HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR with PEACHES, LIGHT FIRES and more at Bud Light South Stage (411 Church), Saturday (June 28), 7 pm. Free. worldpridetoronto.com. ANDY BUTLER (DJ set), DJ BRUCE LABRUCE and MEMBERS ONLY at House/Maison (580 Church), Sunday (June 29), 7 pm. $15 (door). facebook.com/DripParty.
At 15, Andrew Butler snuck out of his house in Denver, took a bus downtown and glommed onto a group of allies marching in that city's Pride parade.
"That was my first moment of Pride," the Hercules and Love Affair leader recalls via Skype from a San Francisco recording studio. "I walked for 20 minutes. It was a very wholesome experience; it was not like when I was stumbling around on ecstasy in the middle of the day, taking all kinds of crazy substances and peeing in the street a mere three years later."
Nowadays Butler often experiences Pride events from a stage and, depending on the city, the celebration might be underscored by a tough political climate for LGBT revellers.
Last year, Russia passed a controversial anti-gay propaganda law, and Butler has taken heat for continuing to play there.
"When we play there, the applause does not stop when we're done with the show - to the point where it brings tears to my eyes," says Butler. "Those people need artists to come and create safe spaces for them. I think to myself, ‘Are we doing more of a disservice by not going? By saying, Oh, we're not going to participate, and fuck Putin? Or are we by going?' Thus far I've said let's keep performing, presenting the material and having people enjoy themselves at our shows."
In the wider world, Hercules and Love Affair is making thoughtful and soulful dance music at a time when mainstream dance increasingly caters to aggro machismo and mindless escapism.
On their third LP, The Feast Of The Broken Heart (Big Beat/Atlantic), ideas about gender, feminism and identity are coupled with pumping pop-house that evokes early 90s underground techno and house.
This time Butler collaborated with four singers, including troubadour John Grant and powerhouse Krystle Warren.
Grant is also from Colorado, and the two realized they share mutual friends despite not having met prior to collaborating. They stayed up all night listening to music, and the next day Butler told Grant to "go deep" in the studio. He wrote I Try To Talk To You, a song grappling with the self-destructive behaviour that led Grant to a positive HIV diagnosis.
Meanwhile, the Warren-sung My Offence plays off the reclamation of the word "cunt" in dance music as a celebration of femininity - a timely topic in light of recent debates around language and identity on social media.
"It's more of an intellectual exploration of reclaiming language while playing with the idea of a ‘cunt' house track," he says. "Beyond simple provocation, I hope it speaks to the importance of artistic responsibility."