Hands up if you’re still in recovery mode from Pride. Like a junkie, I can’t get enough. Sunday and Monday morning saw my Walks of Shame, and I sure wasn’t alone. You know you’ve had a good Pride when you’re still picking glitter out of your hair a week later. Some quick memories: my Starbucks-hating self snatching up free cake pops. A solo upright bassist playing late into the wee hours in front of Statler’s all weekend. The weird little parking lot in front of Ho’s Team again having the best music, even though it’s not an official stage and it’s never clear who’s DJing.
So, where to start? Buddies in Bad Times, of course. Their annual Pride Week lineup started on a good note with Mae Martin’s I’m Not Waving, I’m Drowning. Martin has been ascending the comedy ranks for years, and packed the house for both performances. Debuting new bits and bringing back old ones (her Julia Roberts laugh/snort/shock/laugh again bit kills every time), Martin’s easygoing style is a winner; she’s funny without being obnoxious and smart without being a showoff.
There’s lots of run-up to Pride, but the marquee events were saved for the weekend. Friday’s Trans March went rogue, with a contingent heading down Yonge St and stopping traffic. Definitely a sight for camera-wielding Canada Day tourists to see. Saturday night at the south stage, BrOWN //out host Farzana Doctor was charmingly nervous prior to going on but looked great in electric blue. Once she hit the stage, she was warm and engaging, and it was smooth sailing through the South Asian dance and music acts. Energy up, we headed up Church and kept running into the same problem, so I’m pausing to make a public service announcement: guide animals are more than welcome at Pride, but leave the snakes and lizards at home! Walking around with gigantic snakes on your shoulders is not a cute look. You’re not Britney Spears and Pride isn’t the MTV awards, mmmkay? Can we get a no-reptiles policy, please?
Serpentine choreography is more than okay, however, and Scott Fordham served up plenty throughout the weekend, culminating in his Project Dance at the Wellesley Stage. He’s developed a signature style that gets crowds pumped up. Tynomi Banks served up serious moves and face, and it was great to see this hard-working queen in a mainstage show. An impressive thunder-and-lightning storm came close to nixing Ill Nana DiverscityDanceCompany’s and headliner Deborah Cox’s sets, but both prevailed. Cox delivered a high-energy set, packed with hits, new songs and a flawless fringed dress that showed off her legs.
I was happy to see this local-girl-made-good as a headliner, and I hope this kind of programming choice continues to happen. Backstage was a soggy madhouse, though, with Cox being escorted out under a picnic table-style umbrella, Matt Sims and Matt Barker trying to stay on top of the lineup, and shutterbug Mikey Sin trying to protect his camera while still getting the money shots. Fortunately the rain didn’t last too long, and we dried off before heading out to The Barn. Say what you will about them, their lineup was great: DJs Sum, Blackcat, House of Venus’s Michael Venus, Sherry Vine, Cazwell and Deee-lite’s Lady Miss Kier! Kier was in full effect: polka-dot print, corset, six colours of eyeshadow and false eyelashes. “I love Toronto because you guys had gay marriage first, but then we played catch-up!” she crowed to me before asking the crowd if Rob Ford had shown up yet. He hadn’t and didn’t. Pity: he missed a great party in Blockorama, the weekend‘s clear highlight.
After years of being punted around like a football, the event returned to the main stage in spectacular fashion to a huge crowd. In short? Brooklyn’s OMG Michelle won major style points from me (colour-blocking and horizontal stripes get me every time), Coco LaCreme, Jade Elektra and House of Monroe’s TKO got the most applause, Devine Darlin’s flying split leap from the stage onto the concrete slayed everyone, Quentin Harris and cutie Jojo Flores kept things nice and house-y, and Ultra Naté said it best when she told me, “Toronto has a love and appreciation for differences and respect for community.”
I agree 100 percent. Looking out from the stage, I saw she was right: Rev Brent Hawkes, Inside Out’s Winnie Luk, Buddies’ Brendan Healy, artist Luis Jacob — all were among the thousands of revellers of all ages and backgrounds. It’s this that made this Pride one of my favourites on record. Not just because it made me proud to be queer, but because it made be proud to be queer in Toronto. Good job, Pride Toronto; can’t wait till next year.