Recent releases from some of PrideFest's most interesting acts include:
Summer Osborne performs June 7 at 6:30 p.m.
What’s not to love about a song titled “Happy” that incorporates a child’s laughter and a message about finding one’s bliss? That’s how St. Louis lesbian singer/songwriter Summer Osborne chose to open her 2012 album “The Scenic Route” (summerosborne.com). Osborne is at her best on similarly upbeat original numbers, such as the rousing “Love Looks Good on Me” and “I Love Your Shine.” A singer of great power and confidence, Osborne presents a subtly shaded cover of “True Colors,” which is bracketed by the disc’s dramatic centerpiece “Don’t Leave Me Here” and the roof-raising “The Reason I Sing.” If you want more of Osborne, her next disc, “As I Am,” is due out in June.
Big Bad Gina performs June 7 at 8 p.m. and June 8 at 7 p.m.
The members of queer, all-female trio Big Bad Gina (Renee Janski, Melodie Griggis and Jori Costello) describe themselves as “genre hoppin’, folkin’ rockin’ with a driving girl-groove edge.” And that sums them up pretty well. Their latest disc “Lake of Dreams” (bigbadgina.com) is awash in musical styles. From the blue bluegrass of “Canoe Built for Two,” which is sure to make listeners hot under the collar, to the spellbinding “Butch Wytch,” which is pure Womyn’s Music Festival jazz/pop (complete with a rap break), Big Bad Gina makes good on their description’s promise. The torchy “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” is a top-notch tearjerker, while “Set Me Free” is a bluesy boogie-woogie number. Big Bad Gina also shows respectable taste in cover tunes, with their smooth interpretation of Janis Ian’s “Hunger,” and the group finds the grind in the gears of Melissa Ferrick’s “Drive.”
Sophie B. Hawkins performs June 7 at 9 p.m.
On “The Crossing” (Inakustik/Trumpet Swan), her first album in a number of years, omnisexual singer/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins sounds so excited to be back that she wants to get as much on the record as she possibly can. Hawkins unleashes an edgier rock side on “Betchya Got a Cure for Me.” She updates her trademark pop sound on tunes such as “Georgia” and “Missing” and belts out a respectable rendition of the spiritual “Sinner Man.” The disc also has some unexpected surprises, including acoustic versions of Hawkins’ biggest hits “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “As I Lay Me Down.”
Rocket Paloma performs June 8 at 3 p.m.
“Great” is a pretty good description of the four-song debut disc by Milwaukee’s very own Rocket Paloma aka Joanna Kerner. A twangy acoustic folk project buoyed by fiddles, banjos, “gee-tars” and such, Rocket Paloma features local musicians John Blohm, Dustin Christian and Joey Runte. This group would be right at home performing at the upcoming Country Thunder fest. Rocket Paloma soars on the delightful “Staring at Polaris” while the bouncy “Mr. True Love” is a song that anyone who’s experienced a broken heart can appreciate. However, it’s on the EP’s closer “Haterstown” that Rocket Paloma achieves greatness. Directed at “haters who just want to get in your face for no real reason,” “Haterstown” allows Kerner to show off her vocal versatility. It’s the acoustic folk equivalent of a rap track.
Jayme Dawicki performs June 8 at 5 p.m.
Milwaukee favorite Jayme Dawicki (who returns to PrideFest for the second time) sounds like she’s spent some time listening to Aimee Mann. Her “72 ½ Toyota Truck,” from her most recent full-length release “Love Love” (jaymedawicki.com), would fit right in on any of Mann’s albums. But there’s so much more to keyboard queen Dawicki. Not content to come off like another Tori Amos or Regina Spektor clone, Dawicki writes and performs unique, refreshing songs. “Take My Heart” is as emotional as its title suggest. It’s the kind of song that gets your eyes watery as you sing along. The same is true of the beautiful “Battle.” Dawicki crafts memorably upbeat tunes, too, including “Happy New Year” and “One More Year.” But balladry is her forte, and she shines on “Shout Out Loud” and “Save Me.” (Be sure to hang on for the “Cricket Symphony” hidden track.)
God-Des & She performs June 9 at 6 p.m.
Wisconsin’s world-famous homegrown queer hip-hop duo God-Des & She has been perfecting rhymes and beats since the dawn of the 21st century. Not known for shying away from such provocative subjects as sex and politics (sometimes in the same song), the duo still proudly waves a freak flag on “United States of God-Des and She” (god-desandshe.com). The sizzling, take-no-prisoners title track kicks things off like a boot to the teeth. Suggestive nose-wrinkler “Ew She Said That” is sure to tickle more than a few fancies, and “Between the Sheets” will leave you hot and bothered. “You Know My Name (YKNM)” slides in on a retro groove and “I’m a Bitch” has anthem potential. The generic modern soul of “Don’t Look Back” slows things up, and “God, I Know You Love Me” is surprisingly awkward. But those are minor complaints about a mostly solid effort.
Dangerous Muse performs June 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Formerly a duo and now a one-man operation, queer electro act Dangerous Muse (not to be confused with producer/musician Danger Mouse) continues to embrace the EDM (electronic dance music) esthetic on the new five-song disc “Red” (dangerousmuse.com). Dangerous Muse plays with some of the newfangled recording toys on “Homewrecker,” doing techno tricks with the vocals. “I Can’t Help It” sounds a bit like Ministry in that group’s pre-heavy industrial period, and fans of that era won’t be able to help but like it. The album’s centerpiece, “Fame Kills,” goes on a bit too long at almost seven minutes, but it gets points for recalling the mood and energy of vintage 12-inch disco singles.
For complete PrideFest schedule, click here.