Take a break from the mainstream. Alterna-Queer is back. After several years of programming at the hidden oasis of Alexander Parkette, outside Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, then a couple of failed attempts at programming on larger stages, AQ is back once again on a smaller scale at the TD Village Stage.

Think beyond boxes and labels and rethink what it means to be queer. Starting off is Dainty Smith and Les Femmes Fatales, a burlesque troupe composed primarily with women of colour who are fiercely sexy and defiantly glamorous, followed by First Nations burlesque group, Virago Nation, on a mission to reclaim Indigenous sexuality from the effects of colonization.

Alterna-Queer gets into the music with the infectious glitter, glam and grit of Persons, the genre-defying and terrifying, Partner, and the groove cutting and synth-based musicality of LAL. Closing the show is  Unbuttoned, painting auditory textures and emotions with electronic, pop, alternative, and R&B overtones.

theBUZZ had to opportunity to connect with each of the musical acts to find out what can be expected at #AQ2017.

Persons

Persons was conceived amidst the clutter of dank DIY loft spaces in Montreal’s Griffintown. Nick Persons began in earnest as the vehicle for multi-disciplinary artist and producer Jackson Darby’s shakily constructed sound collages. Expanding to include Choozey Dollarbin$z for live manipulations and rhythmic destabilization, the project eventually grew out of its dilapidated foundations in hip hop and male given name, adding members Katie McDonald and Benita Whyte who bring their vocal, visual, dance and performance stylings to the quartet. The now Hamilton, Ontario based project delivers sets of high energy dance music that doesn’t forget its free-form, noisey roots. Through improvised choreography, hypnotic repetition and glitter glazed visuals, Persons seeks to express, include, move and integrate its audience into their singular brand of immersive ecstasy.

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What does Pride mean to you?

In essence, Pride means the opportunity to celebrate and share love without shame or fear, and acknowledging how far we’ve come while recognizing how much work still needs to be done.

What are you most looking forward to playing Pride Toronto?

Looking forward to partying with people who wait all year for this festival, and sharing the stage with exciting burlesque acts!  Also, being on the same poster as Evelyn Champagne King!

What can the audience expect from your performance?

Hypnotic trancey grooves fuelled by high energy dancing contrasted with noisy breakdowns and down-tempo beats.  Ultimately, the audience can expect us to work hard, and sweat harder.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had while touring?

Perhaps attacking a misogynist onstage or just that general feeling when u look around and realize u are with people u love so much, and are so damn lucky to be with them being your freaky selves, on some strange iteration of a working holiday.

If you were able to share the stage and perform alongside any musician(s), who would you choose?

This is an extremely difficult question.  Perhaps, Cher? Mariah Carey? Prince?Maria Callas? Letta Mbulu? Buffy Sainte-Marie? Hercules and Love Affair? YMO? Sade? The answer to this question would likely change daily.

LAL

LAL (Rosina Kazi / Nicholas Murray) – From deep within the roots of the Canadian diasporic music scene, Toronto’s LAL have been creating politically charged music and establishing an expansive catalogue of innovative recordings. Their most recent release, Find Safety, champions issues that face Queer/Trans, BIPOC and allied communities – while addressing the need to create safer spaces for all. LAL masterfully blend a danceable synth-based musicality with a provocative political statement.

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What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a place for me to gather with other LGBTQ…. folks and community to share and celebrate our diversity and struggle. But it’s also a reminder that we have a long way to go as a community, particularly around racism, transphobia, not forgetting our histories particularly around QTBIPOC Women. It’s about seeing yourself in a sea of people, and perhaps in a moment feeling safer. It’s also about seeing and noticing how times have changed and continue to change, and being aware of this shift in culture and community. To question if people are really here to support LGBTQ communities, or are we just being used? Yet to see more and more young folks and allies and people from all walks of life is truly what this city should be about.

What are you most looking forward to playing Pride Toronto?

I think just being outside and being myself being political in space that doesn’t shun away from our work as LAL or me as a human being. I mean people may not agree with what I sing about or even like our music, but Pride is one of the spaces I can just do what I want (on stage), there’s a freedom on stage at Pride that is fantastic.

What can the audience expect from your performance?

Political dance music and for Pride I will dress up extra special or maybe just be my usual self – we’ll se

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had while touring?

That’s so hard – but recently we ran to the west coast before trump got into power and though the tour itself was up and down in terms of ‘success’, we had the most amazing time driving down the west coast and seeing the landscape. It was amazing and it’s how i want to live my life.

If you were able to share the stage and perform alongside any musician(s), who would you choose?

I would love to play with Quantum Tangle, Rae Spoon, Dive and Dissolve, Tanya Tegaq, Tantrum (from Tribe 8), Ron Carter, Carol Gimbel, Yamantakan Sonic Titan, Jerusa Leao, Bruno Capinan, Witch Prophet, Lido Piementa, Stromae, Missy Elliot, UR….gosh so many!

Partner

Partner is a disturbing merging of special talents, created by small town lesbian BFFs from Sackville, New Brunswick – Lucy Niles and Josée Caron. Borne of their bizarre and fortuitous friendship, Partner boldly goes where few have even desired to go, moving effortlessly from topics like sex objects and gross secrets to more serious themes like intimacy, friendship, and existential unease. Mark September 8 for their Record Release Party at the Horseshoe Tavern.

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What does Pride mean to you?

In its ideal form, Pride should be a celebration of the strength, resilience, and joy of the queer community. It should be a safe space where people can unwind and be themselves free of fear and judgement. Pride is also political. It is crucial for everyone, and especially white cis queers and allies, to remember that Pride as we know it would not exist without the bravery of trans women of colour in particular, and that it is the duty of anyone participating in the celebration to acknowledge the radical roots of Pride and the work that has yet to be done.

What are you most looking forward to playing Pride Toronto?

We are looking forward to sharing in a celebration with members of our community. We have been dreaming about playing Pride for years and it is an honour to be invited. We hope to make new friends and we hope everyone has a fun and safe weekend!

What can the audience expect from your performance?

With every performance we try to deliver a high energy, gay spectacle. Hopefully Pride will be like a regular show turned up to eleven! Perhaps we will wear a flag or paint our faces.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had while touring?

There have been so many that its hard to choose. Getting to meet Melissa Etheridge was a moment we will absolutely never forget. Dancing in the streets of Quebec, being gifted an emormous amount of weed by a fan, and playing a glorious Sappy show for all our friends and family are definite highlights.

If you were able to share the stage and perform alongside any musician(s), who would you choose?

Well of course we would love to share a stage with Melissa, or our Canadian dykon, kd lang. It would also be wonderful to perform with a rap icon like Missy, or a country star like Shania. There are so many artists we would love to share a stage with that to list them all would take days!

Unbottoned

After their 2014 debut Planes, Unbuttoned spent three years in various studio environments, exploring every sound they could touch and hear. Midway through this process, they released 2015’s Minute Lasting EP, which was catalytic for the group, challenging modern musical conventions. They also initiated Hummingbird, a safer open stage catering to the youth of Toronto’s Regent Park community. Now, the experience and influence of the last few years have culminated in Liquid, a fearless exploration of textures, palettes and emotions that lie between melancholic release and stark boldness. Sometimes brash and unapologetic, sometimes achingly vulnerable, the album is a statement of commitment, and decidedly marks a new era.

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What does Pride mean to you?

Kamilah Apong: that’s a question i grapple with a lot – little p pride and big P Pride. i’m not sure yet.
Miles Gibbons: To be undiluted by the people inhabiting your world.
Casey MQ: I’m probably frightened by it a bit tbh but there’s a certain confidence that comes with the word Pride that I think continues to evolve and transform as I grow up.
Alexei Orechin: History, resistance, growth, and celebration.

What are you most looking forward to playing Pride Toronto?

K: that it’s with a boss new executive director, Olivia Nuamah. that i feel comfortable enough having my bisexual ass on a stage
: Playing for a community that supports and celebrates self expression.

C: To be surrounded by friends and so many wonderful artists on the line up this year. Mike Q !!!! I’ll be running to see his set right after we finish!
A: To be a part of one of the biggest cultural and social festivals in the world.

What can the audience expect from your performance?

K: LIBERATION
M: To see four friends reinvigorated by the debut of new music.
C: collage of sounddd
A: That’s a good question.  We like to test ideas and feelings once on stage, so there is always an element of surprise without expectation.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had while touring?

K: lying on the pavement looking a the stars with lex, miles and casey in Greensfield, MA
M: Playing for a bunch of day camp kids in the back of a mom and pop music store in rural Massachusetts.
C: Lots of memorable moments but swimming across the Connecticut river with Alexei was pretty awesome.
A: The times in between the gigs, where we are chilling, laughing, and exploring.  Those are always memorable.

If you were able to share the stage and perform alongside any musician(s), who would you choose?

K: ughhh like so many people i can’t choose. reggie watts. and like a million others.

M: My brother Aaron.

C: Mike Q !!!!
A: Sade & LJK with Augustus Pablo and Tony Williams in the rhythm section.

ALTERNA-QUEER

FRIDAY JUNE 23 6PM-11PM @ TD Village Stage

6pm – Dainty Smith and Les Femmes Fatales & Virago Nation

730pm – Persons

8pm – LAL

9pm – Partner

10pm – Unbuttoned

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.