‘We are a cul­tural event’

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

Dennis, a na­tive of St. Louis, has called At­lanta home for about 30 years and has been in­volved in or­ga­niz­ing par­ties since the ‘80s. It was dur­ing his days as a co-pro­moter with Green­house, a house fes­ti­val he de­scribes as “one geared more to­wards the straight crowd,” when he felt the urge to fo­cus on de­sign­ing an al­ter­na­tive for black LGBT At­lantans. The fo­cus even­tu­ally grew to in­clude an em­pha­sis on house mu­sic’s roots in black gay cul­ture.

“When you look at the au­di­ence of peo­ple in At­lanta, what you will find is a very ma­ture con­glom­er­ate of all the gay men that re­ally came from the great house clubs in the ’70s, ‘80s and ‘90s around the coun­try, from the Garage to the Cat­a­comb [in Philadel­phia], from Odell’s [in Bal­ti­more] to Chicago’s Ware­house,” he said. “So you get to see a col­lec­tive wave of en­ergy that gay men had back in the day op­posed to where we are now. And that’s prob­a­bly the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween In­dige­nous House and some of the other [house] events: We are a cul­tural event.”

Fos­ter­ing a sense of fam­ily

Tim’m West, a faith­ful at­tendee and de­vout lover of house, feels that is what most sep­a­rates In­dige­nous House from other house mu­sic cel­e­bra­tions in At­lanta and across the coun­try.

“I think with In­dige­nous House there’s a lit­tle more in­ten­tion­al­ity about hon­or­ing gay con­tri­bu­tions to house mu­sic,” he said. This year’s In­dige­nous House event will move from the WPA Pic­nic Shel­ter pavilion to the Charles Allen Drive Gate at 10th Street in Pied­mont Park. (Photo by John Ha­gins) “In At­lanta, there are a lot of places that play house [mu­sic] that ac­tu­ally can be quite ho­mo­pho­bic, which is kinda ironic to me.”

He also adds that the trans­gen­der pop­u­la­tion is often dis­missed or ig­nored en­tirely at other events, but not at In­dige­nous, which he de­scribes as bear­ing a “fam­ily re­union-like vibe.”

Dennis doesn’t hold back when men­tion­ing the need to fos­ter a sense of fam­ily at this event, es­pe­cially at a time when At­lanta needs it.

“In At­lanta, we have such a large black LGBT com­mu­nity, [but] it is so, so seg­re­gated be­tween the L, G, B and T. And I felt led to bring them all to­gether again,” he said. “I’m a lot more ma­ture and inclusive of the trans, the bi and the les­bian com­mu­nity. I try to re­ally stress on be­ing inclusive of ev­ery­one, which most events – es­pe­cially the club scene – doesn’t of­fer.”

Lo­ca­tion change, spe­cial guests

This year, a few im­por­tant changes will hit the lay­out of the fest. The most sur­pris­ing of them all will be its move away from the WPA Pic­nic Shel­ter pavilion and a shift to­wards the Charles Allen Drive Gate at 10th Street. Due to a sched­ul­ing con­flict from the Pied­mont Park Con­ser­vancy with a pre­vi­ous ren­ter, fans of In­dige­nous House will have to miss the pop­u­lar shed this year.

The change of lo­ca­tion comes with a bit of good news. There will be more space, a big wel­come for the grow­ing crowds.

“Last year it was so large that we had some crowd is­sues and they felt we needed a larger space,” Dennis said. “In ad­di­tion to that, another or­ga­ni­za­tion had got the pavilion be­fore me. I was real both­ered by that be­cause I felt we should have had top pri­or­ity af­ter be­ing grand­fa­thered into the park af­ter three con­sec­u­tive years.”

Other ad­di­tions to the lineup in­clude a fly­ing drone fea­ture and a life­time achieve­ment ded­i­ca­tion to spe­cial guest Candy J.

“She was be­fore Cait­lyn Jen­ner and Lav­erne Cox,” Dennis as­serted. “It was Candy J in the ‘80s who was fight­ing with the record la­bels to try to be an en­ter­tainer and to au­then­ti­cally be who she was.”

At­ten­dees are en­cour­aged to bring their tents to help cre­ate a fes­ti­val feel and to com­pen­sate for the lack of a pavilion.

West, who will once again be in at­ten­dance at this year’s fest, plans to dance his trou­bles away by fully im­mers­ing into the boom­ing rhythms, es­pe­cially in light of to­day’s po­lit­i­cal cli­mate and to­mor­row’s un­cer­tain­ties.

“House mu­sic is ac­tu­ally about as close as I come to any sort of spir­i­tu­al­ity, where I feel all the emo­tions that I’ve felt in the last few weeks, from joy and pain to an­guish and ex­cite­ment,” he said. “It’s been a rough year – 45 [Don­ald Trump] is in of­fice and peo­ple are re­ally ter­ri­fied about health care. I have sev­eral pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, among them HIV/AIDS, which has im­pacted the gay com­mu­nity. It’s why a lot of our DJs and dancers aren’t here any­more.”

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