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Feature Tue Dec 01 2009
[This week's feature was submitted by reader Jane Haldiman.]
Scott Free is an artist putting the P — performance — in Chicago's LGBTI community, and putting the LGBTI in the area's music scene. His Homolatte is a gay community event created to give opportunities for queer writers and musicians to gain exposure and showcase their talents. Bringing performers of all genres and genders to the stage for a decade, Homolatte is the longest running queer performance series in the country.
A bi-monthly, all-ages, queer music and spoken word series, Homolatte happens on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7:30pm. After ten years and a variety of venues, the series is currently housed at Big Chicks/Tweet a popular staple in the queer community. Although primarily a gay men's bar, Big Chicks, like Homolatte, welcomes people of any gender or orientation. As Free states, "Performers are from the LGBTI community, but the event is open to everyone!"
Nestled among the varied storefronts of Uptown at 5024 N. Sheridan Road, the narrow Tweet section of the bar/restaurant space provides a cozy, colorful room for hearing the combination of new and established artists Free gathers every two weeks. Shows are free of charge; a hat is passed (actually a stylish Ikea trash can) for donations that are split by the evening's acts. Neither Free nor the bar take any of the cash, per Homolatte's goal of supporting queer performers.
Free is equally committed to music and community; this bi-monthly series is just one of the avenues he has created to promote queer musicians, writers, and poets. He also hosts the annual Queer Is Folk and AltQ Festivals at the Old Town School of Folk Music as well as creating his own music. The latest of Free's four CDs is The Pink Album (A Pop Opera), and his most recent performance was a staged reading of his musical Witches Among Us, created with Rick Karlin, at the Center on Halsted on November 15.
Sometimes humorous, sometimes angry (often both simultaneously), Free's always touching songs about queer life have gained him acclaim in both gay and straight media. He has won numerous awards and the video for his single "Free" spent seven weeks on LOGO's The Click List.
Homolatte's usual format features one spoken word artist and one musical act per show, with curator Free singing in between sets. Free is certainly not one to be bound by the usual, however; the latest show on November 17 included an extra guest artist, poet Kay Ulanday Barrett, visiting her old home Chicago from New York.
Kay Ulanday Barrett. (Photo by Kate Denley)
With the lineup jam-packed, Free handed to stage to Barrett right off the bat. She belted out poems on race, gender, and being butch and Filipina/Pinay-American. In one she insisted that "butches should write more poems" - and if she is the example, I agree.
Musician Ellen Rosner played next, accompanied by band mate John Hasbrouck on resonator mandolin ("That means it's loud," he explained to this stringed-instrument-underinformed author). Rosner bantered with the audience about aging, with her birthday being the next day, and asking if they preferred fast or slow songs ("Fast!"). She played a mix of both speeds, and of old favorites and new pieces.
Her topics were just as eclectic, spanning a "good girl/bad girl" dichotomy of a woman who's both a homeowner and a "perfect malcontent." Her set include signature song "Ready, Steady, GO" which is nominated for a 2009 OUTMusic Award. Still riffing on her age, however, she noted that "OMA" is German for "grandma."
Author Goldie Goldbloom rounded out the evening with a soft-spoken but intense reading of her forthcoming novel. Winner of the 2008 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Novel Award, Toads' Museum of Freaks and Wonders is due to be published in early 2010 by New Issues Press.
Homolatte host and curator Scott Free. (Photo by Kate Denley)
December opens on a Tuesday, so the next chance to see Free and friends is, tonight, December 1. The show will feature performance activist and "vigilante" poet Sarwat Rumi and musician Bird Megan Sieberg. Two weeks later singer/songwriter Nicole Reynolds and self described "jazz, angst, and folk" trio Shoes for Mabel, made up of Carrie Lydon, Kate Rickenbacker, and Jen Baker, will take the stage next on December 15. 2010 rings in with writer Graeme Schellenberger and videographer Kyle Greer on January 5. Sign up for Free's email newsletter or visit the website to get more information on upcoming Homolatte acts and other LGBTI artists and performances coming up in 2010.
About the Author:
Jane Haldiman is a writer, poet, nonprofit fundraiser, and nerd-about-town. She likes astronomy, kittens, and crafting; she and her evil twin can often be spotted at area craft fairs in non-matching orange coats.