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

Categories: Last Night
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.

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.

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. 

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.

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