This year’s Pride Festival is set to open hearts, start dialogues, inspire change, and help Utahns remember to “Stay Salty.”
The Utah Pride Festival kicks off Pride Week on Monday, May 28, with the festival gates opening on Saturday, June 2 at 1 p.m., and Sunday, June 3 at 11 a.m. The Pride Festival entertainment committee is proud to announce this year’s lineup, set to focus on local LGBTQ+ and allied artists including Talia Keys and The Love, Sister Wives, SONNEI, and Samba Fogo.
National headliners include Madame Gandhi — who made a name for herself as the drummer for M.I.A. — and electro-pop duo Jason Maek and Zaena — a group who have performed over 40 pride festivals at no charge. Both are outspoken allies whose music speaks truth to power and shining a light on social issues minority groups currently face in America. Kimora Blac of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame (Season 9) will perform at the Youth Pride Dance on Friday, June 1.
Other touring artists include TOBY, a lesbian singer-songwriter from Australia, and Shea Freedom — “traveling transgender man,” folk-hop musician from California.
The majority of the 2018 Pride Festival lineup is local, an intentional decision made by this years’ entertainment team. “We wanted to focus our efforts on booking local LGBTQ+ talent,” says Hillary McDaniel, entertainment director for 2018 Pride. “Keeping with our theme of ‘Get Salty!,’ we chose artists of marginalized identities; people whose voices are often missing from mainstream media. We invited outspoken allies — working and acting as accomplices for the LGBTQ+ community — to perform.”
Additionally, budgeting costs of booking national artists was a concern. “Bringing in a lot of national headliners is expensive,” McDaniel says. “Many people don’t realize the Pride Festival is by-and-large the biggest fundraiser for the Utah Pride Center. All of the money we don’t spend on entertainment goes directly to the Center to pay for life-saving services for the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s also important to introduce people to local LGBTQ+ artists who are doing shows right here in their community. People are going to love the acts, and we hope festival-goers will continue supporting local talent even after the festival.”
The city has a strong music scene, but organizers are looking forward to a refocus on local LGBTQ+ musicians. “Featuring local artists is crucial to any festival,” says Sonnei-Ray Phillips, the artist behind SONNEI. “But especially festivals like Pride because every city has a different demographic. Representation of folks from different corners is crucial to celebrating the essence of Pride. I hope the people who catch my performance get a well-rounded experience, from visually entertained, to emotionally stimulated by my lyrics and my storytelling.”
Sonnei also spoke more intimately about their identity and their use of music to elevate their voice and story. “[As] a non-binary person who grew up in rural Utah, I feel my experience, my writing, and my overall presentation — I believe — is relatable,” Sonnei said. “I can’t speak for an entire community, but I share my experience and solidarity [in the] hope that I can lift someone out of a funk or bring good energy to someone who needs it.”
Other stages at Pride will feature multiple DJ sets, spoken word, and live poetry, as well as karaoke.
Along with the festival’s focus on LGBTQ+ live entertainment — elevating their stories — the Center is also screening “Behind the Curtain”. The documentary follows YouTube sensation Todrick Hall’s creation of “Straight Outta Oz”. The album details Hall’s experience growing up queer and black in Texas and his struggles for acceptance in the mainstream music industry.