Kehlani, Tove Lo and Kim Petras Triumph at Pride LA 2018
As tens of thousands descended upon Los Angeles’ West Hollywood neighborhood for the 2018 Pride Festival and Parade, musicians part of the LGBTQ community and favorites outside of it graced the three stages set up in West Hollywood Park on June 9-10.
The events unfolded as a unifying and inspirational gathering of the LGBTQ community, with attendees traveling from all over the country to catch headlining sets from Kehlani and Tove Lo as well as performances from Kim Petras, Eve, Keri Hilson, Icona Pop, Superfruit, Cece Peniston and more. There was no shortage of glitter or rainbow flags, with an air of comradery and celebration permeating through the fest.
Though the sentiment was in the right place, the weekend got off to a rocky start, and on the second day pulled itself up from its bootstraps. A source claims that fire marshals shut down the entrance at 6 p.m. on Saturday, though some reports indicated it began at 10 p.m., citing overcrowding—a particularly foreseeable issue, as sales upticked three times over last year thanks to a heavy draw for Kehlani—leaving ticketholders locked out of the park with the option of swapping their unused wristband for one on Sunday. It was a particularly perplexing solution, as attendance was expected to swell at the concert due to the parade taking place that day.
Even after she performed, Kehlani had words to share about the ordeal. “As fun as that was my heart goes out to all the folks who drove, flew, train & bussed here and weren’t allowed in,” she tweeted. “My heart is wit those who had scary run ins with the LAPD & bad security tonight. we gotta do better.”
At that, Saturday’s performances on the main Park Stage were plagued with consistent sound issues. Singer-songwriter Jesse Saint John set it off with fiery renditions of power-pop singles “Fake It” and “Move,” and the true audio problems began when Kim Petras emerged to play her collection of shiny singles including “I Don’t Want It At All,” “Faded” and the freshly released “Can’t Do Better.” She was undercut throughout, thanks to the sound system and mic zapping dead and reviving from song to song. “You sounded so beautiful we didn’t even need the speakers,” she later tweeted.
Park Stage problems persisted through Pentatonix offshoot Superfruit’s performance. Members Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying were off to a solid start, flanked by two backup dancers, but as the sound cut out during their third song, they exited the stage mid-set and didn’t return until the issue was fixed.
But the most visibly frustrated of them all was Kehlani, who had created an entirely new routine and set specifically for LA Pride. As she sauntered on stage around 11:30 p.m., she had to restart because neither her mic nor in-ear monitors were working. “We have a lot of technical difficulties backstage, so I’m gonna do it over because the intro is too good to miss,” she said. After “Keep On” and “In My Feelings,” she addressed that she was winging it as she couldn’t actually hear herself with the music. “Like I said I have no idea what I sound like right now because I took my ear thingies off,” she said. “I’m just mobbing, I’m just freestyling.”
The set was buoyant and fun, and those who weren’t close to the front of stage may have missed the irate looks she shot crew members between songs. But she made it clear, between a cover of Tamia’s “So Into You,” her verse from Saweetie’s new “Icy” remix and emotive cuts like “Honey,” she let the crowd know her state of mind: “Hopefully they get a better soundsystem for tomorrow for whoever’s performing, because this is unacceptable.” She even prompted the audience to chant back to her, “Can you say, ‘L.A. Pride soundsystem, what the fuck?’”
All the problems melted away for Sunday, when attendance didn’t nearly reach robust expectations following the parade and sound issues were swiftly corrected. Pop singer Leland, who recently kickstarted his solo career after writing hits with Selena Gomez and Troye Sivan, led the Park Stage with the debut of new single “You Too,” out July 20, and “Mattress,” leaving with imparting words: “I’m so lucky to work with artists who care as much for me as I do for them.”
The highlights abounded: CeCe Peniston brought a brief, yet clearly frustrated set to the Boulevard Stage, angered that the mostly youth crowd was unfamiliar with her material. But she soldiered through with “Keep On Walkin’” and “Finally,” where she sounded mint and full force. It was the same stage where the day prior, Keri Hilson delivered a similar strong run through of her hits, counting “Pretty Girl Rock,” “Energy” and “Knock You Down.”
One of the most unexpected moments of the night came with a drag runway featuring contestants on past seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, where some queens imitated Christina Aguilera’s past looks. It culminated with Xtina herself emerging with shades on in leopard print, premiering a remix of her new single “Accelerate” as she gave support to those in attendance.
The festival performances concluded with two LGBTQ favorites: Eve and Tove Lo. The former, dressed in a skintight white vinyl ensemble and surrounded by five backup dancers, reminded the audience of her hits, spanning “Who’s That Girl” and “Rich Girl” to “Neckbones” and “Tambourine.” She even debuted a new song—“There for You”—a mostly sung track where she crooned to the community, “I wanna be there for you, just say you’ll be there for me.”
Tove Lo rounded out the weekend with her own string of singles—“Disco Tits,” “Habits (Stay High)”—wearing pasties on her nipples and feathery pants with the colors of the rainbow flag accenting the fur on top of it. She did the LGBTQ crowd proud with her new single “Bitches,” an anthem where she brought out Icona Pop and Alma for assistance, and covered Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You.” It was a a fitting ending to a weekend that could have floundered after day one, but didn’t—and everyone ate it up.