:: Pride Fest ::
:: Denver :: June 18 and 19 ::
Photos and text by Andrea Wojcik
As expected, Denver Pride last Saturday and Sunday was a fabulous sight to see. Over the course of the weekend I saw too many pairs of neon underwear to count and more than my fair share of pasties. There were drag queens who looked more fashionable and womanly than myself and so many rainbows my head was spinning. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was the weekend’s anthem, and if I go a few months without hearing any Gaga or Britney it will probably be for the better. In the midst of my sensory overload, I deduced one thing for certain: Pride is not for the closed-minded. This yearly event is held in cities across the nation to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969. Denver Pride—produced by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado— is a rare opportunity for the LGBT community to freely express and celebrate their sexuality without fear of repercussions or judgment. It’s a once a year free-for-all, and the members of this sub-culture come out in full force.
So I ask: What would a gay celebration be without a drag queen? Or two? Or three? The answer: It wouldn’t be a gay celebration. On Saturday, Pride featured RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera, and her performance generated quite the buzz on the street. Everyone was asking their friends if they had seen Carrera naked. She strutted onto the stage wearing an ankle length fur coat and lip syncing to Salt N Pepa’s “I Am Body Beautiful”. By the end of the number she was wearing nothing more than a gold backless bra and strapless thong. Lip syncing or not, there is something impressive about a man who can pull off being a woman better than most women. Judging from the screams that were coming from the crowd, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Other drag queen performances included Cher impersonator Chad Michaels and Denver’s own Venus Sexton.
The Drag Kingz of TranZcend gave a surprising performance. When two girls opened their act lip syncing to Kesha’s “Blow” and proceeded to strip down to bathing suit tops while shooting off guns full of glitter, I was thoroughly unimpressed. Only after one king’s particularly convincing performance to “If You Were Gay” from the musical Avenue Q did I begin to warm up to them. After that, a cute pin-up girl and a nerd rushed on stage in a plaid button down shirt, suspenders, and thick rimmed glasses with tape across the middle to perform to Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”. The Drag Kingz of TranZcend brought a unique theatrical element to the stage, and they delivered a high-energy performance that engaged the audience.
Moving away from the drag performances, the main stage lineup also included two rappers: Cazwell and Asiel. Cazwell came from New York City on tour for a string of Pride performances. He’s a celebrity in the LGBT community who doesn’t take himself too seriously with songs like “Ice Cream Truck” and “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King”. The woman next to me in the crowd certainly had a good time bustin’ out the moves and singing along to his raps. Asiel is an up-and-coming Denver artist. He varied it up on Saturday with a live drummer, guitarist, and a few featured dancers. Unlike some other acts, it was clear that he took the time and effort to choreograph his pieces, and he stood out. Both artists delivered a performance similar to mainstream rappers: their lyrics were sexually explicit; they used crude language; and their dancers were sexy and hardly clothes. There is one glaring difference between these rappers and mainstream rappers. Cazwell and Asiel are both gay, and their raps are extremely homoerotic. In a nation that is only in the baby stages of publicly accepting the LGBT culture, Cazwell and Asiel’s efforts to become recognized rappers are admirable.
The second to last performer at Pride was a country artist by the name Justin Utley. It was a shame that most of the crowd had left by the time he got on stage because he was one of the most talented musicians to perform the entire weekend. He also happens to have an inspiring story to drive his music. Utley grew up gay and Mormon—not the most acceptable combination. After being told by his bishop and religious community for many years that he essentially has a disease, Utley decided to leave Mormonism behind and is now an openly gay country artist. He played either acoustic guitar or keys while his strong voice belted the story of his struggle. In a lineup of performers, Utley distinguished himself as a musician.
There was something fun and a little crazy about the weekend—maybe the result of pent up sexual energy, but most likely the result of people doing what people do at a festival. Pride goers were high, drunk or just sober and excited. Their celebratory energy transferred to the numerous main stage performers. Whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or straight ally, Denver PrideFest is an opportunity to engage in political activism while enjoying fun, free entertainment that is far from the mainstream.