Capital Pride: Music to My Ears

10 07 2013
Justin Utley tunes his guitar before performing at Capital Pride DC.

Justin Utley tunes his guitar before performing at Capital Pride DC.

While pride festivals are mostly about parades and vendors, I find my favorite aspect is the entertainment.  Now I’m not talking about the washed up has been artists that always seem to show up at gay events.  You know, they had one dance hit in the 80’s and for some reason gay culture has latched onto them like goddesses.  No, I’m talking about the gay independent artists.  The ones who are self funded and working the stage because they love and believe in what they are doing.  They write most of their own music, pay for studio time out of pocket, and typically have to keep a full-time job to support their passion.  Yes, they are the ones that impress me.  Each of them have a level of honesty that make their music and performances genuine.

While on this trip I was fortunate enough to meet three such perfumers at Capital Pride in DC.  Two were performing and the third was a chance meeting at a bar later that night.  I can honestly say that I was in gay indie music heaven.

Justin Utley performs on the Capital Pride main stage.

Justin Utley performs on the Capital Pride main stage.

First and foremost, my friend Justin Utley happened to be playing DC pride (the one year I was also going to be there), I was thrilled to see him perform again.  Justin is an ex mormon who has risen out of gay reparative therapy to become an inspiring voice in the indie gay scene.  His music could be called country but I prefer singer/songwriter.  Escaping his home state of Utah, he now resides in NYC with his boyfriend of 3 years.  Justin’s most recent release was nearly 20 months ago in the form of his album “Nothing This Real”.  This release is a culmination of personal experiences from love to questioning the Mormon culture he came out of.  It’s a record that’s as enjoyable today as it was 20 months ago when he put it out.  Some songs like “Great Escape” always manage to land on my ‘favs’ playlist.  Since it’s been a while, I asked him what’s next.  He assured me there is a new music project on the horizon along with a music video for his award winning song “Stand For Something”.  I have heard some clips of a new track he’s working on and can honestly tell you that I can’t wait for the finished product.  I am also working on an interview with Justin, but because of his busy performance schedule, I have put it on hold until he has more time.  In the indie music scene, being busy is a good thing, so I’ll cut him some slack.

Eric Himan and the Soultre' Singers headline the Dupont stage.

Eric Himan and the Soultre’ Singers headline the Dupont stage.

The second performer I was thrilled to see and meet was Eric Himan.  Now this was funny.  I have listened to Eric’s music for a while now, but when Justin introduced me to him backstage, I was so distracted that it didn’t click with me who he was.  Awkward to say the least, but  once I came to my senses, I rushed back over to Eric and we chatted for a bit.  However, if my introduction to him was awkward, his performance certainly wasn’t.  Eric has a very soulful voice that really  allows him to take command of some great vocal notes.  Accompanied by the Soultre’ Singers, they belted out several of his best songs.  They also performed a couple songs from his upcoming release “Gracefully” named after his recently deceased grandmother Grace.  Now the CD has been released, I am telling you that it is a must have!  One particular song stands out to me above all the others, “Waiting For The Thunder (Malala)”.  This track is his tribute to the young girl who survived an attack by the Taliban simply for wanting an education.  It strikes a very powerful tone and image of this brave young girl.  This song will resonate with you!  Bringing together his voice, writing, and raw talent, Eric Himan’s “Gracefully” deserves a listen, you won’t regret it.

Eric Himan autographs CDs for fans after his set.

Eric Himan autographs CDs for fans after his set.

The last performer wasn’t even performing at pride, but I was fortunate enough to meet Tom Goss at the Green Lantern later that Sunday night.  I recognized Tom when he greeted a mutual friend who then introduced me.  Wow, this was a trifecta of artists I couldn’t have imagined.  I must say though, of the three men, I was actually a little starstruck by Tom.  I mean, I wasn’t expecting this meeting, so I didn’t have a chance to think it through.  I asked for a pic with him and proceeded to avoid staring at him while I attempted my best moves on the dance floor hoping he’d notice.  Silly, yes I know, but he’s really cute!  I discovered Tom only recently with the release of the video for his single “Make Believe”.  A fun video where he is body painted in the nude (nothing exposed) while being filmed in time-lapse.  You gotta love the story being told on his body.  Tom’s most recent production is the video and single “Bears”.  You see, Tom has an affinity for Bears.  He loves a big burly man, and boy would I love to be that man.  Sadly for me, he has already found his bear and is happily married.  Regardless, it was still a treat to meet Tom and try my best to impress him with my dancing.  I messaged him on Facebook after I got home from DC thanking him for the picture and recounting our chance meeting, this is the reply I got, “Yay! It was fun. You’re a great dancer too! Thanks for rocking the dance floor so hard.”  OMG, he noticed!

So my pride adventure in DC came to a fun and unexpected close.  I have to say that it was one of the best times I’ve had at pride in a long time.  I will also say that when you find yourself going to a pride event, keep an eyes and ears on the indie artists.  They are often better than the headliners.  These performers are the real deal, talented, raw, and most of all, they are accessible.  Say hello, they appreciate every fan and won’t take you for granted.

Here’s a small gallery of Justin performing at Capital Pride DC 2013.

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Capital Pride: A Photographic Journal

18 06 2013

Here are my favorite shots.  I believe these 30 plus images captured the essence of Capital Pride in DC.  As you can see, this year was a super hero theme and a plethora of hero costumes.  I hope you enjoy this look at the Family, friends, and supporters of the LGBT community in DC as seen through my lens.

Stay tuned for my next posting on the Capital Pride entertainment.  This will include an exclusive interview with  singer/songwriter Justin Utley!





Capital Pride in Washington D.C.

12 06 2013
Rainbows decorate P Street along the parade route.

Rainbows decorate P Street along the parade route.

It’s June, the month where gay pride festivals pop up in cities and towns all over the United States.  Why June?  Well, on June 28th, 1969 the Stonewall Riots occurred in New York City.  This was the impetus of the gay rights movement in the US and thus June has become the month we celebrate our diversity and culture. This year, I decided to travel to DC and join the party there.  Washington DC is not new to me.  I have made made annual visits four times now, but one item I have not attended is Capital Pride.  So, this was the year I took a gay-cation to my nation’s capital city.

Over the past visits I have made a number of great friends in the area.  This means I have no need to fret about hotels or finding my way around.  I’m not ignorant of public transportation in DC, but one can focus more on the sights and sounds when not having to constantly orient yourself to the nearest bus or metro stop.  Let’s just say that this blog entry will be more about pride than the logistics of travel in and around DC.

Like most gay pride events, Capital Pride is a week-long affair that starts on a Monday and slowly builds to a climax on Sunday evening (pun intended).  I did not arrive until Friday, but I was able to participate in the main events on Saturday and Sunday.

Peace Corps contingent marching in the parade.

Peace Corps contingent marching in the parade.

Saturday was parade day and my friends and I staked out a shady spot along the route about 30 minutes prior to the start time.  It was a sticky hot and humid day, but everyone was in good spirits.  The streets were closed off by the police and so began a mile long swath of colorful floats, marching bands, dancers, and more glitter than a RuPaul gown all weaved through the famously gay Dupont neighborhood.  It seemed that almost everyone was represented.  Participants ranged from the British Embassy, The Peace Corps, many of the local inclusive churches, gay friendly businesses, most of the local clubs and bars, and gay social clubs.  However, one of the highlights for myself was the Grand Marshal Lynda Carter.

Lynda Carter waves to the crowd.

Lynda Carter waves to the crowd.

Yes, Wonder Woman had us all in a big gay tizzy!  We couldn’t get that theme song out of our heads all day.  She looked fantastic flanked by women in Wonder Woman costumes as she rode past us in a pink Ford Thunderbird convertible.  Then after 2 hours and just as suddenly as it began, the last float went by, and the streets were reopened as the hoards of revelers vanished into the many nearby eateries for dinner.  Parades are not something I see very often, but I found this one particularly fun.  Maybe it’s the fact I haven’t done this in several years, or I am in a different mindset now.  Either way, it was an enjoyable and memorable time.

A group performs with flags behind a marching band.

A group performs with flags behind a marching band.

Sunday morning arrived with an overcast sky that I knew wouldn’t last, but gave me hope that the Pride Festival would not be a scorching affair.  You see, the festival on Sunday is held on Pennsylvania Ave, not in a park.  That means hot pavement.  It would be my only complaint regarding the festival.  So with sunscreen applied, camera in hand, and friends in tow, we set out for a day of festivities.

A swarming crowd descends on Pennsylvania Ave for Capital Pride.

A swarming crowd descends on Pennsylvania Ave for Capital Pride.

Entering the event you must go through a gauntlet of people with buckets asking for donations.  I really didn’t mind this since the festival is run on donations and sponsorships.  I dropped my donation in one of them and proceeded to explore the many rainbow clad booths lined up the avenue.  Once again, it seemed everyone was represented.  From the PFLAG guy holding the sign offering “Free Hugs” to the gay rugby team tossing around a ball in the street, it seemed all were there to have a great time and celebrate.  This festival is not unlike many others you’ll see around the country, lots of color, people dressed in costumes and others dressed in their normal attire.  Families pushing strollers and plenty of dogs wearing rainbow bandanas were walked up and down the festival grounds.  Two performance stages provided a plethora of entertainment options.  Everything from folk/country musicians, dance troops, drag, pop, and rock echoed in the background through the entire day from the huge stage speakers.  The festival runs from noon until 8pm when the headliners finish their set.  And just like the ending of the parade, everyone dispersed into the city high on pride.

I would not say DC has the biggest pride, that honor goes to San Francisco and New York, but I will say it was just about right for me.  Good crowds and a great mix of people made it fun without being overwhelming.  It wasn’t as risqué as I have seen at San Fran Pride years ago. Nobody walked around completely naked and there were no porn star booths.  It was more subtle and celebratory than shocking.  I would definitely attend again.

Who would say no to a free hug?

Who would say no to a free hug?