Our 2023 guide to Charlotte Pride is sponsored by the Charlotte Pride Parade & Festival. Enjoy week-long festivities throughout Charlotte as the organization celebrates 40 years of Pride legacy in the Queen City. View our entire event guide here.
Charlotte Pride is filled with events this year, as they anticipate their highest attendance in the festival and parade’s history. The Charlotte Pride Main Stage is packed with performances, and below and some of the most notable ones to check out.
Greyson Chance Goes Gaga
In April 2010, when Greyson Chance was in sixth grade, he took part in a talent contest. Chance mounted the stage, sat behind a piano and launched into a spirited rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” A video of the performance was uploaded to YouTube and went viral, ultimately gaining over 36 million views. Chance had three years of piano lessons under his belt but no formal vocal training when he made his online breakthrough. The 12-year-old caught Ellen DeGeneres’ attention, and the talk show host invited Chance to play on her show. He never looked back.
Born in Wichita Falls, Texas and now a resident of Edmond, Oklahoma, Chance began playing the piano when he was 8. He remembers being awestruck by Lady Gaga’s appearance on the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Chance’s 2010 debut single, “Waiting Outside the Lines,” preceded the release of his full-length album Hold on ‘Til the Night in 2011. The LP debuted in the Top 40 and was followed by the 2012 EP Truth Be Told, Pt. 1. As Chance toured over the next few years, his voice deepened, his outlook matured and his focus shifted to toward nuanced piano-based indie-rock and alt-electronic pop. His influences and inspirations broadened to include Christina Aguilera, John Legend, Elton John and John Lennon.
Chance came out as gay on social media in 2017. His announcement stressed that he was happy and proud to be queer.
Reviews of Hold on ‘Til the Night had been mostly favorable, but the critical consensus suggested that Chance’s debut was best seen as a harbinger of a better album to come. That appeared in 2019 with the release of Chance’s sophomore full-length album, Portraits, a fitting showcase for the artist’s lyrical and emotive pop. Even better is Palladium, a third full-length album, which dropped in 2022. Chance will headline the Main Stage at Charlotte Pride on Sunday, Aug. 20.
Carolina Songbirds Courtney Lynn & Quinn
“Pride events are a place of refuge for so many in our community and a place where we feel truly accepted for the love we share,” Courtney Lynn & Quinn wrote in a shared statement to Queen City Nerve. “Charlotte is where we started our musical journey as a duo, and it is so important for us to come back to celebrate and share our pride in the city that helped us build to who we are today!”
Though the married Americana/folk duo cut their musical teeth in Charlotte, Courtney Lynn & Quinn have since decamped for Wilmington. They still, however, hold a special place in the Queen City’s music-loving heart.
The pair first came together to perform songs on Courtney Lynn’s solo debut, Wander Years. They followed that release with their first official project, the Remiss EP, which dropped in 2020.
Like the preceding project, the collection featured engaging tunes based on acoustic guitars that ripple a clear as a swiftly running stream, soaring harmonies that rush like wind whistling through the trees and lyrics that embody the warmth of a friendly proffered hand.
In July, the duo released their catchy new single, “Found My Love,” a feel-good tune about falling in love. With a bouncy groove and beautifully layered harmonies, the song boasts a retro 1970s pop/light rock feel.
“They say these are the best days/ But we don’t know till they’re gone / I move with you like the rock in my step/ Anywhere you go I’m home…”
“We always want to truly connect with our audience to make them feel real human emotions from the experiences we so vulnerably portray in our songs and stories,” the pair stated.
Regarding their upcoming performance at Pride, the duo wrote, “We also have a desire to inspire anyone and everyone to express who they truly are in a world that can sometimes be unforgiving and unkind, and walk with a confidence of self love that holds stronger than any hate.”
John Levengood’s Political Glitter Bombs
“North Carolina holds a special place in my heart,” says witty lyricist, melodic songwriter and glittery booty-shaking fashionista and activist John Levengood. “I have fond memories visiting the Outer Banks, cheering on Jeff Gordon on TV at Charlotte Speedway with my dad as a child, and running from one end of CLT airport to the other. One day I’m going to have enough time to sit on those rocking chairs in between flights.”
Growing up in Virginia, Levengood was inspired by performers like Shania Twain and Britney Spears. Still in high school, he recorded and released he debut album Confident in 2012. A scathing put-down by judge Demi Lovato in reality TV show The X Factor USA in 2013 did little to dampen Levengood’s spirit.
Relocating to Los Angeles, Levengood dropped two more releases, Storm in 2013 and Reach in 2014. Currently a Washington, D.C. resident, Levengood performed the live debut of his song “Say Gay” at the 2022 Capital Pride Festival in Washington, D.C. The tune protests anti-LGBTQ legislation such as Florida’s draconian “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“Say gay! Say gay! Say gay!/Say what? Say what?/One little law won’t shut us up!”
“Like my home state of Virginia, North Carolina has seen numerous bills introduced in its legislature this year which hurt trans youth, LGBTQ+ people, women, minorities, and marginalized groups,” Levengood says. “As the largest pride festival in North Carolina, Charlotte Pride is so important because it sends a message to all of the legislators in NC who voted for these hateful bills: The Bible Belt is studded with rhinestones now; we are here to stay.
“I want the [Pride] audience to know they are perfect being 100% authentic to themselves. I also hope they walk away with a renewed sense of urgency to get involved in their state and local governments and vote in all elections. We all have the power to change the world with enough ‘Werk Ethic.’
All Hail Johnáe Thee Egyptian Goddess
Hailing from Liberty City in Miami, model, dancer, TV personality and recording artist Johnàe Wright, better known as Johnáe Thee Egyptian Goddess, started recording and releasing songs in 2020. Her debut single, electro rap banger “Pwussy Bill Due,” was accompanied by a twerktastic apartment porch video, and went viral after becoming a TikTok dance clip. The track defined Johnáe Thee Egyptian Goddess’ brash, energetic and salacious sound.
Wright began training to become a professional dancer at local performing arts centers at age 8, where she learned dancing, singing, design and modeling. In 2010, she started dancing in Las Vegas with Disney’s The McClain Sisters. After graduating from New World School of the Arts in 2014, Wright was featured in Oxygen Channel’s The Prancing Elite Project in 2015. Next, Wright graduated from Paul Mitchell School for Cosmetology, and went on to appear regularly on TMZ.
In 2019 Johnàe Wright joined the cast of The ON Channel’s Beautiez & Bikerz of Charlotte, which followed the exploits of Wright and other entertainers as they toured and performed up and down the East Coast.
After the success of “Pwussy Bill Due,” Wright began recording her debut album Scorpionic, which features collaborations with Brandon Hilton, Booda Baddazz, Alyse Fontaine and Daa Kant.
Cassidy King’s Undercurrents of Love
A proud, queer woman who offers a voice to those still finding the words to share their life experiences, Cassidy King is known for crafting intensely personal, poignant lyrics and indelible R&B-inflected indie-pop melodies.
Born and raised in Chardon, Ohio, a small, conservative town outside of Cleveland, King didn’t pursue music until she attended Kent State University. Inspired by artists like Ani DeFranco and Tennessee rock band Paramore, King took the bold step of embracing her sexuality openly with the video for her song “Professional Smiler,” in which she kisses her on-screen girlfriend.
King’s 2020 debut EP, Not So Picture Perfect, was a much darker and more emotionally complex work. Here, songs like “Safe Places,” “Abigail,” and “Wasted” detail the onrush of exhilaration and creeping despair of a first relationship that turns toxic.
A period of wood-shedding followed, where King collaborated with longtime friend, producer and songwriter TyC to craft an intimate collection of songs entitled Concrete Walls. King has described the songwriting process as keeping a kind of diary about falling in love, healing herself and coming to terms with who she is. This candor, compassion and seeking nature is embodied in songs like the midtempo electro-pop track “Underwater.”
“I don’t want to feel as though falling in love with me is easy/ Because nothing ever worth anything ever is…”
Recently, King has released music with a lighter outlook, like the romantic and sunny pop gem about burgeoning love, “Matcha Tea.”
“She told me she like matcha tea and flowers/ She thrifts her jeans and wears shirts with collars/ And she sleeps in cuz we stay up for hours…”
Dubbed a purveyor of “Sapphic heartbreak bop” by female and nonbinary LGBTQIA+ publication Diva magazine, King released the single “Under Covers” in 2022. Like much of King’s work, the tune is about accepting who you are, who you love and how you present yourself.
Big Electric Cat
With sunny resonating guitar, springy syncopated beats and sparkling synths the stage is set for laid back yet wistful vocals on Big The Cat’s latest single “Paradise.”
“They all say/ The more you look/ The further away it goes/ But I’m fine/ With you by my side/ I don’t feel time…”
Singer-songwriter Reed O’Neal and guitarist Zac Byrd started a longstanding friendship after meeting in a tattoo shop. In 2021, the duo launched indie electronic pop-rock act Big the Cat. Since then, they have been honing their emotional earworm-laden sound through the release of five singles, kicking off with “Nightwalker” in 2022.
Here, a louche and swooning grove with twanging guitars gives way to a swinging and energetic jazz-rock passage.
Meanwhile, O’Neal’s everyman vocals — think 1970s yacht rockers Atlanta Rhythm Section frontman Rodney Justo — seem super chill about the sinister scenario building up around them.
“When the nightwalkers come for you/ Hide where you want to/ They’ll always find out where you are…”
With dramatic electrified flamenco guitar, splashy big beats and bleeping UFO sound effects, “Conviction” treads an accusatory and slightly paranoid tack. The 2023 follow-up “Seasons” boasts dramatic Santana-inspired guitar, elastic ominous bass and vocals sprinkled with braggadocio and desperation.
“Soon as I turned 18/ Told my mama you won’t see me around, yeah/ I gotta get out while the getting’s good/ I’m building it from the ground, yeah…”
Distorted phase-shifted guitar ushers in the swaggering, accident-bound “Mayday.”
“I’m on autopilot/ Just cruisin’ across the sea/ She said I got the mileage/ So you know I’ll be right there sittin’ on the wing…”
In short, Big the Cat deliver satisfying rock tunes retooled with modern production techniques that spotlight thought provoking walking-on-thin-ice lyrics.
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