Years And Years Returns To West Hollywood For Inaugural OUTLOUD Raising Voices Music Festival
LOS ANGELES, CA- Per their website, OUTLOUD Raising Voices Music Festival is “a 3-Day, award-winning LGBTQ+ Music Festival, profiling and celebrating Queer artistry as a kick-off concert to PRIDE Month. This high-energy concert features show-stopping performances from the Raising Voices Main Stage, engaging artist interviews in the OUTLOUD Twitch Lounge, and an exciting outdoor Dance Arena.”
The top billing on the third day of OUTLOUD featured performances by WeHo favorite Years & Years and rising new artist MUNA. Derrick and Summer covered as many performances as they could!
The first act we caught on the last day of Outloud was the artist Sam Tsui. Sam is a very popular Youtuber with over 3 million followers who tune into his channel not only for creative covers and mashups but also for family updates. Sam married fellow musician Casey Breves back in 2016 and the two have since become dads with the birth of their daughter Elaia on June 11th, 2021. The two have memorialized the love for their new child with a new album dedicated to their daughter titled “Here Tomorrow: Song For Elaia” which is a collection of original music and creative covers.
Sam performed an energetic set that really showcased his crystalline tenor chops. Sam Released an album in 2020, Yearbook, but his set included original songs from his entire repertoire, including his 2018 track “Impatience”. He even invited his husband to the stage to perform their 2016 duet “This Promise”, making the performance truly a family affair.
I wasn’t familiar with Kelechi or his music prior to Outloud, but “Your Gay Indie Pop Bestie” (per his Instagram handle) had a performance on the Outloud mainstage that really impressed me. His music was incredibly catchy and danceable, and his smile was pretty infectious.
As a bonus during his performance, hit invited VINCENT to the stage to perform the single the two released earlier this year, “just another song”. It’s Whitney Houston circa Whitney vibes really embodied the carefree nostalgia of that era, despite it being a song about “picking up the pieces of your broken heart”.
There is another collaboration that Kelechi has lined up in the queue, a duet with the artist Zee Machine (whose music I’m also pretty high on) titled “Everyone Wants It”, which is scheduled for release on July 6th, 2022. I’ll be keeping my ear on the street for that one. I have a feeling that’s going to be a veritable jam as well.
Taylor Bennett, the younger and equally talented brother of Chance the Rapper, has diligently worked to make a name for himself in hip hop. Bennett has already dropped four albums in the last 7 years, all independently released. He has ensured that he doesn’t ride his brother’s coattails and has deservedly built his own dedicated fanbase. In 2017, he came out as bisexual, something that takes a lot of courage to be open about in the rap sphere. Since then, he’s encouraged others to embrace their uniqueness and has promoted the importance of positivity.
Bennett stepped on stage wearing a crisp Gucci matching set and sporting a radiant smile. He didn’t let the scorching sun slow him down and proceeded to utilize the entirety of the stage and speakers to entertain the crowd. Bennett never fails to incorporate the audience in his performances and always seems like he wants to ensure everyone in the vicinity is having a good time. Taylor Bennett is no longer looked at as just Chance the Rapper’s younger brother; he’s created his own sound, look, and followers.
Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race all know who Mo Heart (formerly Monique Heart) is, and they all cheered her on during her performance on the final day of Outloud.
Personally, I haven’t been keeping up with this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Versus the World international all-star contest, so I wasn’t too familiar with Mo Heart undergoing the name evolution, but based on interviews I found online after the performance, I learned that Monique felt “like she was ‘subscribing to a binary’ on the feminine side,” and she wanted to change up her name to align her spirit and creative endeavors. As for Mo’s pronouns, and thought Mo’s response was pretty classic.
“She, he, we. She makes the money, he cashes the check, we live a happy life.”
Mo’s performance was a lot of fun and she featured a handful of songs from her latest 2022 EP, Redemption. I’m actually a big fan of the EP. It’s got some really traditional R&B vibes to it, and Mo’s alto/bariton register delivers on the soul. It’s definitely not what I anticipated after listening to her 300K spin “Hot Sauce & High Heels” Kinky Boots Remix at 100% EDM. A very pleasant and welcome surprise.
You may know her as Candy from FX’s award-winning television show Pose, but Angelica Ross is more than just an actress. She is a woman who wears many hats. Entrepreneur. Motivational speaker. Rights activist. Computer programmer. Actress. She can now add singer/recording artist to that list.
Although she only has two songs listed on her DSP playlists (“Only You” and “Fierce”), Angelica was able to entertain the early afternoon crowd at Outloud with a full 20-minute set. She not only performed her original songs, but she also performed a spirited cover of Stephanie Mills’ “Never Knew Love Like This Before”.
In what was a moving part of her performance, she spoke on her relationship with her family and in particular, her relationship with her mother, and told those in the crow who needed to hear it that people can in fact change, and the possibility of love and acceptance… despite the past… is always a possibility.
Of all of the performers from the weekend, the one artist that perhaps had the most paparazzi was Ana Bárbara. As someone who made the wrong choice back in high school to learn French instead of Spanish, I was woefully unknowledgeable about Ana Bárbara and her impact on regional Mexican music.
Ana made her professional debut in 1994, releasing eleven studio albums and selling over 6 million records throughout the Americas. She has become one of the leading female figures in regional Mexican music, redefining the modern Grupero performance. As if her resume weren’t already loaded, she is also the recipient of Latin Grammys, Lo Nuestro Awards, Juventud Awards, and Oye Awards.
While I may not have been familiar with her musical accomplishments, I was clearly among the minority amidst the crowd who had gathered for her performance. Spanish-speaking attendees lined the railing and were all singing along with Ana, and even I, as a non-speaking guest, felt the Mexican pride stirring in the audience.
At the fresh age of 19, Isaac Dunbar has begun his ascension to the top with his quirky brand of alternative pop. Sought out by his manager when he was still in high school and posting songs on Soundcloud, Dunbar now is now signed to RCA. After recently releasing his EP “Banish the Banshee” and beginning to embark on a headlining tour, it seemed only right for him to perform at his first West Hollywood pride.
Dunbar whirled across the stage with an ever-present grin on his face. Singing some of the staples from his discography like “Pharmacy”, “Comme Des Garcons”, and “Sunburn”, he showed both his production and vocal chops. Dunbar is one of the many up-and-coming gifted queer artists who aren’t afraid to be candid about their experiences and the daily challenges they face. Isaac Dunbar is creating pop songs that are conscious and relatable, which is why his artistry is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Poet, activist, musician, and performance artist, Mykki Blanco does it all. Since they were a teen, they dabbled in the arts and even won several awards and scholarships before graduating high school. However, they mostly made their mark with their music. Blanco blends rap, alternative, and electronic elements together to form their experimental sound. They discuss a wide range of social issues like racism, LGBTQIA+ experiences, and living with being HIV positive. Blanco’s newest singles take their sound in a new and refreshing direction by collaborating with Diana Gordon and the legendary Michael Stipe of R.E.M.
Mykki Blanco’s high-octane performance was filled with many erratic movements, rolling on the ground, jumping on the speakers, and they even hoisted the mic stand over their head at one point. Their eclectic fashion sense is an added plus. With Blanco, there’s never a shortage of something to look at. They are a natural performer, whether the art is expressed via movement, words, or sound. Mykki Blanco is propelling the queer experience and queer voices into the limelight with their subversive art.
The British singer/songwriter RAYE has been featured on some of the most infectious dance tracks in the last 5 or so years, including “Secrets” with Regard, “You Don’t Know Me” with Jax Jones, and most recently “Waterfall” with Disclosure. It’s no secret that RAYE knows how to make hits, as she’s been quietly penning songs behind the scenes for some of the industry’s biggest names. Even though she’s been active and releasing singles since 2014, RAYE has yet to drop a debut album. She has been public about her struggle with her now former label, Polydor, and how they have prevented her from releasing her debut project for seven years. She recently became an independent artist and now is finally planning on dropping her long-awaited album.
After stepping on stage, RAYE gleefully exclaimed that it was her first time performing in Los Angeles. She mentioned the frustration she’s had arguing for years with her old label, but you could see that the weight has been lifted off her shoulders at last. RAYE lit up the crowd by performing her dance-pop hits, which left the crowd wanting more. For the first time in the entire weekend, they began to chant “one more song!”. Clearly, her 30-minute set didn’t satisfy the audience’s cravings. At last, RAYE is getting the recognition and love that she’s deserved all along.
The word boring will never be synonymous with Dorian Electra. The gender-fluid performer is known for their elaborate ensembles, frenzied live shows, and experimental sound. After beginning to explore their gender identity via work projects for their former employer Refinery29, Electra dove into creating music for the masses. They concocted a distinct sound that draws influences from metal, electronic, and hyper pop.
Electra’s theatrical stage show is nothing but entrancing. Encircled by smoke machines and strobing lights, they appeared in a black-pleather jacket with matching Edward Scissorhands-esque gloves and a hat that could only be described as something a pirate would wear but with a much longer brim that nearly covered her face. Electra’s entire performance was a truly impressive production. Between the flashing lights, outfit changes, and dancers, it felt like an underground rave. Electra is exemplary of how music, fashion, and visual effects all work hand in hand to create a bewitching experience for fans. Watching a Dorian Electra show essentially feels like you opened a portal into a brand new realm that you’ll never want to leave
We’ve had our eyes, and ears, on MUNA since 2017. We were duly impressed with their debut full-length album About U, and equally impressed with their sophomore effort Saves The World, both released by RCA Records, who subsequently were dropped by RCA during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This caught me by surprise. Perhaps Saves The World wasn’t as commercially successful as RCA had wanted, but even I knew in my gut that dropping MUNA was probably a bad move. Having seen their fanbase in person at shows, and knowing how universal their music is, I know that I wouldn’t have just dropped them without giving them another bite at the apple. RCA’s loss, however, was Phoebe Bridgers’ gain, as her newly set up record label, Saddest Factory, signed the band and subsequently released (just this past June 24th, 2022) the band’s third studio album, the critically acclaimed, self-titled MUNA.
Their nine-song set at Outloud only featured a handful of singles from the new album (“Home By Now”, “Kind of Girl” “Anything But Me” and “Silk Chiffon”) as they opted to include some of their most popular tracks from the RCA albums (including “Number One Fan”, “I Know A Place” and “Taken”).
There are lots for Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson to look forward to. After performing as the opening act for the likes of King Princess and Kacey Musgraves, they are set to embark on their own headlining tour at the end of this month, and with dates already selling out, I can only see their star shining brighter as the year progresses.
West Hollywood loves Olly Alexander and Years & Years. Back in 2019 when the City of West Hollywood worked with Christopher Street West and LA! Pride, Years & Years was the festival closer. The band’s return to West Hollywood would prove to be a triumphant one, treating the audience with a full 16-song setlist that spanned the entirety of Years & Years’ repertoire, with a particular focus on songs from Years & Years’ latest album, the 2022 Night Call.
A lot has changed for Years &Years in the past year. In 2021, the band announced that Years & Years would be an Olly Alexander solo project, with Mikey Goldworthy and Emre Turkmen stepping aside to pursue personal projects and focus on family. At the end of the day, Olly made it known that there was nothing but love between the former members, that it was just a really natural evolution, and that the final decision was ultimately mutual amongst everybody. At the end of the day, however, Olly has always been the heart, soul, and face of Years & Years, and truth be told, I’d be hard-pressed to believe that fans in the audience actually noticed that neither Mikey nor Emre weren’t behind their synths like they use to be.
From the first note of “Night Call” to the last note of “King”, Olly gave West Hollywood a really spirited performance that had him effusing his mischievous sexuality throughout. Clearly, what the final crowd wanted, and he made sure that West Hollywood’s inaugural Pride Music Festival was one for the books.