From big parties marking major milestones to indie art, comedy and experimental music, these events are the reasons why it's a good time to be queer in Toronto
Pride is so much more than partying. (We swear!) There’s art, comedy, book readings and experimental music – and parties that are as much about taking up space and community building as they are dancing and meeting cute queers. There are so many Pride events – official and unofficial – to choose from, many of which have evolved into annual traditions in their own right. Kehlani and Brandy’s free Yonge-Dundas Square shows are the big draw, but Pride is also a busy time for local comedians, authors, performers and artists, as well as DJs and musicians that set the trends on the international electronic music circuit. Here are 10 events that are not to be missed during Pride Month.
Oddly enough, there aren’t a lot of LGBTQ-themed plays going on during Pride. But this launch of three books – QUEER/Play, An Anthony Of Queer Women’s Performance And Plays, Unholy and City Voices: A Book Of Monologues By Toronto Artists – is heavily queer and should be highly dramatic. Co-produced by the Toronto International Festival of Authors and Playwrights Guild of Canada, the event features Buddies in Bad Times’ Evalyn Parry, Baroness von Sketch co-creator Carolyn Taylor and playwright/actor Diane Flacks.
June 15. Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre. 5:30 pm. Free. ifoa.org.
Alan Cumming performs his Legal Immigrant cabaret show at Massey Hall on June 16.
If you missed the Tony Award winner’s sold-out show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs in 2016, you’ve got another chance to see him sing and tell outrageous stories. This one’s all about life and love in his adopted homeland of the U.S., where he’s lived with his husband, Grant Shaffer, since becoming a citizen in 2008. The soon-to-be-shuttered Massey Hall is the perfect venue to appreciate The Good Wife star’s unique talent.
June 16. Massey Hall. 8 pm. $39.50-$99.50. masseyhall.com.
The 519’s annual Pride festival is turning 10 this year and has made a couple changes. The parties are the same – DJs, drag queens and beer gardens – but the order has been tweaked. The shirtless-dude-centric Treehouse circuit party that usually takes over Ryerson’s Quad on Sunday has moved to the festival’s main space at Barbara Hall Park, displacing the Disco Disco party, which has been bumped to Thursday. The good news is Drag Race weirdo Sasha Velour is on the Disco Disco bill. Season 10 queens Miz Cracker, Monét X Change and The Vixen perform at Starry Night a day earlier, alongside local queens including Tynomi Banks.
June 20 to June 24. Barbara Hall Park. Various times. Most events free. greenspaceto.org.
While it can be hard to resist the pull of Church Street during Pride, a handful of parties make it worth the trip to Queen West. The Drake Hotel reliably holds down Pride Thursday by bringing Los Angeles “pansexual playground” A Club Called Rhonda each year. Music is often secondary to getting laid when clubbing during Pride, so Rhonda is the one to hit up if you’re looking to meet someone cute who is also a discerning dance music fan. DJ Chris Cruse of L.A.’s queer warehouse party Spotlight is on the decks, as is New York’s Juliana Huxtable, the crew from Pittsburgh queer party Honcho, Yes Yes Y’All’s Nino Brown and more.
June 21. Drake Hotel. Doors 9 pm. $22. ticketweb.ca.
Steers & Queers pays homage to country music icon Dolly Parton.
The party for queer country fans is back with its annual Pride tribute to Dolly Parton, presided over by Fluffy Souffle. After going big with a 10th anniversary last year, the popular event moves to the Gladstone Hotel and includes burlesque performer Suki Tsunami, drag king Gay Jesus, synth-popper Geordie Gordon and Tennessee Mountain Homo Dolly Choir.
June 21. Gladstone Hotel. 9 pm. $12. eventbrite.ca.
Toronto has some of the best lesbian and queer comics on the planet, as proven by this stacked lineup that includes Deanne Smith, Martha Chaves, Chantel Marostica, Carolyn Taylor, Camile Cote and host Adrienne Fish.
June 21. Comedy Bar. 7:30 and 9:30 pm. $20. comedybar.ca.
After making a splash at the New Museum in New York City last summer, the collective of queer Caribbean artists and allies founded by Christopher Udemezue is taking over Mercer Union with a multidisciplinary group show running through August. RAGGA NYC’s work explores Caribbean heritage in North America and is exhibited in the spirit of emancipation and celebration, making Pride weekend an ideal launch time. Artists include video artist/photographer (recent NOW cover star) Michèle Pearson Clarke, who is taking up a weekly residence in the gallery choreographer Dana Michel and performance artists Camille Turner and Martine Gutierrez.
June 22-August 11. Opening reception June 21 at 7 pm. Mercer Union. mercerunion.org.
One of the most exciting new stages is record label Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)’s showcase of Indigenous electronic musicians, where you’ll catch some of the most experimental music the queer underground has to offer. Buzzy local producers Ziibiwan and Obuxum are on the bill, as is New York-based rapper Dio Ganhdih and lyricist Chhoti Maa. Bolivian-American electronic producer Elysia Crampton, part of Unsound at the Hearn a few years back, makes music that teems with life, clanging sounds and dissonant rhythms. Check out her excellent self-titled EP if you haven’t already.
June 22. Village Stage. 7 pm. Free. pridetoronto.com.
Dawn Whitwell will score some laughs at Homo Night In Canada.
It’s not Pride without the annual roundup of queer comedy. This year’s is hosted, as it was in its inaugural edition back in 2000, by The B-Girlz – and the high-shticking line-up includes Martha Chaves, Paul Hutcheson, Ashley Moffat, Ted Morris, Dawn Whitwell and others.
June 23. Buddies in Bad Times. 8 pm. $25. b-girlz.com.
One of Pride Sunday’s best parties celebrates 20 years of showcasing Black queer and trans musicians, DJs and performers. Blockorama starts early, goes late and keeps people dancing all day with a mix of soca, dancehall, Afrobeat, house and R&B. Essential R&B group SWV headlines alongside a jam-packed lineup that includes TiKA, James Baley, House of Monroe, Michelle Ross and DJs Blackcat, Nik Red, Ace Dillinger, Tamika, Craig Dominic and many more.
June 24. Wellesley Main Stage. Noon-11 pm. Free. pridetoronto.com.
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