Years & Years And Ashanti Top An Amazing Sunday Line-Up At L.A. Pride Check out Blurred Culture Coverage of All Of The Acts We Caught At L.A. Pride!
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – Arguably one of the most popular pride events in the U.S., L.A. Pride draws thousands every year to come to celebrate in the center of West Hollywood. With the addition of the free “Pride on the Boulevard” celebration this year, many more spectators were expected to come to Los Angeles. With such a jam-packed lineup and handfuls of LGBTQ celebrities flocking to the festivities, this year was due to top all the rest and Blurred Culture was there to catch a handful of the artists who were scheduled to perform on the various stages throughout the festival.
The first time I saw Saro perform was as an opening act for a band playing at The Echo back in 2017. It was a wonderfully striking performance that revealed an authentic emotional maturity. It was indie-pop laced with a dark, enigmatic flare that really excited those in attendance with its mystery, myself included. At L.A. Pride!, Saro had an early afternoon performance, once again acting as an “opener” to whet the audience’s appetite for the music to come … but on a considerably larger stage, and on a much grander scale.
Backed by a full band and a cadre of nubile dancers, Saro graced L.A. Pride with his brand of dance-inducing, dark synth-pop. His voice, a delicate tenor, effused a dreamlike charm, and as bodies flailed, flew and fell around him as he sang, you could feel his confidence with every note.
Saro’s performance at L.A. Pride was also a kind of “reveal”, as his latest EP, Die Alone, was released that day. He was able to cull the dynamism from that album brought each song to life not only with his voice but also his movements. While I personally think that his music lends itself a little better to intimate settings, he was able to successfully bring that intimacy I remember from 2017 to the daylit main stage, surely earning him new fans. One notable fan who I noticed standing on the stage’s wing was Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox. A pretty legit co-sign if you ask me.
Sateen is a fabric made using a satin weave structure but made with spun yarns instead of filament. This results in a fabric that has a glossier sheen and a softer feel. Sateen is also the name of a New York City-based, lesbian couple whose house-infused disco jams are just as shiny and soft, if not more so than the luxurious fabric.
Queen Sateen (lead vocals) and Exquisite (guitar) were both dressed in matching pink bikini ensembles and they instantly brought the dance vibes to the early afternoon crowd with the first note they played. As Exquisite cooly jammed away on her axe with her fingerless, sleeve length gloves, Queen Sateen embodied the title of her name, confidently strutting her groove thing around the stage to their smooth, funky rhythms.
In between songs, Queen Sateen preached the importance of being yourself and living life the way you want to. A proclamation worthy of a queen, and deserving of a couple of booty shakes.
Throughout the weekend, many popular drag queens were featured on the MAC and main stage, giving them a large platform to showcase their talent. Due to RuPaul’s Drag Race’s recent popularity, drag queens have become increasingly more popular and in high demand over the last few years. However, they’ve always been a constant in gay nightlife for the last several decades. Drag queens are now able to book gigs outside of the club scene and are now seen in TV shows, music videos, and advertisements for various brands.
One of the most recent queens to shoot to stardom is Miss Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. After being kicked off first on season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Vanjie became a viral internet sensation due to the way she exited the stage by chanting her name over and over again. She was invited back for season 11 and placed 5th overall. After the show, she appeared in two of Iggy Azalea’s music videos and has even been put on the bill to perform with her in Los Angeles to celebrate her album release. After gaining so much momentum in such a short amount of time, it wasn’t surprising to see that she would be performing on the main stage. She pranced out wearing a bright yellow wig and a shimmery flapper-esque dress with spaghetti straps that almost immediately snapped once she did a few dance moves. Not letting a broken top slow her down, she continued on dancing until someone from her team brought out a top for her to wear. Once she got her outfit fixed, she got down off the stage to greet fans in the crowd. Seeing Vanjie perform in person was exactly what I had hoped. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo is a perfect example of how to parlay a drag career into the mainstream market.
A performance that I was particularly keen to catch was that of The Veronicas. Fresh off a two-year respite from music, twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso delighted fans earlier this year when they release their single “Think Of Me” in May. Based on my memory, their performance at L.A. Pride! would mark their first performance L.A. in years, so I was pretty excited to see the sisters finally perform live. I wasn’t the only one, as a fan who had been waiting at the front rail since the gates opened professed to me that she drove all night from Utah just to catch The Veronicas perform.
With L.A. Pride being the first of many Pride events they performed for over the past month, The Veronica’s infectious pop songs connect strongly with the LGBTQ community, particularly their song “Untouched”. With its 176 MPB, the wild song is about an undying longing despite unrequited love.
“I feel so untouched and I want you so much
That I just can’t resist you
It’s not enough to say that I miss you.
I feel so untouched right now, need you so much somehow
I can’t forget you
Goin’ crazy from the moment I met you.”
It’s a sentiment that everybody feels in their life at one point or another, but it seems to connect with the LGBTQ community ten-fold, and when The Veronicas announced “Untouched” as the “gay national anthem”, the cheers from the crowd were deafening.
It was a triumphant return to the stage by the duo, and fans can only wait with bated breath for new music that they have previously suggested has already been written.
After wading through the massive crowd to get back to the Park stage, I anxiously awaited Amara La Negra’s arrival. Amara is most known for appearing on the Miami spin-off of VH1’s popular franchise, Love & Hip Hop. She instantly garnered fans due to her ferocious attitude and outspoken voice when it came to colorism and discrimination within the music industry.
Amara infamously called out a producer on the show who attempted to tell her to not wear her hair in an afro, as to appeal to a wider fan base. This incident became a talking point online and people began to discover that Amara, unlike a majority of the people appearing on the franchise, actually was an extremely talented singer. She has since breeched the American music market via Love & Hip Hop but has been around the Latin music scene since 2015.
Amara, a former backup dancer, showed off her moves throughout her performance and even hosted a dance-off between a few members of the crowd. After performing at Long Beach Pride last year, it is incredible to see the promoters book her for both Los Angeles and San Francisco Pride. She drew one of the biggest crowds of the day and their voices were heard clearly when she sang her hit singles “Insecure” and “What a Bam Bam”. Amara La Negra will be an integral part of the Latin American take over of the American music scene and it certainly seems like she’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Earlier this year Greyson Chance, after an 8-year hiatus, released his second studio album Portraits. His 2011 debut album, released just a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday, was an impressive pop-rock album from someone so young and proved that he was more than just a youtube viral sensation when he signed a recording deal with Ellen Degeneres company … but Portraits is a surprisingly sophisticated and emotionally personal album that speaks volumes on how living life can really impact the songwriting and process and sound. Portraits is a mature album, and truly highlights Greyson’s significant talent.
Clearly, the 8 years out of the limelight hasn’t put a damper on his fanbase as they came out early in the day on Sunday to get wooed by his pop-centric crooning on the main stage of L.A. Pride.
With his album title illuminated on the LED screen behind him, sporting rainbow-colored suspenders to hold up his black jeans (Greyson came out in 2017) and his boyish good looks, he performed a set that focused on music from his sophomore album. While there may have been a few fans who would have loved him to perform the cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” that had him become an internet phenomenon, but alas, that would not happen. He did, however, pull from another one of his inspirations and covered Amy Winehouse’s “I Heard Love Is Blind”. Mightly appropriate for the L.A. Pride! festivities.
The next act to take the Park Stage at L.A. Pride following Amara La Negra hit the stage was Dej Loaf, and she was ready to win over the crowd with her unique blend of R&B and hip-hop. She sauntered on stage in an all white fit, paired with neon yellow sunglasses and a Gucci belt.
Originally labeled a one-hit wonder in 2014 when her chart topping single “Try Me” was released, Dej Loaf has proved she’s anything but that. With songs “Back Up” and “No Fear”, she’s shown she doesn’t like to be predictable. Whether it’s constantly switching up her sound or her look, you never know what you’ll get.
Dej has always kept the public guessing when it came to her sexuality but regardless, she maintains a heavy LGBTQ fan base, and they came out in force to support the singer. They enthusiastically sang the lyrics and clamored to get her attention when she stepped down from the stage and onto the speakers. Dej Loaf is underestimated and deserves to be given more credit for her numerous catchy singles.
With L.A. Pride! approved artists performing off the festival grounds as a result of the “Pride on the Boulevard” initiative that was implemented this year, there were plenty of music lovers who weren’t able to score festival tickets to appreciate some great live music. Due to the stacked line-up on at the festival, we weren’t able to spend much time off of the festival grounds, but I made it a point venture away from the main stage to check out the recording artist Flavia at The Palms Beer Garden on the Boulevard.
I’ve had my eye on Flavia for a minute. I’m not quite sure how she got on my radar, but I had circled her name as a potential artist to peep at SXSW this year. As I didn’t get a chance to see her in Austin, I figured I owed it to myself to see her rock her home-base stage in LA at L.A. Pride.
Flavia absolutely killed it.
Back by her instrumental tracks, a drum machine, and her uncontainable charisma, Flavia made me a quick believer in her and her electronic indie-pop. Within a matter of seconds of her dropping her first beat, she had the booze-infused crowd lit up to get down with her infectious dance-inducing beats. To be perfectly frank, I sincerely believe that even without the beer garden’s help, she would have easily gotten the audience to bounce to her music. She had another Beer Garden performer, Devmo, join her on stage for a song, and Devmo’s spitting of fierce lyrics only got the crowd twice as hyped.
Though it was a short set, I’m pretty pumped to see Flavia rock another stage sooner rather than later. This one’s got some serious potential.
One of the acts I personally was anticipating the most was British singer/songwriter MNEK. His name may not sound familiar but you’ve heard songs he’s penned for Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, and many more.
When he was only 16 years old, he began working with a production company and wrote songs for some of Britain’s top pop acts. He slowly started being featured on songs for artists like Rudimental and Gorgon City, eventually releasing his own singles. Although he is most well known in the UK, he recently broke onto the American music scene with his feature on Zara Larsson’s debut single “Never Forget You”.
After following him for several years, I was ecstatic to finally see him perform all his amazing songs live. He kicked off his performance with a massive melody of his songs including: “The Rhythm”, “More Than A Miracle”, and “Ready For Love”. His vocals were impeccable, as displayed by the numerous high notes he hit. After his medley, he sang “Never Forget You” and his newest single “Girlfriend”. “Girlfriend” is an ode to men that claim to be heterosexual but are gay on the down low and keep a secret boyfriend on the side. With the release of this single, it was apparent that MNEK was more comfortable than ever with himself and his sexuality. This may have been his first U.S. performance but hopefully, it won’t be his last. I’m unsure as to why America hasn’t caught onto MNEK’s talent yet. Hopefully, soon he can be known for more than just the songs he’s penned and instead for his powerful voice.
As the night began to end, Ashanti was last up to close out the Park Stage. A true R&B legend, Ashanti released her debut album in 2002 and ever since then her classics like “Foolish” and “Rock Wit U” can frequently be heard in hip hop clubs around the world.
After a bit of a delay, Ashanti slowly walked on stage wearing a tremendously elaborate feathered body piece, making her appear almost like a peacock. After removing the body piece to display a green beaded outfit, she began to dance into her music.
Ashanti’s voice sounds no different than it did years ago and she ensured that the audience got a performance that was worth their while. After a few songs, the lights dimmed and turned red, creating an ominous mood. With standalone stripper poles on both sides of the stage, dancers began to climb them. Ashanti reappeared wearing a mask. Later on, she explained that there should have been video visuals throughout the performance but someone poured water on her creative director’s laptop, causing them to lose the footage. Despite that mishap, Ashanti still managed to put on a flawless and well thought out performance. I hope that Ashanti can once again top the charts with a new single because she certainly still has the drive and talent as she did 17 years ago.
If you are going to close out a festival celebrating LGBTQ rights and identity, you couldn’t do any better than having Olly Alexander and his synth-pop, Years & Years mates close it out.
It is impossible to not want to smile and dance when listening to this band’s repertoire. Songs like “If You’re Over Me”, “Shine” and “Desire” are infectious pop gems … and they played them all. Even though they could have focused on their latest release Palo Santo, they gave L.A. Pride a “greatest hits” performance and even had MNEK join Olly onstage for “Valentino” (which MNEK co-wrote and produced).
The sheer joy that Olly exhibits on stage is undeniable. Even when he had a wardrobe malfunction where his chaps wouldn’t stay on correctly, he laughed it out and joked that he didn’t think that the audience would mind him showing more flesh, to which the audience happily accepted.
The joy and love were even present with the players on the stage. Clearly, Olly loves all those who share the stage with him, and he specifically took a long moment to give one of his background singers a special birthday acknowledgment.
To say that Years & Years closed out the festivities with a bang would be an understatement. Olly, bucking any rules, invited a huge crowd onto the stage for the performance of “King”. With closing fireworks illuminating the stage, a shower of confetti raining from the sky, and a wild dance party on stage, it was a perfect celebratory finale to a weekend of PRIDE.