Even with the popularity of out country musicians like Chely Wright and Mary Gauthier, country music remains a genre in need of some queering up. Homos who love country were stung when hosts of the recent Country Music Awards opened with a crack at Jake Gyllenhall’s sexuality in regards to his role in Brokeback Mountain. Luckily, there are some new queer country music makers on the block, ready to shake things up in a genre that’s yet to embrace gays.
Tonight marks the first ever Gay Ole Opry, a gay country music festival in New York. The festival will include an eclectic line up of country and folk acts, a country fashion show, and a DJ for those square dancing tunes any good cowpoke could appreciate.
“Country music was my life before I went to college and discovered Ani DiFranco,” said organizer Gina Mamone, who is also the owner of Riot Grrrl Ink. “I’m from the coal fields of West Virginia. I grew up in a time before the internet, and the only music that one was exposed to came from radio towers that you were close to, so all I knew was country.”
Many queers with a soft spot for country can relate, and it’s ripe time for a queer representation of the genre. “I am tired on waiting on Nashville to roll out the welcome mat for us,” Mamone said. “If we are going to have a place in that genre, it is going to start with us taking up space and not going away.”
Gay Ole Opry headliners Nervous But Excited are Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver, a self-described pleasantly aggressive folk duo. Sporting T-shirts with vests and ties, they play an assortment of guitars, harmonicas, and even a glockenspiel, with harmonies that would make Dolly Parton swoon. Having opened for the likes of Ani DiFranco and Iron and Wine, these two give a fun performance to match their sweet tunes. Folk lesbian hero Amy Ray has described their sound as “music to my ears.”
They’ll be joined by acts such as My Gay Banjo, another duo that gives traditional country tracks a run for their money. Comprised of Julia Allen Steele and Owen Taylor, the pair get their banjo on with “homespun gay-themed duets and occasional queered-up mash-ups.” The pair just got back from charming audiences at SXSW and the annual GayBiGayGay show in Austin, Texas. They also know how to embrace pink eye shadow and fake mustaches. Win.
Finally, female masculine transgressive fashion heroes, the blog DapperQ, will also be on hand for their country fashion show. It’s about time queers embraced the plaid without the flannel. On top of the live acts and fashion eye candy, DJs from Big Apple Ranch, New York’s only gay country music club, will be helping get the crowd into two step style with some square dancing.
Mamone and company are planning for this to be the first of many queer country music events. Along with Karen Pittelman from Karen and The Sorrows, who’ll also be performing, she’s hoping to launch make a sincere effort to jump start the queer country genre.
“We did some research and found out there had never been a queer country music festival before, only regional bands that had similar sounds co-billing. So we decided to make it an official festival,” Mamone said. “Not only are we going to this an annual event in New York, but we would like to do additional events in other cities throughout the year. It only makes sense to turn the Gay Ole Opry into an ongoing queer country music festival and reach out to more bands that find themselves musically at those intersections.”
Locals can catch the first ever Gay Ole Opry tonight at Public Assembly in Brooklyn, New York.