Ending HIV’s The Big Gay Out 2019 was 20gayteen dressed up to the nines! Named after the now-defunct Australian/New Zealand music festival “The Big Day Out”, the non-profit LGBTQI+ fair this year celebrated the 20th anniversary of New Zealand’s “largest and most fabulous” Rainbow Community event, billed as being “the biggest, GAYEST, Big Gay Out, ever!” It certainly was the hottest Big Gay Out ever, with the sun belting down and volunteers out and proudly handing out water bottles, sunscreen and fans all day long. I briefly considered jumping into the Durex inflatable lube-slide to cool off.
The fair took over the entirety of Coyle Park in Pt. Chevalier, including the playground. The greatest misstep made by the organisers was that unfortunately the flying fox was not in use.
The day long festival showcased LGBTQI+ performers, musicians and actors on the Durex main stage. Highlights on the stage included Iris G, Beth Goulstone, White Chapel Jack, Status (A play by Tom Sainsbury), The Miltones, LEXXA, Openside and Jon Lemmon.
Smokefree Rockquest 2016 solo/duo winner Iris Guevarra or better known as Iris G played early on in the afternoon, in her first performance without a guitar – and accompanied by live dancers, her DJ, and her occasionally played red plastic trombone. She performed with beats made by West Auckland rapper Mr.O6OO and Canadian DJ Ulberg.
Guevarra is always an expressive performer; now freed of her guitar-holding constraints and holding her mic with no stand, she flowed about the stage, playing off her dancers’ choreographed movements. After last year’s small intimate performance, this feels big. Watch this space!
The Labour Party and the Green Party attended the festivities in full swing, as well as the National Party and and the Act Party. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a speech on the Durex main stage after Iris G’s performance, during which beloved former children’s TV show What Now host (Turned Labour MP) Tamati Coffey announced that he and his partner Tim Smith were expecting their first child. “I wanted to seize this opportunity, at the biggest gay event in the country right now, to share the news that me and my partner over there are expecting a baby in July,” said Coffey, “This is a day where we all come together – all types of people under the rainbow umbrella. We have all kinds of modern families going on and represented here, so I applaud that.” The cheers and applause of the crowd made a contrast to previous Prime Minister John Key being infamously booed off stage at 2016’s event.
Event volunteer Beth Goulstone took a break from manning the information tent to sing some aCapella almost operatic covers of songs such as La Vie En Rose and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
At this point, representatives from the National Party took to the stage. It’s not that I don’t believe in people being able to change, but Simon Bridges was certainly less enthusiastic about being involved in the LGBTQI+ community when he voted against legalising gay marriage in 2013. Not a single mention or apology about his drastic change of heart was made on stage, but it has quickly become a meme on Facebook and Instagram.
White Chapel Jak played a self-proclaimed “25 minutes of amazing acousticness” which was a non-stop medley of classic songs, by artists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Gnarls Barkley.
In quick succession, a trio of musicians from the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra graced the stage, followed by an equally theatre-suited play by Tom Sainsbury, Matamata-born actor, comedian and Snapchat politician impersonator. The play was an apt mix of comedy and poignance, with great acting and a tight script.
Next up we had Openside, Auckland pop punk quartet, previously known as Maybe Rave, who have been making waves recently, opening for the likes of Twenty One Pilots, Panic! At the Disco, Melanie Martinez and Ellie Goulding. The band featured Possum Plows on vocals, PJ Shepherd on guitar, Harry Carter on bass, and George Powell on drums. Plows (an alumni of my old high school, Green Bay High School), is an advocate and supporter of the rainbow community, being non-binary themselves.
LA-born Wellingtonite Jon Lemmon closed out the night, bringing his unique blend of “ecstatic dance pop” to the stage.
The event featured interactive motion-sensor video games, a silent disco, photo booths, as well as a glam station. Volunteers all over the show collected donations and handed out sunblock, stickers, and of course, condoms and lube. There was plenty of food stalls, water available if you were dehydrated, and everywhere you looked: Happy people being themselves.
Overall, aside from the heat (which had nothing to do with the organisers), the Big Gay Out 2019 was a wonderful family-friendly event for all ages, celebrating pride, acceptance and self-expression. Please donate to Ending HIV’s causes and support LGBTQI+ music wherever you can.