L.A. Pride Parade | L.A. PrideFestival | Festival 6/9/18 | Festival 6/10/18

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 .

Saturn Rising @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

The first artist I was able to see perform on Sunday was Saturn Rising a performance artist whose electronic dance music carried ominous overtones. While his music may have been better suited for an evening time slot- or even a dimly lit intimate club- Saturn Rising was able to stir up audience’s energy with his own stage vigor.

Wearing heeled boots, and an orange ensemble loose flowing ribbons that dangle from a semi-corset and flung wildly about his body like the multicolored braids the adorned his head, Saturn Rising’s performance was fierce and abound with confidence.

I didn’t have to know much about his history to tell that he was a dancer. His lean, fit frame moved about the stage with a confidence that demanded attention. As he strut, kicked and twirled about the stage, huge images of his face hued in an orange matching his attire emphasized the darkly mysterious nature of his sounds.

During certain portions of his performance, he was aided by two additional male dancers, but he could have easily handled his performance duties solo

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Lauren Sanderson @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Lauren Sanderson. Wow. This one was the definition of charisma.

Lauren released her latest EP, Spaces, last year, and was subsequently signed to Epic Records as a result of its popularity.

Spaces is an album filled with emotional outpourings of self identity, love and self empowerment, and Lauren was able to communicate those messages effectively on stage. Like her prior experience of capturing attentions as a motivational speaker, Lauren was able to capture our ears with her mellifluous melodies and hard spitting rhymes.

Her positivity was infectious and the excitement she stirred onstage during her performance spilled over and overflowed after it as she made her way into the festival crowd to meet and connect with her fans. She spent a considerable amount of of time listening to, hugging, and taking selfies with those who found her and her music irresistible, and that time spent connecting with fans new and old leads me to believe that she’s got the certain “je ne sai quoi” that will eventually catapult her onto a level of stardom that could have her headlining LA! Pride in the years to come. I’m anxious to see what path her musical journey takes.

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Jessica 6 @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Next up on the main stage was NYC native Nomi Ruiz p/k/a Jessica 6. Her music mixes elements of electronic dance and house, and, like Saturn Rising, had darker overtones.

In the research I had done prior to festival, I was expecting Nomi to be accompanied by a full band. After all, wikipedia indicated that Jessica 6 was in fact a band consisting bassist Andrew Raposo, keyboardist Morgan Wiley and drummer Jim Orso. Instead, Nomi was solely accompanied on stage by two backup dancers.  

But the dancers appeared to be what she needed, and wanted, for this performance. As she announced after the performance of her first song, “Prisoner of Love”, she was there to get the crowd moving and shaking their tail feathers. I could only stay for a part of her performance (because I had to go see one of the queens of new jack swing perform), but based on the emphasis that Nomi put on dramatic choreography, and the way the the crowd was grooving to her sensual sonics, I think she accomplished her goal.

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CeCe Peniston @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

It’s hard to believe- and truth be told made me feel a little old when I made the realization- but CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” is over 25 years old. Wow. That song was seriously played at every high school dance that I went to. And don’t get me started on “Keep On Walkin’ or “We Got A Love Thang”… those tracks were straight up New Jack Swing bangers that I put on every urban mix-tape I made for myself or friends. So, when I heard that CeCe Peniston would be performing at LA! Pride, I circled her name because I had to see and hear the queen of New Jack Swing do her thing for me live.

Now, I did have some hesitations because her performance was scheduled for Boulevard Stage, and that stage typically runs late … and that was the case for CeCe’s performance as well. And for the 15 minutes fans waited past the stated start time, the anticipation became more and more palpable.

When CeCe took the stage, she was adored in a glittery, silver jumpsuit. She regally strut on stage as she looked over the audience before she asked us all if we were ready to get down with her. I was ready, and as soon as the beat drop for her first song, I was already dancing my way around the photo pit. But, CeCe wasn’t feeling the same.

She instructed her DJ to stop the performance, and she readdressed the audience, questioning whether or not they were really ready to get down. Perhaps it was the wafts of weed in the air that had the crowd slow to roll, but it was clear they weren’t going to waste a chance to dance to one of the best dance-soul records of all time.

CeCe restarted her performance, this time with the audience more in tune with the vibe she was trying instill from the get-go, and she went on to knock out a 30+ minute set with all of those songs that I fondly remembered. She sounded as fresh and youthful as she did back when those tracks first hit my ears in 1992. “Finally”, “We Got A Love” and “Keep On Walking” were all performed, and they each still stand the test of time.

Personally, I thought that CeCe should have performed on the main stage. Her hits are not only dance anthems, but LGBTQ anthems as well. Perhaps LA! Pride picked up on their erroneous scheduling as they had CeCe join the main stage hosts for a brief moment to riff a little bit of “Finally” accapella. I’m just glad I got to see CeCe do it proper earlier in the day.

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Allie X @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Because CeCe Peniston’s performance started late, I was worried that I would miss too much of Allie X’s 30 minutes performance to be able to truly get a sense of her music and style. Luckily, after running across the festival grounds with 35+ pounds of gear strapped to my back, I only missed the first 10 minutes of her performance.

There’s an incredibly dramatic flare that Allie X possesses; a flare that perfectly suits her futuristic take on electronic-pop. With her hair dressed up in a big bouffante, and obscuring her face throughout the performance with either a clown like veil or large sunglasses, she carried with her a mysterious air onstage.

The mysterious cloak, however, was removed when she spoke directly to the audience, specifically thanking the LGBTQ+ community for their unwavering support of the years. It was a truly tender moment of personal appreciation which humanized this performer in my eyes.

Having written hits for Troye Sivan, Allie X’s songwriting credentials are pretty well established. Her own music is equally infectious. Her music is replete with catchy hooks that are easy to sing along with; and the passion that she performs with- with its dramatic flare- is a joy to watch manifest on stage. In my humble opinion, Allie X is one prominent synch placement- which will lead to a demand at terrestrial radio- from making a real slash on the music landscape.

Her identity explorations have yet to yield concrete conclusions, but the invisible wall between Alexandra Hughes and Allie X is becoming more opaque. Showcasing “more of myself,” in both her music and in interviews, is an increasingly agreeable experience. “Each song is a piece of me,” she says. “I’m getting better at showing my true self: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

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Eve @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Before she was a permanent co-host on The Talk … Before she was Terri in the Barbershop franchise …. Before she was Shelly in the UPN series Eve …. Eve was Ruff Ryder’s First Lady. A queen in the male dominated genre of hardcore hip-hop, holding her own and claiming her space among the hardcore likes of DMX, Cassidy and The Lox.

At 39, Eve is still one of the OG’s of hip hop, and is currently working on new music for a future album.

At L.A. Pride, Eve gave Los Angeles an impeccably structured, hit-laden set. To celebrate the pride occasion, her ubiquitous paw-print tattoos were colored with the shades of the rainbow, and her performance, accompanied by a cadre of skilled dancers, was just as colorful.

From “Ruff Ryders Anthem” to “Gansta Lovin'” to “Who’s that Girl”, she performed hits across her entire repertoire. While I was hoping there would be a special guest performer joining her on stage (we are in L.A. after all) that didn’t happen. So, when she perform “Let Me Blow Your Mind”, it was done as a solo without an assist from Gwen Stefani.

But Eve doesn’t need support to make a lasting impression, and that’s the most impressive impression of all. With all that this multi-talented entertainer is capable of accomplishing and in fact doing, there really is no need for her to pick up a mic and spit bars. Thankfully, she isn’t quite ready to the cede the titled of “pit bull in a skirt” or “Eve of Destruction” just yet. Just down now, just like she was when she was Ruff Ryder’s First Lady, and I’m definitely down with that.

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Christina Aguilera @ LA! Pride 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Amongst the 70,000+ that attended L.A. Pride, there were plenty of celebrities who made appearances on the festival grounds. Whether speaking their minds on stage, or joining other listed performers for a special duet, or even just roaming the grounds to soak up all of the festivities, but one celebrity made a particularly sensational appearance on Sunday: Christina Aguilera.

Teased on stage by host Billy Francesca, Ms. Aguilera stepped onto a stage crowded with RuPaul’s Drag Race drag queens twice her size. She performed fro the audience a dance remix of her latest single (and first new music since 2012) “Accelerate” which is on her latest album Liberation (released June 15th).

It actually took a moment for the crowd to realize what was going on. There was so much going on on stage, and Christina was pretty obscured by the large bodies around her, but when everybody realized what was going on and who was on stage, the cheers from the audience was deafening.

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Tove Lo @ LA! Pride. 6/10/18. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Concluding the festivities at LA! Pride was the Swedish artist Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson p/k/a Tove Lo. LA! Pride couldn’t have made a better selection.

Tove Lo, an artist who has identified as bisexual, is a champion for all things women and LGBTQ+. From her first big hit “Habits” to her multi-cultural/sexual “Timebomb” to her most recent single “bitches” (stet) featuring guest appearances by Charli XCX, Icona Pop, Elliphant and ALMA, Tove Lo is fearless when is comes to speaking her mind and expressing her sexuality through music.  It’s her outspokenness about her sexuality and the strength in her convictions that she exhibits that has garnered Tove Lo a loyal and unwavering gay following.

Tove Lo’s performance at LA! Pride was truly a celebration of free and unbridled expression. Backed by a full band and wearing matching rainbow themed pants and bra-top, Tove Lo sang and danced her way through a set that felt more like a party than anything. with fans cheering, singing and dancing along to every note. The party mood was heightened when she invited another prominent LGBT singer (and her close friend) Parson James to the stage to perform “Talking Body”. As the duo sang the song’s sensual lyrics, Tove was feeling the moment and spontaneously flashed the audience as she has been known to do. Following the song, Tove replaced her rainbow bra and replaced it with sparkling flower shaped pasties.

As if the Pride! crowd couldn’t get more hyped than it already was, Tove ended her with an assist from more of friends. I expected Icona Pop to join Tove on stage for a performance of “bitches” as they had performed on the main stage the night before, but it was an added bonus to see the Finnish singer/rapper ALMA join the group on stage as well. The four women knocked “bitches” out of the park, and had everybody in the crowd, LGBTQ and allies alike, fully satisfied, and filled with pride.

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