Scenes In A Baltimore Music Exhibition: Big Freedia at The Golden West


I didn’t know white people could dance like this. This is not a pejorative. I was genuinely proud of our collective efforts. 

Big Freedia, a New Orleans bounce rapper re drag queen, destroyed the Golden West, no doubt, but the gangly local kids, hipster and student alike, had a hand in wrecking the joint. Hips moved fluidly. Butts (a major cornerstone of bounce rap) thrusted and dipped with verve as basslines rumbled the restaurant’s wood floors. Women stood atop tables, or perched along the room’s perimeter, upon chairs and benches. They straddled the foundation pillars and the vibrating walls and flexed their hind musculature, showing as firm as the leaping gazelles of the Serengeti.

Big Freedia shouted with violent syncopation into the microphone: “Excuse! I don’t mean to be rude, but just give me that mike and I do what I do! Excuse! I don’t…” To the left of where we stood, Jenn Wasner, lead singer for Wye Oak —easily identified by her long shock of blond hair and crystal blue eyes— leaped off  a bench and punched the air.

The name Big Freedia is apt. She’s tree trunk tall, with monster pipes that ring out with a confident sassiness. A cross-dresser, Big Freedia is fond of women’s casual, usually tight pants matched with a blouse top or spandex. Long black extensions dangle from the front of her forehead, and when she sings they coil and snap like leather whip  tails. Her voice is boomy, and at its bassy best it shakes the building. A frenetic beat keeps the time behind that massive instrument.

My girlfriend Sam and I pumped our way through the bounce rap numbers with deftness (I thought), the sweat of our work shimmering across our brows. Next to us, a young bearded man spoke to his lady friend. Clouds of humidity collected on the lenses of the couple’s black-rimmed glasses.

“Why does your friend always look so pissed off?”

“Ugh. I dunno. It’s her thing.”


Author: Geoff Shannon

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