Elevate Difference

FYF Fest/Big Freedia (9/6/2010)

Los Angeles, California

In 2008 I attended what was then known as Fuck Yeah Fest and despite confusing and complicated scheduling, it was obvious that the festival’s mastermind, a very young Sean Carlson, was on to something special. Fast-forward two years and the fest has a new name (FYF Fest), a more centralized location (Los Angeles State Historic Park), and a killer lineup (The Mountain Goats, The Rapture, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, among thirty-four others). I thought this would be Carlson’s year, but I’m sorry to report that the fest was a bust. I appreciate Carlson’s enthusiasm and obvious passion for independent music and I especially love the many affordable shows he throws all over town, but there were many problems I can’t look past.

Fans paid $30 for twelve hours of entertainment, which was quite extraordinary, though it was hot, dirty, and dusty. Security guards stripped concert-goers of their water bottles and food upon entering the park. This was fucked up because a.) Lines to get food were well over an hour long, b.) Water bottles, no matter what vendor you visited, were four dollars, and c.) The food was grossly overpriced. All of this was incredibly upsetting, but I was going to stick it out until 10:30 p.m. so that I could witness the magic that is my latest obsession: New Orleans sissy rapper, Big Freedia.

I caught amazing sets by The Mountain Goats, Dead Man’s Bones—which features an awesome children’s choir who dress up as various historical figures—and Man Man, but my enthusiasm was dwindling. I was sick and dehydrated and after purchasing one $4 water bottle, I couldn’t bring myself to buy another. Earlier in the day I heard that Big Freedia was playing an after show at La Cita, a popular Mexican bar in the heart of downtown L.A. So, just after three hours of FYF Fest, my two friends and I walked over to Chinatown and sat down for some much needed food and drink. I feel compelled to report that the only other patron at the restaurant was Keith Morris, founding member of seminal Los Angeles punk band The Circle Jerks.

Bounce music is a type of rap that was born in New Orleans. Despite being around for nearly twenty years, it took a group of “sissy” (gay) rappers like Big Freedia to breathe life into the scene and get it recognized on a national level. Sissy bounce, as it’s now known, deals with slightly different themes than bounce music, like men who are on the down low. Freedia’s song “Hit Me on My Next” is about creeping in the different wards of New Orleans with straight men. “I’m full of gin; I’m going to do that boy again. He’s full of that Jack; so why don’t you hit me from the back,” is pretty classic Freedia.

By the time of her show at La Cita, I’d been listening to her album Queen Diva non-stop for months. Never a huge fan of rap, I was quickly drawn in by the back story of sissy bounce and Freedia’s infectious beats and clever rhymes. A few months ago I interviewed Freedia for a piece I was writing on sissy bounce and she told me her show would essentially, blow my face off. I was skeptical and nervous for her. How well would New Orleans bounce translate and more importantly, would jaded L.A. hipsters get it?

When Freedia showed up on stage my heart soared with joy. Her two back up dancers wore nothing but small tank tops and booty shorts and it immediately became clear that their only job was to shake their shit or do what Freedia refers to as “pussy popping.” They were awesome, but Freedia commanded the stage. She was both masculine and feminine; intimidating with a deep voice and lanky frame well over six feet tall, but oh so lovely in dangly heart-shaped earrings and a massive, glittery necklace.

One of the tenants of bounce music is engaging the audience and when Freedia wasn’t having us chant back “Big Freedia the Dick Eata,” we were yelling the classic New Orleans chant “Who dat.” She went through her most popular songs, like “Gin In My System,” “Azz Everywhere,” “Y’all Get Back Now,” and “Rock Around The Clock.”

Simply put, it was the best show I’ve ever been to and the only show I’ve ever danced at. I am notorious for being stoic and boring; no matter how many Crown and Cokes I consume, my feet always stay firmly planted. No one at La Cita could resist Freedia; her music was that good; she was that engaging; her charisma that infectious. We were all sweating with Freedia, dancing, laughing, and having the time of our lives. At one point I looked around the bar and noticed that everyone was having a blast. Los Angeles did get it and what’s not to get? Big Freedia gives her audience all she’s got and she lacks the smug, pretentious attitude that so many artists in the rap community seem to have. Big Freedia’s currently on a West Coast tour and I highly recommend you catch one of her shows; it will quite literally blow your face off and you will be all the better for it.

Photos by Ramiro Rubio

Written by: Tina Vasquez, September 27th 2010