Kehlani and Brandy will headline Toronto Pride 2018

The queer pop star and R&B icon lead the festival's weekend music lineup

Queer women are having a big year in the pop mainstream thanks in part to Kehlani. The Oakland singer/songwriter has dazzled us at Mod Club and Rebel over the past three years, but extra exciting is that she hasn’t been shy in flaunting queer love on red carpets and in songs like the flirty acoustic ballad Honey. Though she’s always identified with the LGBTQ rainbow, she recently clarified on Twitter, “I’m queer… i felt gay always insisted there was still a line drawn as to which ‘label’ of human i was attracted when i really jus be walking around thinking ERRYBODY FINE.”

ERRYBODY FINE could also be the theme of this year’s Pride weekend music lineup, which kicks off with a headlining performance by Kehlani on June 22 and ends with R&B icon Brandy at Yonge-Dundas Square following the Pride Parade on June 24.

Despite being a massively influential voice in R&B, Brandy rarely played Toronto until last year, when she headlined the Black Diamond Ball in February and played Echo Beach in the summer. Her Pride performance means this year’s event will be bookended by old-school and new-school R&B.

Other artists announced so far include a lot of hip-hop and experimental electronic acts. International artists include Tennessee rapper BbyMutha, who will headline Yes Yes Y’All’s Sweat block party on June 22, and Bolivian-American electronic producer Elysia Crampton, who performs on the Indigenous music stage Catalyst on June 22 alongside rappers Chhoti Maa, Dio Ganhdih and local producers Obuxum and Ziibiwan. Also on June 22 is the Alterna Queer stage, featuring dubby Toronto band Above Top Secret, Montreal’s hip-hop duo Hua Li and Iranian rapper Säye Skye.

Other stages and events happening on Pride weekend include Blockorama, South Asian Express, Yalla Barra, Big Love, Dirty Disco, BlackOut, Fruitloopz, Pan Dulce, Drag Ball and the Trans March after-show, among others.

Pride events are also happening throughout the month of June, but most of the music acts are performing on Pride Weekend, which takes place June 22-24.

Parties and honoured guests

Earlier in the month, the fifth-annual art and new media event Nuit Rose runs June 13-17. There are also plenty of parties: RuPaul’s Drag Race star BenDeLaCreme will perform alongside local queen Tynomi Banks at the Cabana Pool Party on June 14 ‘Til Sunrise: A Toronto Island Party with DJs Phil Villeneuve, Djon and John Caffery takes over the Artscape Gibralter Point building and beach on June 17 and Night At The Aqueerium with DJs Cozmic Cat and Lucie Tic returns to Ripley’s Aquarium Of Canada on June 22.

The theme of this year’s Pride is “35 years of AIDS activism.” Panels and other events will focus on activists continuing the fight against HIV criminalization and stigmatization. HIV/AIDS hospital Casey House is this year’s honoured group and Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention executive director Haran Vijayanathan, who has become an outspoken voice for Bruce McArthur’s alleged victims, is this year’s parade grand marshal.

Activist Yasmeen Persad is 2018’s trans ambassador musician and anti-homophobia activist Scott Jones (the subject of a film playing at Hot Docs) is the honoured guest and asexual advocate Cho Chua is this year’s honoured youth.

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Rockers Vag Halen will host a tribute to queer/dyke leather bars as part of Buddies’ Queer Pride festival.

Green Space and Queer Pride

The 519’s concurrent Pride festival Green Space is also back at Barbara Hall Park for its 10th year. The DJ-oriented event runs June 20-24 and kicks off with the Starry Night party featuring performances by RuPaul’s Drag Race queens Pangina Heels, Miz Cracker, Monét  X Change and The Vixen.

The Disco Disco party – featuring Drag Race winner and former NOW cover star Sasha Velour as well as DJs Horse Meat Disco and Eli Escobar – moves from Sunday to the Thursday night to make room for circuit party Treehouse, which is relocating from the Ryerson Quad to Barbara Hall Park this year. Visit the festival’s website for full details.

Meanwhile, Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s Queer Pride festival, which encompasses theatre, comedy, cabaret, art, music and parties, will run throughout the month of June. Performers include chamber-pop group Queer Songbook Orchestra, who will play a release party for their debut album Anthems & Icons experimental R&B musician Witch Prophet, who headlines Too Queer: A Bi Visibility Cabaret Latinx drag king Boiband, who will perform at a karaoke party hosted by Mel Hague and lesbian cock rockers Vag Halen, who are throwing a queer/dyke leather bar-themed party featuring performances by electro-power pop artist Nyssa, burlesque performer Dainty Smith and others.

The programming also includes theatrical works by Bruce Gibbons Fell, Izad Etemadi, Johnny Salib, and a Playwrights Canada Press book launch featuring readings by Catherine Hernandez, the Independent Aunties and Katie Sly.

Comedy is represented with the showcases Bitch Salad, Homo Night in Canada and Dawn Patrol. Confirmed acts include Chantel Marostica, Zoe Whittall, Vong Sundara and Richard Ryder plus a new show from Elvira Kurt. Check out the full schedule of Queer Pride events via Buddies’ website.

Update (June 5): This story has been updated to reflect a scheduling change in the headlining sets. Brandy will now perform on June 24 at Yonge-Dundas Square and Kehlani will perform on June 22 at Yonge-Dundas Square.

ReviewKehlani’s headlining set was a coup for Toronto Pride

Pride 2018: Check out our feature on the rising popularity of queer music here, a preview of Blockorama’s 20th anniversary here, a round-up of the best music acts playing Pride here and more event picks here. | @nowtoronto

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