Brian Finnegan on Milk, the festival showcasing gay music
AT FIRST glance the line-up for outdoor lesbian and gay music festival Milk seems eclectic in the extreme. From 1980s bubblegum-pop divas Bananarama to contemporary indie chicks Heathers, and from former page-three pin-up Samantha Fox to queen of post-modern clubbing Róisín Murphy (see right), the range of entertainment Milk will be trotting out for the gay masses is as diverse as it is numerous.
The one-day line-up which, at last check, features 51 acts and DJ sets, has been the subject of much heated debate with Ireland’s gay hoi polloi, who will need to turn out in their droves if Milk is to live to see another year. Barely a dinner party or a pub conversation goes by these days without various, conflicting opinions being exercised and disagreements being reached.
Are Right Said Fred still too sexy for their shirts? Does Sophie Ellis-Bextor still incite murder on the dance floor? Is X Factor winner Alexandra Burke a gay icon in the making or is her management cynically cornering a market? What makes one act rise above another when it comes to staging a festival for such a specific target market?
Milk’s headline star, Róisín Murphy, recently told me her massive gay following is rooted in glamour and attitude, and she hit a proverbial nail on the head. From Barbra Streisand to Cher, Madonna to Kylie, Dolly Parton to Shirley Bassey, there has always been a special place in the gay psyche for strong women singing their larger-than-life hearts out.
Gay men in particular gravitate towards these kinds of icon, possibly because they spent hours with a hairbrush in front of their bedroom mirrors imagining they were these icons. Gay boys in their bedrooms these days are lip-synching to Leona Lewis, Cheryl Cole and Alexandra Burke. Now – so long as they’re over 18 – they can sing along with Burke, live in the company of 5,000 other gay fans, in a Westmeath field come August 14th.
Still, for every Leona there’s a Michelle McManus, for every Madonna a Geri Halliwell – a female pop star who courted gay popularity but wasn’t quite able to hang on to it. With that in mind, here are a few handy tips not only for cornering the gay market, but ensuring longevity therein . . .