Also like last year, this year’s musical headliner is an “American Idol” finalist. Kimberley Locke shuts down the Coca-Cola stage on Saturday night, and the festival features a number of familiar acts like Josh Zuckerman who played Pride last year, plus other acts who may be playing to their largest crowds to date.
Here are three Pride performers who show the diversity of this year’s musical slate.
The rock moms
The all-woman Antigone Rising has survived a number of lineup changes, label changes and other drama associated with being a touring rock band and is forging into new territory as rock moms on the road.
Guitarist Kristen Henderson, who was pregnant at the same time as her partner Sara Ellis, and new lead singer Nini Camps both have children under the age of two.
“Two out of four” of the band’s members have babies now, Henderson says. “We used to be a five piece band and one of our members left to have children so she’s with us in spirit.”
The band’s name is significant, she says.
“I think Antigone is the first feminist, so they say,” Henderson explains. “She’s the first woman in recorded history to stand up for what she believes in and we really wanted to name the band after a strong woman… Our band has been through a lot of changes and we’re still here and were still surviving just like our namesake.”
This year marks Antigone Rising’s second appearance at Atlanta Pride after playing the festival in 2007, and is one of a handful of appearances the folk rockers are making as they develop material for a new album.
“We are focusing on recording the next CD, so we’re not on tour right now…. For the most part we are doing shows in the area and testing new songs,” Henderson says.
With Camps taking over on vocals, Henderson said fans can expect to hear a different sound than their previous albums and last appearance at Atlanta Pride. Also the subject of some of the songs have shifted, albeit subtly.
“We definitely write songs about babies now, but we try not to make it obvious,” Henderson says. “It sounds like a love song but we we’re writing about the kids.”
Band on the verge
After just a few years together Atlanta-based Citizen Icon is staking out its territory as a band on the edge of breaking into the mainstream.
Lead guitarist Sean Lay says the year since the band’s appearance at Pride has been filled with playing gigs from Savannah to Texas, landing a song on an X-Box Game and preparing for a new, larger tour.
“The band had really come together in really a short period of time and the band has really accomplished a lot when you consider that we haven’t been together that long,” Lay says.
Founded in 2007, Citizen Icon is trying to find its way to the top in a very different age for the music industry. Instead of hoping to be signed by a big label the goal is to build their own.
“These days the big record companies are almost becoming nonexistent and you sort of build it on your own, and it would be nice to take what you built and join it to someone else,” Lay says.
The alternative rock band owns a different sound than the music played in most gay clubs, and is one of the few acts at Atlanta Pride without any gay members.
“I’ve found that Pride — not only, yes, it’s Pride — but it’s super eclectic. We’ve had so many people come out and say they love this and they don’t just want to hear the club beats,” Lay says. “It’s kind of funny, we’re all straight guys and we’re playing Pride… I’m married, but we have so many friends in the gay and lesbian community.”
Their Pride set will include a number of songs from their current album, “Look At The Fish,” mixed with some popular songs from last year’s performance and new songs.
“We have some new material. It’s definitely grown, it’s not as hard rock, some of the comparisons we’ve heard about the new stuff is Chris Cornell, Radiohead,” Lay says.
“We always like to throw in some cool covers too… We did a Marvin Gay song that turned out really cool so that one might get played too.”
From the crowd to the stage
Last year Nesrin Asli watched bands like Citizen Icon from the grass in Piedmont Park, but this year she will open up the Bud Light stage on Sunday after the parade.
“I was at Atlanta Pride last year, but I didn’t perform” Asli says.
A part-time bartender from Columbus, Asli is chasing her musical dreams after losing her job last year.
“For the longest time I wondered if I should do this or not, so I went to school and got my degree and managed a restaurant for a while,” she says. “Then I got laid off and I was very happy about that because that meant I got to do music.”
She reduced her work load to a few nights bartending in Columbus so she could focus on her music and creating her first album.
“This CD hasn’t even been released yet and I’m already thinking of the next one,” Asli says.
The adoptive daughter of an American serviceman and a Turkish mother, Asli split her formative years between America and Turkey and performs in both languages.
She names her musical sound as “a little Neo-Soul and R&B” and “a little like Erica Badu.”
Spending time in both cultures has given her a unique view on how the world views her sexuality, but she tries to make her songs inclusive.
“I usually don’t like to label myself but in this society you kind of have to. The kind of music that I write is not gender specific and I did that on purpose so when you listen to the songs everybody can feel what they feel,” Asli says.
Top photo (clockwise from top): Antigone Rising, Citizen Icon & Nesrin Asli (courtesy the artists)