lavender wild festival – The Perfect Launch to Pride Month

Billed as a sapphic-focused event hosting 2SLGBTQ+ international and domestic talent, lavender wild’s lineup alone was cause to celebrate. Featuring top line acts such as Hayley Kiyoko, Girl In Red and The Aces, musically the importance of the festival was huge. However, on a deeper level, the festival’s 2SLGBTQ+ focus narrowed in on the lesbian and trans communities. As a straight white man of a certain age, I’ll avoid wading into opinions about a community I can only support externally as a proud father and strong ally. But as my two teens fall into both of these focused groups, I found myself sharing in the joyful expressions of love, community, safety and freedom. In fact, days later I still feel a high from being surrounded by such a massive celebration of this sort. Perhaps it was due to the glimpse into what will be. 

lavender wild was the brainchild of Live Nation festival manager, Alex Simpson. Based on her experience at a queer concert, she realized its importance as a place for the community to celebrate together in a safe space. Growing that idea, not only did she want a fully queer lineup of artists onstage, she wanted them among the environment and on the ground, working in all areas. From the vendors to the social team and photo and video crew, Simpson saw the festival as an opportunity for exposure and recognition of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Speaking after the fact and using Simpson’s intentions as a watermark, I can’t see many ways lavender wild could’ve been more successful. I witnessed so many young women, trans men, couples and parents living their lives openly, without fear or judgement. Perhaps the joy I wrote about above was a contact high. Community was definitely the reason for the festival but the artists and the music helped make the day, and well, they fucking rocked. Despite having a slight knowledge of most performers, I was blown away not just by the musicianship but the song craft and performances. So, let’s run down the acts I caught.

Although a Grammy nom for lending her voice to the Chainsmokers’ Don’t Let Me Down, made her voice globally recognizable, Daya braved strep throat to stun the crowd at lavender wild.

Flying in from London where they were promoting their brand new album, The Aces floored the many thousands assembled at Echo Beach. The festival was a special performance for the band as they had just released their third full length album, I’ve Loved You For So Long two days before. ADDICTED interviewed the band before their set. It will follow in the coming days.

Australian phenom, G Flip started with an impressive drum solo before smashing through a high energy set. Speaking about the nerves of singing to their wife (actor and Selling Sunset agent, Chrishell Stause) who was present, the message of love was one that threaded through every performer’s banter.

The first of the top line artists took to the stage in what looked like the most comfortable stage outfit of the festival. Despite playing a show in Toronto at the Danforth Music Hall just 8 days prior, ADDICTED fave (first featured in 2018) Hayley Kiyoko drew a massive crowd for her performance. Moving with ease and brimming with confidence, screams at times threatened to overtake her powerful vocals.

At the top of the day, leading into night, Girl In Red‘s performance ended this inaugural lavender wild festival. Fresh off a run of shows with Taylor Swift, Marie Ulven and band burst onto the stage hammering through You Stupid Bitch from if i could make it go quiet. The album featured most in the set that ended the festival with fireworks.

While Pride in Toronto has grown from a day to a weekend to a week to a whole month, it’s easy to see jumped-on corporate rainbow-washing as an opportunistic grab for a marginalized customer base. It’s clear that big business has been forced to enmesh diversity, equality and inclusion into their corporate standards and despite the late arriving policies and questionable motives, we’re seeing a start of unstoppable albeit it slow, progressive change. What made lavender wild as special as it felt was that despite its necessary corporate partners, love winning on this day eclipsed any perceived false sentiments. But it didn’t matter which brands appeared on the main stage’s video screen or was selling the booze. The importance of this event couldn’t have its spotlight stolen, not by a brand or even a band. The execution and thought that went into lavender wild combined with such a well curated lineup of artists and a horde of happy attendees made for one of the best festivals I’ve experienced. Perhaps the only question left to be answered is who will the top line artists be for next year’s lavender wild. Start the list now.

Aron Harris
Aron Harris is ADDICTED Magazine's music editor as well as a contributor. As a graphic designer, writer and photographer, you can find his work all over ADDICTED. He also geeks out over watches, pizza, bass guitars and the Grateful Dead.