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Jungle Jen no longer Capital Pride performer

Dispute over equipment strains longstanding relationship

Jen Steger says she may consider playing Capital Pride again in the future. Credit: Bradley Turcotte

A veteran Capital Pride (CP) performer has severed her relationship with CP organizers over a dispute that amounts to $50.

Jen Steger, known as DJ Jungle Jen, first contacted CP entertainment coordinator Veronica Michelle on June 20 to offer to play at this year’s festival.

In an email thread Steger provided to Xtra, Michelle asked Steger what monetary compensation she would require for her set, as well as running the music for the drag kings and queens.

After Steger stipulated her fee, Michelle replied, “You have got yourself a deal! I'll have a contract sent along in the next couple of weeks.”

Steger says she never received a contract but took the email as a written agreement.

“I know there wasn’t a contract. There wasn’t a formal agreement,” CP director of communications Brodie Fraser says.

“Jen has been around in the community for a long time, and she’s been involved on and off over the years. It was regrettable that it just didn’t work out this year,” he says.

Steger says that she has performed at the festival for nearly 20 years, with a few years missed over the past two decades, and that CP always provided equipment for her.

CP chair Michael Lafontaine says he provided equipment for performers when he was vice-chair of operations and entertainment coordinator. But, he says, each year is different, and each individual vice-chair of operations creates his or her own budget and guidelines.

On July 31, a day before CP’s Pride Guide — which lists Steger as a main-stage performer — hit the streets and appeared online, Michelle emailed Steger to inform her the CP board requires all performers to provide their own equipment at this year’s festival.

Michelle then asked Steger if she would be willing to perform pro bono if CP rents the equipment for her. Steger countered by offering to cut her fee in half if CP would rent the equipment for her.

Subsequent emails show Steger agreed to seek out her own decks. But, she says, ultimately she could not find any to rent.

Steger says she hung up on CP vice-chair of operations Jodie McNamara in a follow-up conversation.

“She said this is like a singer/guitarist asking Pride to provide their guitar for them,” Steger alleges McNamara said.

Fraser offered the same comparison in his interview with Xtra.

“Me providing and bringing my own music is the guitar. The CD decks are the microphones,” Steger insists.

On Aug 13, Steger received an unsigned email relieving her of her CP duties.

“From what I understand, in some previous years you and other DJs may have been dealing with a courtyard or info-fair coordinator rather than an entertainment coordinator, and they would have had a separate budget just for their section,” the email reads. “Unfortunately, I am only authorized to provide a minimal standard equipment and backline, and I have been told specifically that that does not include the type of equipment you are asking for.”

“Since this whole thing has been more trouble than it's worth for you, I hope you can accept my sincere apologies for all of the complications, and thanks for trying your best to accommodate,” the letter continues.

Fraser says the decision was not easy for the board to reach.

Steger says she is crestfallen that a 20-year working partnership is now on the rocks “over two CD decks.”

“I’d like to stress, the Pride committee has always provided equipment for me,” she says. “I need to stand behind the principle. I would have been fine if, from the beginning, they said, ‘You need to provide your own equipment.’ Don’t offer to provide me the equipment, confirm the equipment you are providing me, and then wait until the Pride Guide is printed, then say you either pay to play or come with your own stuff.’”

Although “heartbroken” at the developments, Steger will still be a part of CP. The Public Service Alliance of Canada asked Steger to DJ on their float — an offer Steger initially turned down to play on the main stage.