Who’s Onstage: The 2010 Pride Festival Entertainers
Editor’s Note: Information for this story was provided by the entertainers.
8:55 pm, Sunday, June 6th
En Vogue rose to fame not only for the band members’ stunning beauty, but also for their vocal talents and originality. Unlike most girl groups, no member was marketed as the leader and all of the women shared lead vocal responsibility. En Vogue also offered fans an innovative blend of R&B, pop, rock, rap and reggae that a fan of almost any musical genre could relate to and embrace.
Assembled in 1988 by the production team of Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, both former members of Club Nouveau, En Vogue became a defining sound of the ‘90s. Foster and McElroy hoped to create a group that would excel both vocally and sensually. After holding auditions, they chose Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson and Terry Ellis for their new group. Originally called For You, the group changed its name to En Vogue to create a more stylish, sophisticated, and sexy elegant image. Since their 1990 debut, they’ve released three full-length multi-platinum albums, one best-selling EP, and a slew of history-making videos that have carried the torch for the ever-fashionable look and sound of one of pop’s most venerated and imitated institutions, the girl group.
Their acclaimed debut disc, 1990’s Born To Sing, spawned three consecutive No. 1 hits, including the memorable “Hold On.” The album sold a breathtaking three million copies, christening the then-foursome as the new female force to be reckoned with. Their 1992 follow-up album, Funky Divas, is considered a pop and R&B classic, and featured the unforgettable smashes “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” and the dazzling “Free Your Mind,” with a video that earned three MTV video award nominations. The album went on to sell more than three million copies and was nominated for five Grammy awards. With their audience clamoring for more, En Vogue released a six-song EP in 1993, Runaway Love, which featured a duet with Salt N’ Pepa called “Whatta Man.” They also completed a sold-out tour with superstar Luther Vandross, which included shows in England, Germany, the Netherlands and France.
In 1997, their contribution to the Set It Off soundtrack, “Don’t Let Go (Love)” garnered them a No. 2 hit on Billboard’s Top Singles chart. Soon after Dawn Robinson left the group to pursue a solo career, and in May 97, the girls released their third full-length album and Elektra debut EV3. They closed out the century with Best of En Vogue, a greatest-hits collection that capped their incredible first decade. In 2000, En Vogue released Masterpiece Theatre, featuring the hit “Riddle.” In September 2003 a new member, Rhona Bennett, made her debut. Bennett had recorded an album as simply Rhona for Sony in 2001 (which included the hit “Satisfied”), and also had a recurring role on The Jamie Foxx Show. The group released Soul Flower in early 2004 on 33rd Street Records.
En Vogue has created its own niche in popular music. Blending styles that speak to fans of all genres, the women’s stylish, sophisticated presence set them apart from their contemporaries.
— Troy Bronstein
9:15 pm, Saturday, June 5th
With over 150,000 downloads in just two weeks, Simon Curtis’ infectious, electro-pop giveaway album 8Bit Heart effectively succeeded in the defibrillation of BoyRobot hearts throughout the digital interworld. Sirius-XM radio host and veteran Billboard senior editor Larry Flick called it “equal parts smart, infectious, and instantly memorable,” and Popjustice.com staked claim to Curtis’ “Beat Drop” as their song of the day. Curtis has creatively hacked into the digital consciousness of his loyal, maturing tween followers, and has broadened his mission to stay connected with an already impressive fan base as they reach their teen years and beyond.
Leaving Tulsa, Okla., at age 18, Curtis had all the tools he needed to take a smash at Los Angeles’ artistic outlets. Fighting and winning a bout with leukemia at age 10 taught Curtis that perseverance was his best friend and that even what we consider to be our deepest fears need only be seen as obstacles. With that in mind, he went to work, and in only a few short years, Curtis was quickly able to land a leading role on Nickelodeon’s prime-time musical special Spectacular. Premiering before 3.9 million viewers (and over 15 million viewers in its first week on the air), Spectacular was a monumental success. It rolled out to 161 territories across the globe, with blow-out ratings for teen programming in Southeast Asia, Australia, Brazil and Sweden. In addition to his time spent with Nickelodeon, Curtis was also found buzzing the airwaves of Disney’s empire as a love interest to America’s beloved Hannah Montana.
Today, Curtis has firmly planted his feet in the viral music scene and has set his sights on connecting with today’s “connected” audience. A Twitter search with keyword simoncurtis brings a complex web of #boyrobot, #8Bitsoflove, #RobotMonster, and #android conversations. Over Easter weekend, #SimonCurtis reached Twitter’s worldwide top 10 Trending Topics, which led Adam Lambert to reach out to Curtis, asking for the up-and-comer to write on his next album. Fans and bloggers agree: the RobotArmy is in full force, and each day more join the ranks. You can find his marching orders being carried out at Twitter, Facebook, SimonDaily, and Myspace.
7:30 pm, Friday, June 4th
Kristie Stremel sings from the heart of America. It’s a tough place. Yet her songs turn the details of the daily grind into reasons to keep pushing. In a time of despair, her music fights for hope.
Stremel’s western Kansas childhood home, Hays, Kan., can be found precisely in the middle of nowhere — too far off the beaten track for most concert tours, or even to receive FM radio. It’s the kind of place where most Americans live their lives off the radar – unseen, unheard and easily forgotten – facing a regular diet of boredom and bad jobs.
In that world, Stremel began to fashion a place she could call her own out of the Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings songs that her guitar-playing father taught her. In 1986, at age 12, she entertained her family with her first electric guitar. At 15, she caught Joan Jett at the county fair and decided to put together a band; it performed at the local skating rink and school dances. Transplanted to Kansas City the summer before high school, she got serious about writing songs.
At 19, those songs helped her start building a fan base in the area. By 21, Stremel was a crowd favorite in one of Kansas City’s most promising bands, Frogpond, which released a 1996 album produced by Everclear’s Art Alexakis. The next year, her growing stockpile of songs led her to form her own band. She named it after the Interstate 70 off-ramp that led to her hometown, and Exit 159 released an appropriately titled seven-song EP, Lost on Earth. It yielded one regional radio hit, and the full album that followed produced two more. The band consistently packed some of the toughest houses in Kansas City, toured the West Coast twice and received the Pitch newspaper’s prestigious Kansas City/Lawrence Area Music Award for both Best New Band and Band of the Year.
But over the next six years, despite winning another Pitch Music Award for Best Female Vocalist, Stremel never really got where she wanted to go. And the perspective she gained from that hard reality helped her produce her best and deepest work. Stremel’s pockets of fans across the country treasured the three sophisticated and ambitious albums (and one EP) that followed. The wisdom in those albums came from years of leaping for brass rings and landing on barroom floors. Still a largely unknown artist, Stremel never stopped growing as a musician and a lyricist, probing the side of the American Dream that doesn’t make the evening news.
Out of her struggle comes 10 Years: 14 of Stremel’s best songs, all produced by Springfield, Mo., legend Lou Whitney (member of the Skeletons and the Morrells, producer of, among others, the Del Lords and the Domino Kings). 10 Years includes five brand-new, dramatically deeper performances of fan favorites. They’re topped by two brand-new compositions – “Have It All” and “It’s Not a Phase”— that raise the stakes even higher. The result is a richly textured, hard-focused statement of what it takes for a soul to survive in today’s America. A voice calling in a man-made wilderness.
And yet … it’s not alone. Because what Kristie Stremel shows most poignantly is how the demand to be heard, to have meaning in life, binds people together. It’s a cry from the heart of the country to the one in our dreams.
— Danny Alexander
8:45 pm, Friday, June 4th
South London synth-pop sensation La Roux is following up on the immense success of the band’s first single, “Bulletproof,” which they performed earlier this year on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The song is blowing up the Top 40 radio chart and landed in the top 20 on the iTunes Digital Songs chart. To kick off their U.S. summer tour, La Roux has digitally released Bulletproof: The Gold EP via Cherrytree / Interscope Records.
For part of their tour this summer, La Roux will join the highly anticipated Lilith Fair in July. On July 17, the band will be at Chicago’s First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre. They will play in Indianapolis on July 20 at the Verizon Wireless Music Center, and on July 24 at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster. More dates are still to be determined.
DJ Jerry Griffith
9:30 pm, Friday, June 4th
DJ Jerry Griffith learned to spin in 1998 at the one gay bar in Columbia, Mo (his college town). He has been evolving as a DJ ever since.
He moved to Kansas City in 1999 and earned a residency at the city’s largest club, The Cabaret Complex. Since then Jerry has spun at Aqua lounge, NV, Vital and now holds the Saturday night residency at Missie B’s, Kansas City’s long-standing, ever-evolving gay club, where Progressive/Circuit House can be heard in the newly renovated upstairs dance bar! The Grid in Cleveland, Ohio (before it’s closing in 2008) brought Jerry in on a quarterly basis and now Jerry is still one of Cleveland gay scene’s most beloved DJs. In 2008 Jerry was literally “discovered” on the street of Puerto Vallarta. He auditioned the next day and played New Year’s Eve at Club Equilibrium, Puerto Vallarta’s newest club.
The gig was a complete surprise and a gift. Jerry has been tearing up the dance floor at Hydrate in Chicago and Talbott Street in Indianapolis, where the excitement and enthusiasm of his unique sound has been embraced by an ever-growing fan base!