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Adam Lambert closes out Pride Month kickoff concert

The Pride Month kick-off concert ran for three days at the LA Memorial Coliseum, and was the first live event of the season

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Adam Lambert on stage at OUTLOUD: Raising Voices June 6, 2021

LOS ANGELES – Queen frontman and vocal powerhouse Adam Lambert hit the stage Sunday, belting ‘I Want to Break Free’ with trans German pop star Kim Petras, closing out a whirlwind weekend at the OUTLOUD: RAISING VOICES concert. The Pride Month kick-off concert ran for three days at the LA Memorial Coliseum, and is the first live event of the season – generating an unforgettable energy in the crowd and from the performers on stage. 

The Sunday concert featured a star-studded lineup, including ‘Black and Gold’ singer Sam Sparro, the electrifying VINCINT and a surprise performance from Pose star MJ Rodriguez. Additional performers included country star Chely Wright, R&B singer Zhavia Ward and The Voice contestant Angel Bonilla. The evening concert was peppered with video messages from LGBT+ icons and allies including Demi Lovato, Conchita Wurst and Yungblud. It was as a Pride concert should be, filled with dazzling vocals, flashy choreography and plenty of sparkle. 

Adam Lambert was at his usual best, decked out in a bedazzled kilt ensemble and belting notes from high heaven. However, the two standouts were MJ Rodriguez and VINCINT. MJ skipped out on stage accompanied by a group of dancers with the charisma and stage presence of a super bowl headliner. Effervescent and energetic, she set the tone for the evening and brought the daytime crowd to its feet.

As the sun went down, VINCINT strutted out on stage – also accompanied by two denim-clad dancers. With his signature riffs and flawless vocals, he was joined by Parson James, Qveen Herby and Ty Sunderland for an unforgettable set. After his group number, and a stunning dance break to Rihanna, VINCINT dedicated one of his last songs to his father who recently passed away. It was an incredibly moving moment – a reminder of the tremendous loss so many suffered in the past year, and of the gratitude felt by all those attending that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

The event was produced by LA events organization, JJLA, who partnered with Pride Live’s Stonewall Day on behalf of the Feel Something Foundation. To reach audiences worldwide, JJLA added an exclusive streaming partnership with Twitch – and connected with over 3 million viewers over the weekend. It was the perfect beginning to an incredible Pride Month.

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Music & Concerts

“I know it can be hard to wake up to something so unreal-” Raue rocks LA

Feeling as though the venue was the Whisky a Go Go of the punk rock scene, the nostalgia found within Raue’s performance permeated the room

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Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

LOS ANGELES – The phenomenon of teenage angst is one met with general discomfort and chaos: the phase that ‘isn’t just a phase’, the transition to adulthood, and worst of all… growing pains.

Yet, as the sound traveled through LA’s BlackRose, audience members embraced the feeling and passion of teenagedom as the two musicians on stage performed. In a culture where the space between childhood and adulthood is dissipating, the feeling of Raue’s sound is nostalgic. 

The Urban Dictionary defines Raue as a German colloquialism referring to strength of character, which this dynamic duo of teenaged musicians clearly display in their music and performance.

Raue (pronounced roo-ay), a band based in Santa Cruz, California is composed of two members: singer/guitarist Paige Raue Kalenian and drummer Jax Huckle – both of whom differ from the conventional teen we see today.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

Kalenian released her first highly anticipated eponymous album titled Raue in 2021. The album contained themes of somberness, loneliness, and deja vu. Huckle joined the band a few months later where they collectively released the band’s first EP titled Erase and Rewind this year; the EP contained similar themes as the first album (albeit with more maturity and experimentation).

The BlackRose’s stated mission to provide a platform for all artists to perform their craft, highlighting all art forms including music, dance, visual arts, musical theater, burlesque, and beyond – well suited the performance.

Feeling as though the venue was the Whisky a Go Go of the punk rock scene, the nostalgia found within Raue’s performance permeated the room through the various aesthetics: Black sport coats riddled with pins in patches, floppy dyed hair, and skinny ties hung loose. Unlike typical teenage style today, the members of Raue dress as if they are a punk rock band in the 90’s.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

In a cathartic homage to the sound of Nirvana, Green Day, and Alanis Morsette, audience members saw energy unlike any other performance. Kalenian defines Raue’s sound as “90’s grunge punk rock.”

It was obvious from the start what this band was, but when they covered My Hero by the Foo Fighters, it was clear that these teens had a rich music upbringing. Yet, it was difficult to truly label this band. Kalenian calls it a “Paradox of Ineffability” – a language that comes close to defining a sound, but not quite encapsulating all of what the sound has to offer.

The LA Blade had the pleasure to interview Raue after their performance. The band members took the Blade into a quiet, dimly lit patio in the back of the BlackRose. Quite the opposite space in comparison to where the performance took place.

After a discussion about the perks of touring from place to place to perform music, Kelenian described what Raue’s purpose is in the music industry.

“Our message is to spread love unconditionally,” Kalenian explained. It would be an understatement to call this band inclusive as inclusivity feels all too general. In fact, Raue’s sound queers the space that its in – not queer solely in the aspect of sexuality, gender, or identity, but in the sense of transformation. A true political praxis that manifests a radical queerness that seeks to envelop spaces with kindness, love, and difference.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

Kalenian isn’t the only member of Raue who feels this way – Huckle also opened up with his discussion of the pertinent aspects of vulnerability both on and off stage. “I feel like it’s a matter of showing the crowd that you’re vulnerable,” he says, “that’s the first step to having the crowd open up.” He’s not wrong. In the beginning, the crowd was stiff. At a usual concert venue, audience participation is always optional. But, when Kalenian jumps off stage with her guitar, just feet away from the audience, it’s impossible to not move with the music. “She’s all around,” Huckle says, “She likes meeting everybody.” 

With deep messages in the music, there is a sense of closeness between the band and the audience. As Kalenian instructs the audience members to sing the chorus to a song with themes of loneliness, people have a sense of relationality to the music. I mean, who can’t relate to these lyrics: “Sitting here by myself and I feel lonely / Does that mean anything to you?” 

Although the singer gets a lot of attention naturally, there is no doubt that the eclectic personality was shown through the drummer’s performance. With the waving of drumsticks like a magical baton constructing the audience that is the orchestra, the character of Huckle was brought to life among the loud drum licks. When asked about the meaning of punk rock, Huckle responded by saying, “All punk rock has a deep message. Even if it’s loud and messy – it’s human expression.”

When the show was coming to an end, Kalenian turned around to show the crowd what was on the back of her coat: the words “I LOVE YOU!” with a picture of a screaming cat underneath the letters.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles
(Photo by Noah Christiansen)

As Raue makes their way to release more music and continue to perform across the states, it is no question that this band mixes the ubiquitous flare of teenage angst into their sound – not something to be criticized, but to be embraced.

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Music & Concerts

Bryan Ruby, Out baseball player & Out Country Music star: 2 icons in 1

“Music has always been a safe refuge for me. It has become a second passion of mine and it’s sort of almost taking over”

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Bryan Ruby (Photo by Kristen Lucas)

NASHVILLE – We know the theme: “Be your authentic self.”  Many trail blazers in different genres embody it. They stand up, and publicly declare themselves to be unique, real and visible. They awaken the public to the fact that human diversity is the norm and embracing it is not only a badge for them, but offers everyone who observes them a chance at a similar freedom. Most trailblazers pick a single lane in which to challenge misconceptions. 

Bryan Ruby has done it in two, neither of which have appeared to be very LGBTQ friendly until now. Not only has he broken the barrier of being the only out gay baseball player in any professional league, but he has also just launched a new single as an out gay professional country music singer/songwriter.

His image on his music releases is sultry, sexy and thirsty. For baseball, his long brown locks are tucked back and his pumped muscles outline his baseball uniform. In either case, he is beautiful, not just for who he is, but because of what he represents, and his generosity to make it available to boys who cannot see anyone like themselves in the world today.  

He remembers coming to terms with his sexuality. “It was scary. Growing up I played baseball since I was 6 or 7 years old. My dad was the ballplayer. He was a pitcher and is a current baseball coach and I was that kid who had that little tee ball bat, throwing in the driveway at home and played for years. Before I knew anything about sexuality, I was a ballplayer.  At 14 or 15, the guys on my team started talking about girls and pressure came in. Oh, you’re a jock. ‘Where’s the girlfriend?’ type thing.”  

“Not being able to look around and see somebody who was gay, that was like me was really kind of crushing. They say, if you can see it, you can be it. What happens when you’re that kid, and you have that dream, but you can’t see anybody like you?”

Instead of his passion for other guys, he focused on the passion for the sport. He loved travelling, being transported as a pro-ball player to places like South America. He remembers the thrill of a stadium there where the whole town had shown up, and the stadium was filled, and the wild and enthusiastic response when he hit a double in front of this crowd of strangers. “I love this, I am a baseball player,” he confirmed to himself.

Bryan busted past the paradigm that if a pro-ball player comes out that he won’t play pro ball ever again. Coming out took “a weight off his shoulders” and he played better than ever.  He got offers after he came out from three leagues, more than he had any year previously. He launched the Proud to be in Baseball organization, which is paving the way for gay kids to play safely and proudly. They have something Bryan did not. They CAN see someone who is gay, like them. They can see Bryan. They can see their future, one where they do not have to pretend to be someone else.

After he came out, it took the assurances of his teammates for him to understand the depths of his safety.  He was dating his boyfriend Max, but never had Max to a game. Max had not seen him play, nor had he ever sat in the designated “Wives and girlfriends” section. That changed one day when Bryan was confronted by his team. They were having a big party for the playoffs and asked if Bryan would be attending.  He said that he would be. They looked him straight in the eye and said, “We just want you to know, that if you are going to be there, your boyfriend sure as hell better be there with you by your side.” Home run.

Recently, Media outlets turned to him as a spokesperson when controversy hit the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. The Rays were holding their 16th annual Pride Night and had given their players a rainbow themed insignia to wear. 

Team insignias are not optional. Several team members refused the LGBTQ laced insignias, however. Usually refusing to wear the designated insignia is an insubordinate stance for a player to take and comes with fines from the team organization.  No repercussions happened in this case however. The players claimed religious beliefs as justification and the team allowed their behavior.  

When asked by the media what he thought, Bryan replied, “We get one night at the ballpark to be ourselves all year, and it just was an indication that a lot of people still believe that we just don’t belong there and that we are not welcome and, even on Pride Night, we’re still second-class citizens.”

For that, he received both praises, and a ton of hate mail. “I was inundated, pretty vile stuff.” 

The most poignant feedback was from a single communication, however. “I got a message from a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. An emotional message. It was one of their players who tracked down my number texted me after Pride night. There are people like me in the sport. There is one hidden on the Tampa Bay Rays team, afraid to speak up. It gives me purpose for the Proud to Be in Baseball organization. We can connect with other players who have nowhere else to go. Teams will do Pride events which is nice but in terms of the actual stuff that helps the players, it is uncharted territory.”

Bryan Ruby (Photo courtesy of Ruby)

Country music is also uncharted territory for most LGBTQ people. Not only is country music not a typical environment for gay men, but it is also not one usually associated with baseball players either. Bryan observed, “It does kind of go counter to the macho type of mold that we are sort of expected to have as male team sport athletes. Whether it’s baseball or football or hockey, but music has always been a safe refuge for me. If I have a tough game if I don’t play well, I just put my headphones in listen to music and chill out and that has always been there. It has become a second passion of mine and it’s sort of almost taking over.”

Taken over it has. He has written numerous country songs that have hit various country charts including iTunes Top Country. He won Season 7 of the talent-search competition Nashville Rising Song.

He just released his first single, a rocking country anthem destined to be a hot dance and chart hit, Left Field.

 Left Field infuses the listener with a beat that dares you to try not stomping on the dancefloor. It is an inspiration to be your real self and allow your best life to emanate from “left field.” Bryan’s voice reverberates classically country with a deep sexy lower register.

Bryan Ruby (Photo by Stasi Photography)

The proceeds from the sale of the single go 100% to the Proud to Be in Baseball organization. “After I came out, I didn’t come out just to get attention in the media. I asked myself what can we actually do to help younger people like me who don’t think they can be themselves?   They shouldn’t have to get to the point that I’m at and feel like they’re the only ones that exist which is totally, totally not true. Whether they’re in Nashville or they’re in Laramie Wyoming or they’re in Venezuela or whatever. No kid should have to feel like there are no adult versions of them and that they’re alone playing their sport in the world,” Bryan emphasizes.

In the United States, our ballplayers are our heroes. Our country western singers are our consciences.

With Bryan Ruby, gay kids now have one of each.

*********************

In the House & at the Mic: Singer Bryan Ruby, First Out Pro-Baseball Player

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Music & Concerts

CMA bans display of ‘Confederate’ flag at major music festival, CMA Fest 

The CMA stated that its goal was to embrace a safe and inclusive environment for fans of Country Music and the artists who will be performing

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Graphic by CMA Fest

NASHVILLE – The Country Music Association has joined other organizations in banning the so-called “Confederate flag” from being openly displayed at its upcoming CMA Fest this upcoming week.

The four-day festival, which runs from June 9-12, is based in Nashville and billed as one of the largest country music gatherings in the world. Although the CMA Fest event rules published in April when the music festival was first announced, in the light of recent events the CMA wasted to ensure that attendees were well versed in the policy that “Confederate flag imagery of any kind” are prohibited items for the 2022 event.

The CMA in a release stated that its goal was to embrace a safe and inclusive environment for fans of Country Music and the artists who will be performing.

“This year’s CMA Fest is our first major fan-facing event in nearly three years. We have always had policies in place that protect the safety of our fans and ban discrimination, but we felt it was important to further refine our language to explicitly outline what will and will not be tolerated,” said a statement from the Country Music Association.

The statement continued, “In line with our first CMA Fest lineup announcement in early April, our event policy was published on our website, which states any behavior that causes one of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be tolerated, and that is inclusive of any displays of the Confederate flag.”

This ban by the CMA is in line with other music festivals around the nation which have also banned display of the “Confederate flag” and follows a ban by NASCAR in June of 2020 which read; “The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.” 

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