Not everyone is bowing down to the Queen Diva: in a strange gesture that might be some kind of cultural meta-critique but also might be something else entirely, Ben Gibbard of the famous indie band The Postal Service has invited legendary bounce artist Big Freedia to open for the synthpop supergroup on their current American tour. But not everyone is happy about it: the bewildered tweets and vines of concertgoers range from excitement to confusion to dispassionate racism.
Big Freedia, the hardest twerking artist around, is a gender-queer/gender-fluid musician famous for being the face of New Orleans Bounce music — a small sub-genre of hip-hop that uses hyper-sexual call-and-response lyrics over sampled beats and sounds (most ubiquitous is the Triggerman beat). The music has gained an underground popularity in the New Orleans queer scene (leading the genre to sometimes be referred to as Sissy Bounce) with transgender and gender non-conforming artists performing at a variety of clubs and bars.
Big Freedia a tall black man who prefers feminine pronouns — sometimes appearing with luscious locks and other times appearing with shorn and dyed hair — is, despite her enthusiastic and raunchy performances, a soft-spoken and charming person in interviews.
She was the subject of a Pitchfork documentary that explored her life and community: the short film showed insights into her family life, her relationship with her husband, and her indomitable work ethic. It also detailed the violence of the New Orleans streets, and revealed that Our Lady of Bounce not only has been shot more than once, but also packs heat herself. More recently, she has guest-starred in a RuPaul song and music video and a with a Fuse Network reality TV series in the works, Miss Freedia is beginning to see worldwide exposure and mainstream popularity.
Audience members were irritated, seemed to be uncomfortable with Freedia’s brand of sexual expression and questioned whether the performance was “real music.” Men in the stands conspicuously proclaimed their own heterosexuality, and in general the response was uneasy. Workers at food/beer stands confirmed everyone who ordered from them gave the set a negative review.
Tweets from Postal Service fans included loaded words and hashtags like “ghetto” and “#hoodratshit.” Perhaps this sentiment reveals something we may have already known: behind the supposed saccharine sweet sensitivity and sincerity of twee music and culture lies something a little more sinister. This largely heterosexual, largely white audience, with their moans and groans, was saying something about cultures they don’t want to understand.
Of course, not all reaction was negative, and a tweet found by BuzzFeed lightheartedly recounts: “There is literally ass everywhere.” But Big Freedia and her voluptuous back up dancers will continue to soldier on: with upcoming shows at the Afropunk festival in Brooklyn and an appearance at Charlotte Pride in North Carolina, Big Freedia won’t stop twerking any time soon.