The entertainment line-up at this year’s Atlanta Pride ranges from new acts making their ATL debuts to fan favorites who’ve called Pride home for years – and in one case, decades.
James Sheffield, Atlanta Pride executive director, is particularly pleased with 2011’s slate.
“We are so excited to have such a diverse group of talent to present this year,” he said. “Booking talent was a thoughtful process with the intent of offering something for everyone. I believe we have accomplished just that and would encourage our guests to come and spend the weekend at the park enjoying acts on both the Coca-Cola Stage and the Bud Light Stage.”
Area acts include Michele Malone, Alexis Jordan, Nubia Soul GODdess, Gurufish, The Sexual Side Effects, Michel Jons Band, Promise, Slick and Rose, The Orkids and Hannah Thomas. Non-Atlanta musicians joining them this year include musician Justin Utley, who is coming in from New York, two time Pride performer Demizes, and Beverly McCellan from “The Voice,” who is from Los Angeles.
In booking music each year, Sheffield said the goal is to make the schedule diverse and different.
“While we may book fan favorites over multiple years, for the most part Atlanta Pride tries to offer new and different talent each year,” he said. “We make an effort to find the balance between well known acts and up-and-coming local artists. It’s a way for us to offer support to artists who support the community and the event.”
Pride must schedule entertainment on a limited budget for the free event to remain sustainable.
“The important thing to remember is that our team does a really good job at offering quality programming on a very limited budget,” Sheffield said. “We work really hard to bring the best talent possible while keeping the cost at a point where the event can remain free to our guests. This is something that will always remain a priority.”
Variety of styles
Although there are fewer acts than in previous years — when Atlanta Pride used to open on Fridays and the stages ran until 11 p.m. each night — the variety makes up for that.
Sheffield feels that each artist in this year’s schedule brings individuality.
“Demizes made a huge impact last year, and we expect nothing less this year,” he said. “Beverly McClellan has a giant voice, an interesting history and some interest around her participation on ‘The Voice.’
“The Orkids are a great local act. Of course, the Michel Jons Band is a perennial favorite with their high energy performance of cover songs. It would be impossible to narrow [what will be fan favorites] down to just one act — we think the entire line up is impressive,” Sheffield said.
Of course, former Atlanta resident Michelle Malone is a stand out in the loaded schedule.
“Michelle Malone feels like part of the Atlanta Pride family,” said Sheffield. “She always draws a great crowd, because her music has been an Atlanta staple for more than two decades. We are grateful that she has always made time for our event and we’re excited every time she plays.”
This year a collaboration with WiLD 105.7 and 96.7 radio stations has allowed Pride to bring in talent.
“We were happy that WiLD 105.7 and 96.7 stepped up and asked to be involved this year,” Sheffield noted. “It was really that simple— the station had a desire to support Pride and we were happy to welcome them to the team.
“They are bringing some great talent to the event this year, and in return we are providing a great marketing platform for their station. It’s a win/win for everyone. We definitely hope to continue the partnership in 2012.”
Artists coming in via the station include Alexis Jordan and Wynter Gordon. Additionally, the collaboration helped get Deborah Cox into the line-up.
‘Not just one thing’
Justin Utley is performing in Atlanta Pride for the first time and has always heard great things about the event. He opened for Margaret Cho recently and credits his California Pride appearances in making him more visible.
An ex Mormon, he calls his music a blend of “rock and roll and an alternative country rock.”
When he was still a Mormon, Utley said his music was “church-inspired,” but now he is free to do what he wants. He hopes for a warm receptive in the South, where he thinks his country music will hit home.
His CD “Nothing for Real” will be out next month. It was supposed to come out in June but a busy summer traveling pushed it back.
A six year gap separated Demizes’ first Atlanta Pride appearance and last year’s celebrated gig. Although he has moved, the artist used to live in Atlanta and claims some of his musical influences call Atlanta home.
After his first time performing at Pride in 2004, he said he signed a contract that ultimately wasn’t a great deal and made him realize that “he needed to grow up a little.” He admits he was quite nervous performing last year because he had “something to prove” with Atlanta as his former home.
“I knew it would be magical, though — seeing that crowd of people in the Park,” Demizes said.
He calls his music a cross between Beyonce and JustinTimberlake but from a gay perspective.
“It’s full force party music,” he said.
He was a headliner for the recent Upstate Pride and invited to Milwaukee Pride but wasn’t able to attend. Demizes will premiere four new songs at Pride and his new single will be out in November, with the CD to follow at the beginning of the year.
Amber Taylor from the Sexual Side Effects is excited about her Pride gig. She has performed at Pride several times but this is the first time with this particular band, which she describes as alternative rock, influenced by ‘70s glam rock and post punk.
As a trans performer, she thinks it is vital to include all aspects of the LGBT community in events such as these, to show that the community is not “just one thing.”
The straight community doesn’t realize she is trans.
“Straight guys think I am hot,” she laughed.
She says to expect the unexpected in her band’s performance – “it’s always a little different,” Taylor admits.
Top photo: Wynter Gordon is among the performers at this year’s Atlanta Pride festival. (Publicity photo)