QUEERFEST (Nashville) 2023 – Show Review

Welcome to Queerfest 2023, this year it’s taking place across three venues in East Nashville: Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge, The 5 Spot, and The Basement East. Voted the Best New Music Festival of 2022 by The Nashville Scene, Sara Gougeon got to Nashville with a degree from Berklee College of Music and a mission. She began Queerfolk Fest to foster a community of folk fans among LGBTQ+ artists and fans. Fostering a community of LGBTQ+ identifying people and artists. Sara continues to host a number of LGBTQ+ writers’ rounds and Queerfest now includes music of all genres. I joined the party at the last show of the fest at The Basement East. This year’s grand finale featured Julia Cannon, Madeleine Kelson, Skout, Marielle Kraft, and The Collection.

This year’s Queerfest finale really stayed true to its roots. This show introduced queer artists in genres you might not expect. They all sort of exist in the singer-songwriter, folk, and Americano realm and graced the stage along with your Drag Queen host Kennedy Ann Scott.

Julia Cannon has a very wholesome energy to her, of course, she’s also a total rockstar. For half of her performance, she wore a sundress and tore it off in a big reveal of a bright and sparkly two-piece outfit. Her songwriting is descriptive, her voice is absolutely beautiful, and her guitar skills do not disappoint. The passion in her voice draws on soul music and classic rock hits.

Madeleine Kelson is a locally-based queer country singer. In the song “The Way I Do” she croons over a woman “Call me a sinner and I’ll call you a fool / damn me to hell and I’ll break your the news / if I don’t get to heaven for loving her true / God has never loved a woman the way I do.” Kelson’s voice is rich and warm. She yodels and hollers with ease, but I doubt you’ll ever find her on Broadway. Her words ring true with sincerity and honesty when she delivers them in her “emotional storytelling.”

Skout is an indie-folk/pop duo consisting of Laura Valk and Connor Gladney. Laura has a sweet, wispy voice, and Connor has a rather unique style of playing guitar. He lays the guitar across his lap and plucks and plays it as a percussion instrument as well. The delicate details in Laura Valk’s songwriting really bring her stories to life. A highlight of their performance was when they played a cover of Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne, I thought it was a really fun take on the song getting to hear a woman sing it.

Marielle Kraft was the most pop-oriented writer of the night in my opinion. Something to note about Marielle is that she had an excellent stage presence. She has carefully crafted anecdotes to introduce her songs. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she used to be a teacher, eighth graders are a much tougher crowd. I really enjoyed her story of falling in love with her current fiancé, who lived all the way in New York at the time. Even though she’d stay in her tiny apartment, she didn’t mind and she began to imagine a future in the cramped space. Writing that song was a nice change of pace for her considering she’d written a long string of break-up songs, I don’t think she’ll be writing anymore.

The Collection is known for their “electrifying” live performances, and they lived up to the hype. David Wimbish, the frontman, gave an intense performance heavy with emotion and passion. For this particular concert, he was filling in on keys because the pianist couldn’t make it to this show, I look forward to seeing his performance when he’s not seated. The band matched his energy with dancing and high kicks, Graham Dickey did an amazing job on horns. The energy and excitement that they brought to the stage was infectious.

Overall, Queerfest delivered wonderfully talented artists, each of whom brought their identity into their songwriting. It was a great night for the community to connect and hear music that really speaks to the queer experience. I personally loved hearing love stories that reflect my own.

Here’s a link to my live coverage of the show:

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