that are groove inducing, and he did his best to get the LA! Pride crowd to shake their booties early in the day. I thought he could have exuded a bit more confidence with his movements on stage, especially during the performance of his banger of a dance track “Move”, but I think that will come in time with more experience performing in front of crowds. Hell, I’m sure he could even ask some of the fierce women he’s written for for some pointers.
With only a handful of songs in his personal repertoire, Jesse used part of his allotted stage time to invite his friend Maty Noyes (of Kygo, Lemaitre and The Weeknd fame) to debut her new single “Spiraling Down”.
In all of the years I’ve attended LA! Pride, I’ve always been a bit surprised that music form the rock genre was never represented. In fact, a majority of the LGBTQ friends that I have are in some way involved rock/punk/goth community. That all changed this year, and by one of my friends no less.
Lauren Ruth Ward’s stock has been steadily on the rise since I first saw her perform about a year ago at The Roxy. Now, she’s a featured performance on the main stage of sold out music festival. I couldn’t have been more proud of her.
It was, like all of her performances, a fierce one. Dressed in rainbow attire, with matching rainbow hair, she growled, snarled, danced and wailed her way into the hearts of all of those who were seeing her perform for the first time. She exuded an energy and confidence that literally overflowed off the stage, and as she sang with her powerhouse voice, reaching out into the audience to touch the hands of those were in awe of her mystique, I could see her earning the trust of new fans in real-time. Her rocking performance even wowed the main stage’s MC, Billy Francesca.
As she was about to walk off stage, Billy called her back out for some shine. He effused how impressed he was with her performance in front of thousands of fans, drawing a comparison to the great Janis Joplin.
Whoever said, “Rock & roll is dead,” doesn’t know shit. They just haven’t seen or heard Lauren Ruth Ward perform. I hope that LA! Pride seeks out more artists from the rock genre going forward.
The first “victim” of technical sound issues was the bubbly pop princess Kim Petras.
Kim, who is considered to be the youngest person to undergo gender confirmation surgery, was so excited to share her music with the LA! Pride crowd that she expressly stated the same as soon as she took the stage.
Her music is as fun as it gets. Her break out singles “Heart To Break” and “I Don’t Want It At All” are earwigs for anybody who enjoys some summery pop tunes. It’s Katy Perry circa “Firework” x 2.
So when sound cut out in the middle of her set, and Kim was left stranded on stage wondering was going on, it dimmed the brightness of her smile a tad and had people in the audience scowling because their joy had been interrupted. Even when the sound seemed to have been sorted, it dipped out again, frustrating the crowd even more especially during the performance of “Heart To Break”
Not to be deterred, Kim wouldn’t let the setbacks stop her, and she would resume “Heart To Break” a-cappella to finish what she started. It was a moment that revealed not only her professionalism, but also her sheer determination and perseverance, and certainly earned the respect … mad respect … of this critic.
Having sung in an a-cappela group during my college years, I’ve been a fan of Pentatonix. That a cappella quintet has done amazing well throughout the years, but I was always waiting for some of its members to record music accompanied by instruments. Now, we have Superfruit.
Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi’s youtube comedy personas recently released two EP’s last year (Future Friends Part One and Part Two), which are each LGBTQ-centric albums that provides some solid R&B offerings, and they’ve been touring in support of the both EPs.
Their live show, like their sound, is very polished. Vocally, the duo can do no wrong (I’m a big fan of their seamless harmonies), but to see them sing on point while executing constant choreography? Now, THAT was impressive.
They only had two back-up dancers, but the two were involved in every movement sequence, acting out the lyrics which they sang and being bonafide pop performers. It may be a bit sacrilegious of me to say, but if you listen to their music, and you see them dance, and you added two more singers who can dance to the mix, you could have the second coming of NSYNC. Hell, I think these two are in sync just fine. Definitely worth seeing live.
While I was waiting for Icona Pop to take the stage, I started up a conversation with some of the festival patron lined up against the railing. They were young kids, most likely in their early 20s, and when I asked them if they were excited about Icona Pop, they shrugged their shoulders and suggested that they didn’t know who Icona Pop was.
“No,” I thought to myself, “Everybody knows who Icona Pop is.”
In order to prove my point, I decided to embarrass myself and started to sing the hook of Icona Pop’s “I Love It” to them.
Lo and behold, every one of the kids up front let out a collective, “Ooooh, yeah!”.
See, everybody knows who Icona Pop is.
This would be the third time I’ve seen Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo perform live, and for the third time, I enjoyed myself tremendously. It’s difficult NOT to have a good time when the pair sing their infectious pop melodies, and especially easy when the two looked to be having a blast on stage.
From intertwining their arms in order to share beers with one another, to dancing together onstage while embracing the other with arms around each other’s waist, it was clearly evident that these two are more than just friends. Their sisters in song.
When they performed their smash hit “I Love It”, and had the entire festival grounds singing the hook, “I don’t care, I love it, I don’t care,” I looked over to the group I was chatting up just moments earlier only to see them ALL singing along. Yeah, I had a feeling that would happen.
I made eye contact with one of the young girls, and she pointed to me as she shouted the hook, “I don’t care, I love it”. Yeah, me too.
Having spent the entire first day of LA! Pride at the main stage, I took note of, and chatted with, a lot of the concert goers who spent their day at the main stage with me at the rail. after about 7 hours had passed, I notice a great many of the same faces still being there since the very start. When I asked them who they were all patiently waiting for, they all said the same thing: “Kehlani.”
They were lucky ones, as there were plenty of ticket holders who couldn’t enter the festival grounds later in the evening as the venue had reached its capacity. And those lucky one were treated to a stellar exhibition of showmanship and undeniable charisma.
With her pop-leaning R&B, Kehlani performed an 18 song set that had fans screaming her name throughout. I thought it was particularly impressive how polished performance her performance was. With a cadre of dancers swirling about her, the energy on stage was lively and joyful. Kehlani’s voice was on point too, and that fact was equally impressive, if not surprising, considering that there were sound issues that prevented her from hearing herself in her monitors or earpiece, and trust me … if you think its easy to stay in tune with the band on a large stage without hearing yourself sing, you’ve never tried it yourself.
But after pulling her earpiece out of her ear, and chastising the the sound techs for doing “unacceptable” work, she continued to slay her performance.
From “Keep On” to “Gangsta” to “CRZY”, she performed all of her hits. She pulled out a cover of Tamia’s “So Into You” and also performed her Calvin Harris collab “Faking It”. Towards the end of her set, she also performed her most recent collab, the Saweetie remix of “ICY GRL”. I thought that this would have been a fantastic chance for her to bring the up and coming talent Saweetie to the stage since Saweetie is an L.A. native. That didn’t happen, and I thought that that was an opportunity missed, especially since it was a headline performance.
There was a mother and daughter pair who had waited all day to see Kehlani perform. I didn’t have to ask them whether or not it had been worth it to wait all day at the front of the pack to see their queen perform. I could see it in the looks in their eyes and the way that they were singing along to every lyric. The mother’s arms was spent resting over her daughter’s shoulder, occasionally pulling the daughter in closer during the more emotional and loving moments in Kehlani’s lyrics. No, I didn’t have to ask. It was there in plain sight.