The grey mast of the Sky Tower was much more kaleidoscopic than usual last night, lit up to celebrate the beginning of Auckland Pride month.
The Sky Tower looms over a city that has a complicated relationship with its queer community. Auckland is where a prominent local politician like Chlöe Swarbrick can have one of her campaign signs daubed with “Woke Lesbo”, only for t-shirts emblazoned with the try-hard slur (“Well, yeah,” Swarbrick comically wrote on social media about the defacement) to be sold at Karangahape Road store Crushes in celebration and support of her.
The lack of queer-safe alternative spaces is an issue here, particularly when beloved venues like SOAP Dancehall are closed down. But, at the end of the day, this is the city where loathsome anti-trans activist Posie Parker was made to scurry back to Britain after having tomato juice dumped on her at a failed rally.
That last point is key: Auckland’s queer community may be small and undervalued, but it’s strong and vocal when it matters. (You can read local artists PollyHill and Samara Alofa’s breakdown of their queer community here.)
This Saturday, February 3rd, three venues across Karangahape Road will host Loud and Proud, an excellent showcase for local experimental and underground LGBTQIA+ artists. As festival curator Tash van Schaardenburg told Under the Radar, “Aotearoa’s music scene is rich with diverse performers that are often disconnected from the mainstream queer community events due to the nature of their art and it’s a very rare opportunity to get a group of us this big together at one event to take turns sharing ourselves through our sounds.”
The Loud and Proud lineup features a hand-picked selection of some of the finest local LGBTQIA+ artists who will be given the chance to showcase their music. There’s Roy Irwin, a thoughtful singer-songwriter whose beautiful indie rock songs across albums like [2017’s] King of Pop deserved a much wider audience. There’s Baby Zionov, an electronic producer whose wild, bewildering sets really should be heard up close. (“Lover of proletarian revolution & Dance Dance Revolution,” their Instagram bio declares.)
P.H.F.: Loud and Proud matters because we need more queer events for artists in our community. Its nice to also have events that are all ages for the younger audience during the day, because there is a huge lack of spaces that can cater to that now, even just venues in general are becoming non-existent.
What additional challenges do you face as a LGBTQIA+ artist in Aotearoa?
I don’t really know if that intersection affects me all that much, honestly. I’m glad that, on a whole, the local scene here seems quite accepting but as someone that presents in a trad masc way, I would be the wrong person to ask. There is still a huge problem with sexual violence in a gig setting though, and I think some people seem to just slap a “safe space” label on their events, without actually upholding that.
Who are you eager to see on the Loud and Proud lineup? Which other artists should Rolling Stone readers know about?
I’m excited to see my best friend Roy Irwin – it’s funny because we became friends/met through a band our friend put together, but I haven’t seen them live very much or shared a bill together which is cute. And also Grace [Sequentia]. I heard O/PUS is really good as well so I’m going in pretty blind.
How strong is Auckland’s underground music community right now?
I feel kind of out of the loop honestly, because I really don’t go out much. I hope there is a healthy community of younger artists doing stuff though, but I’m glad there is stuff like To The Front out there.
What is it about experimental music that draws a lot of LGBTQIA+ artists?
I think it’s the nuance and the massive variety of just “sounds” in general. There must be a part of it that is a rejection of everything you were taught and being like, “Yeah fuck, this is boring,” and wanting a lot more out of what you’re hearing or making.
When you were growing up, were there any particular LGBTQIA+ artists that influenced you?
The ones that I can think of off the top of my head is Hunx and his Punx – I just remember hearing that and it was the first time I heard something that was like, AGGRESSIVELY queer. The way the vocals sound and all those songs were so simple – it seemed so attainable to be able to write and record your own music.
I was also listening to a lot of 50’s and 60’s pop music, and it was definitely coming from the same place, Being part of a community like 909 Worldwide now, I’m so grateful for those people. It’s heavily made up of LGBTQIA+ artists that are all making amazing music and it’s so sick seeing the impact it’s having all over the world.
What’s coming up for you after Loud and Proud this year?
I’m about to drop a new album very soon, then going on a small west coast run in the US with my friend’s band Slow Hollows. I’ve already started another album so basically just tour and then staying home and recording.
And what have you prepared for your Loud and Proud set?
I’m actually playing the whole new album in its entirety from front to back, so hopefully I dont fuck it up lmao.