Big Freedia, The Queen Diva, came to town Thursday, June 2, and had Pittsburgh striking a major jealous chord with the LGBT communities of other cities as she played an unofficial kick-off show to Pittsburgh Pride Week. VIA couldn't have planned her return more perfectly. It was hip-hop for the masses that breaks with the rigidness of identity as the Shadow Lounge was a wall-to-wall sea of vibrant people, all sweating and p-poppin' as a collective gender-blind-blob of interestingness.
The show was a speedy sell-out, and Shadow Lounge felt like it was packed beyond capacity before Javelin, the opening act, even took the stage. The crowd was warmed up for the impending bounce of "Azz Everywhere" by local "Get Weird" and "O'Dang" party thrower DJ Cucitroa (Adam Cucitroa), who spun his signature blend of bmore, dance-hall, and electro party bounce. He's got a certain range that worked perfectly before, and in between, the main acts of the night, who proffered a blend of pop, bounce, and hip-hop all threaded together in original ways.
The visuals, provided by Blissy (Gretchen Neidert), MBLEM (Stewart Anderson) and Rina (Marina Pfenning), were projected onto the two adjacent walls at the far, outer corner of the stage, surrounding the DJ booth with the bright, chaotic image mixing of the three-person crew. Their visual offerings were all warm neons with bits of cool speckles that morphed from geometric shapes to pixelated flowers to layers of cartoon-like characters. The entire VJ set was constantly bright, fun and innovative which worked well with the persistently upbeat vibe of the music.
Javelin was a two-man powerhouse of ridiculously fun, inventive music. Their sound is composed in much the same way a DJ mixes a set, pieces of tunes dug up from crates and digital archives laced together to make something new. Unlike a traditional DJ, however, Javelin performs bits of songs live, rapping Lil' Wayne lyrics over the dance-inspiring rhythm of the drum machine.
Finally, the woman of the evening, with her crew of azz-shaking pros and resident DJ Rusty Lazer, took the stage. The most amazing aspect of Freedia's seemingly short-lived set was the level of audience participation. The nature of bounce music begs for call-and-response action amidst the suggestive dance moves and Shadow became a sea of voices chanting along with Freedia's "I got that gin in my system, somebody's gonna be my victim," among other simplistic lyrical offerings. The energy was high and insatiable and, rewardingly for the partygoers of the 412, she kept letting everyone know how much this particular show, with its raucous, shoulder-to-shoulder mob of exuberant dancers, felt like home.