Live Shot: Pride in Local Music festival celebrates Austin’s LGBTQ+ artists

Ava Motes, Life & Arts Reporter

On Saturday, Long Center’s concert lawn was packed for the third annual Pride in Local Music festival. The event featured nine live music performances from Austin-based LGBTQ+ artists and larger out-of-town acts. Attendees also enjoyed the opportunity to peruse an on-site artist’s market and explore free health booths providing STI-testing, sexual health brochures and more. Together, the live music event, different performance acts, educational booths and market culminated in a proud celebration of the queer community and artists that form the heartbeat of Austin.

“The world right now seems like it’s against us,” master of ceremonies Nadine Hughes said. “Here, we get to showcase that there are (queer artists) sharing their talents with us, which is magical.”

Bleached Roses

Following the cheers echoing from Hughes’ introduction, Lexi and Mo Paynter walked on stage in complementary pink outfits. Lexi began their performance with a long, sustained note on her classical violin, which Mo looped into a backing on her synthesizer. The married duo then launched into their original song “Stay,” which featured Lexi’s folksy vocals encouraging commitment as she locked eyes with Mo on stage. Their set included several originals as well as covers, including Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.”

TJE Austin:

The moment he stepped to the mic, local act TJE Austin’s infectious energy electrified the crowd. Austin, a former competitor on “The Voice,” played alongside a five-man band. His soulful R&B vocals on originals like “Right for You” and “Whiskey,” were accompanied by a relaxed beachy drumbeat that had the whole crowd swaying on their blankets. Austin also shared the spotlight with a friend in the crowd, whom he ushered on stage to perform CeeLo Green’s “Forget You.” This heartfelt interaction gave his set an approachable and communal feel, which was matched by his playful banter with bandmates on stage. 

Bebe Zahara Benet

One of the festival’s most energetic acts came from Bebe Zahara Benet, the season one RuPaul’s Drag Race winner from Cameroon. She performed with local performer BabiBoi, who mixed her music and encouraged the audience to get out of their seats and dance along. Drawing the crowd close to the stage, Benet got people moving to her hit songs like “Banjo,” which blends Afrobeats and house music. Sporting a flashy leopard print dress, Benet seemed even more confident on the mic between songs, emphasizing how “fabulous” her and the audience were. She closed her set with a mash-up of songs, including Beyonce’s “Flawless” and Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” which made the entire crowd sing along.

Julie Nolen

Following Benet, a performance from West Texas “troubadour” Julie Nolen and her four-member band electrified the audience. Nolan arrived on stage wordlessly and made few comments between songs, allowing her music to speak for itself. Her set oscillated between poetic Americana ballads like “Sedona” and bold rock-country songs. The highlight of her act came from her performance of “Raise Hell,” with a catchy refrain that had fans chanting its titular call to action. 

Natasha Harper-Madison

Natasha Harper-Madison, Austin’s District 1 representative, took the stage to pledge her support for the event and read an announcement from the city council. Harper-Madison was met with vigorous cheers from the audience as she dictated a proclamation recognizing the importance of the festival.

“The LGBTQ+ community contributes tremendously to the economic, political and social fabric of Austin,” Harper-Madison said. “Therefore, (Austin City Council) hereby proclaim(s) June 25, 2022 as Pride in Local Music Day.”