Since running the first permitted Pride parade in Los Angeles in 1970, the nonprofit Christopher Street West Association has continued their celebrations for more than 50 years. They brought their rainbow touch to this year’s epic LA Pride in the Park music festival Friday June 9th and Saturday June 10th in its second year at the LA State Historic Park location.
Music Connection caught seven acts each day, notably the headliners: Friday’s queer pop singer-songwriter Fletcher and hip-hop/rap superstar Megan Thee Stallion, and Saturday’s genderqueer sapphic pop singer-songwriter-instrumentalist King Princess and five-octave vocal range diva Mariah Carey.
Upon arrival, attendees were inundated with rainbows and scents of weed. Once Fletcher took the stage, the audience magically multiplied. She exuded femme-with-an-edge with glitter makeup and a tux-inspired outfit with silver accents.
During “Girl of my Dreams,” Fletcher’s band joined her and many attendees sang along. Her expressively queer songs were unlike what most had heard on the ever-heterosexual radio growing up. “You guys are fuckin’ sexy!” Fletcher later declared, which segued into “Serial Heartbreakers.”
“I had a really fucking shitty mental health day,” Fletcher revealed. “I need this.” The crowd cheered, understanding. She specified any number of vibes she wanted to share, quipping, “If you wanna fuck someone in a Porta Potty…I’m here to provide that vibe as well.” Notably, security was posted by the portable toilets, wearing vests with the acronym CISS. #PauseForLaughs.
Later, Fletcher delivered the girl-crazy “girls girls girls” as she removed her jacket. It was the sort of song many in the crowd likely needed, antithetical yet parallel to songs such as the Beastie Boys’ “Girls.”
For pop bop “Cherry,” lesbian singer-songwriter Hayley Kikoko emerged for a surprise performance, further energizing the queers. Later, Tove Lo (TL) also made an unexpected pop-in. The pair sang TL’s classic “Talking Body,” while from behind, Fletcher unzipped TL’s top, revealing her bare chest, which Fletcher grabbed. Flashing attendees is a common Tove Lo move, but it held special meaning at Pride, with the “free the nipple” movement coming into play both evenings.
Before “Bitter,” Fletcher effused, “I’ve had the time of my fucking life.” Actress Bella Thorne paraded out to dance during the last song, “Becky’s So Hot.” Lesbian fest-goers echoed the sentiment.
MEGAN THEE STALLION
Abbott Elementary creator-showrunner-actress Quinta Brunson stepped out, sharing what Pride means to her: “People be permitted to be whatever the hell they want to be.” She emphasized that Pride is an act of resistance and later hyped Megan Thee Stallion (MTS), asking “Are there any baddies out there? Are there any hotties out there?”
The crowd chanted “MEGAN!” to coax her out. MTS opened with “Her” to screaming fest-goers, stunning in a black catsuit with silver bikini areas, including swirling patterns on top. Throughout her set, she twerked in sync with pyrotechnics. MTS covered many of her hot tracks, notably “Freak Nasty,” “Simon Says,” “NDA” and “Big Ole Freak.” She energized the crowd with a powerful performance with many rapping along while backup dancers accented her throughout. The sex positivity of MTS’ set hit all the right notes with regular reminders this was “real hot girl shit.”
In an enchanting moment, MTS invited attendees on stage, where they got to dance their full queer hearts out. When one person vocalized “All Trans Lives Matter,” adding they were very passable, Megan responded, “It don’t motherfucking matter what nobody else think about you. If you a bad bitch, you just a bad bitch. You don’t need a title, you don’t need a label.” Indeed, MTS has never labelled herself despite also expressing interest in women.
“WAP,” “Body” and “Savage” were entire workouts with everyone rapping and dancing along in their limited space. In MTS’ final visual, the progress Pride flag filled the screen while the artist and her backup dancers shot fingers into the sky suggesting a gun, a defiant choice from a performer who was shot less than three years ago, exemplifying true perseverance in the face of adversity.
On day two, many attendees wore Mariah Carey T-shirts. King Princess (KP, she/they/it/its) took the stage in a blue silk dress that was see-through on top. Their masculine-presenting band sported similar slips. They opened with “Hit the Back” before announcing “Pussy is God” to cheers.
KP later launched into “Cheap Queen.” The lyrics “I can make grown men cry” resonated with queers, who often scratch their heads at being perceived by intolerant people as a “threat.”
Later, KP tricked the crowd, saying they were going to do an outfit change. Instead, they dropped a dress strap, flashing the audience. “Can you cheer for my titty?” The crowd whooped – it might’ve made them remember the double standard. “Free the nipple,” indeed.
Next up, while KP sang “The Bend,” people were chatty. KP emoted, “I’m here for Mariah, too, but I’m here, too. Get the fuck up. I’m getting frustrated.” The singer dove into “Talia” with unfettered passion or perhaps annoyance.
For “1950,” KP played electric guitar while some sang along and pink and blue lights teased the binaries. At one point, when they made out with a camera person, some realized it was their girlfriend of more than four years, Lizzo’s creative director Quinn Wilson.
Their set had more of a rock vibe than when listening via streaming, allowing them to be felt in a new way. However, at the culmination, they set down their guitar and walked off stage, the band following. Without a true bow, they dared the audience to know when to clap.
Crowds ballooned in the lead-up to Mariah Carey. When the lights went down, a white piano was revealed and Carey took center stage. She stunned in a sparkly silver dress and a metal breast plate, enthralling the crowd with “Vision of Love.” There were few moments when the artist and audience weren’t fully in sync. She hit her whistle register early, prompting cheers.
Carey changed into another silver dress with a body chain and crown. When she indulged the crowd with “It’s A Wrap,” she changed the original lyrics to “Don’t go make me call Shawn Mendes,” perhaps teasing a future collaboration. Later, she performed a “Big Energy” and “Fantasy” mashup followed by “Heartbreaker.”
On the subject of Pride, Carey said “Pride is helping the world understand that all people, all people, must be treated with respect, dignity, and equality regardless of sexuality orientation, gender, or identity.” A misting began and continued for the rest of the evening. Beautifully, black-and-white raindrops appeared on-screen. When she performed “Touch My Body,” rain touched attendees.
Dancers on stilts and butterfly motifs flew everywhere while Carey stepped offstage. When she returned, she rolled out in a stage convertible limo complete with neon lights and a mirror-effect. “Dreamlover” and then “Can’t Let Go” took over, completing the transformation to the early 90s.
Her crown struggled to stay on so Carey removed it and paused to get glammed up by her team. She referenced “Mean Girls,” saying she wanted to break the crown into pieces and give it to “all the queens in the land.”
At another beautiful moment Carey was joined by a gospel choir and sang the iconic “Emotions,” wowing the crowd. The screens displayed colorful boombox backgrounds. On the side screens, video of past protests displayed, including signs that read “Trans Lives Matter,” and “Black Lives Matter,” appropriate from a day-one ally.
Carey proceeded to play a three-song medley from favorite formative album The Emancipation of Mimi. “It’s Like That,” “Shake It Off” and “We Belong Together” were devoured by the crowd.
Soon after, Carey crooned “Obsessed.” Every time she wailed, the crowd sang along, as surely they had done in their bedrooms in younger years.
“We weren’t going to do this but…” Carey teased. Of the album Rainbow, she observed, “I see the shirts…don’t make me cry.” Then: “Rainbow has a strong meaning, in the spiritual and physical world,” representing future and possibility. She launched into a touching version of the album’s title track.
As the set wound down, Carey wished everyone a “Happy Pride” as dancers in holographic wings, butterflies on stilts and a giant inflatable flying unicorn took the stage. It was a stunning visual that attendees cheered with fervor. Since there hadn’t been an encore the night before, many assumed the same of today and began to leave. Moments later, Carey reappeared, teasing, “We didn’t plan to do this but…” People returned or watched from their vantage point. She declared she wanted to give a crown to each of us. What followed was arguably the most moving moment of all of LA Pride.
She eased into “Hero,” with lyrics that began “There's a hero/If you look inside your heart/You don't have to be afraid/Of what you are.” The crowd roared and sang along. By the chorus, it was hard to find a dry eye. Between lyrics, she’d say, “Hold your flag up, baby,” and “I love you” to attendees. At the end, she joked, “Someone come grab that crown!” With the energy delivered by these final moments, perhaps many felt empowered to honor their truth throughout the coming year.