L.A. Pride has gotten big. Really big. On the one hand, this should definitely be celebrated. Perhaps it's grown as equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community has grown as well. Perhaps, in the age of Trump, members of the LGBTQ community and their allies want to remain powerful and be more visible. Or perhaps Pride's decision to focus more on music and booking bigger acts — which, over the years has raised concerns and charges that it's turning into "Gay-Chella" — has led to this surge. Whatever the case may be, it was clear in the streets of WeHo this weekend that Pride 2018 was one of, if not the, biggest ever — which sadly had some negative consequences as well.
With only one place to enter the festival on Santa Monica and San Vicente Boulevards, the line to get in (or get a wristband from will-call) remained several blocks long for the entire weekend. This line issue was made worse when the venue hit capacity Saturday night and ticket holders were not able to get in at all. Those who'd been standing in Iine for hours were not informed (at least not right away) and it wasn't until those at the front of the line were turned away that the capacity closure was evident. People who paid for these tickets and wanted to see Saturday night's headliners were understandably angry and upset, which for many created the exact opposite vibe of what Pride is supposed to represent.
L.A. Pride tweeted an apology Sunday afternoon, saying that people with unscanned wristbands for Saturday could get into the event for free on Sunday or request a refund.
Those who couldn't get into the festival didn't have much better luck outside of it, either. There were massive lines throughout the entire Santa Monica strip — for big clubs and dive bars alike. Once inside, the venues had wall-to-wall people — moving around was hard, getting a drink harder and dancing nearly impossible. This was the case on Saturday night as well as for the entire day on Sunday.
The question remains: Has L.A. Pride outgrown West Hollywood? Some people are upset and say that the problems this weekend were due to greed, and that Pride is in danger of losing the core values that make it special: inclusion and unity. Pride is supposed to be a safe space for the entire LGBTQ community and their allies to celebrate who they are. If those who want to be seen and heard during Pride can't even get into the festival to do so, that is a problem that needs to be addressed and remedied.
One of the suggestions we've heard in the wake of this weekend includes moving the event to downtown L.A. (and perhaps joining DTLA Proud). But Christopher Street West and West Hollywood have a long and important history and deep ties that probably should not be abandoned. Maybe organizers just need to be, well, better organized. Perhaps more entrances or having a cutoff date later than May 31 to get wristbands to those who pre-order them? The problems are not unlike those seen in the past at traditional music festivals, such as the mess at FYF Fest in 2014 (that event's organizers learned from its mistakes and did better in subsequent years, although this year's edition was canceled).
Despite these issues, the energy and positivity was palpable for those inside the festival. Aside from exciting sets from headliners Kehlani and Tove Lo, almost all the artists on the three stages of the event, from Icona Pop to a surprise appearance from Christina Aguilera, brought the crowd together and truly celebrated the LGBTQ community. The parade down Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday, which was open to the public, had one of the most festive and feel-good vibes we've ever seen, especially after last year's cancellation in favor of the #Resist March.
Sure, the event needs some work, but maybe this is to be expected. Just as the LGBTQ community grows and evolves, so too should Pride. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, and overcoming challenges is part of how we learn and build strength. If there are more and more people every year who want to show up, that should ultimately be celebrated. Here's hoping that L.A. Pride figures out how to make sure everyone gets to do so.
L.A. Weekly contacted Pride organizer Christopher Street West this morning to follow up on the situation and got the following statement via email from Estevan Montemayor, CSW/LA PRIDE board president:
"The L.A. Pride festival sold out both nights for the first time in our nearly 50-year history. The event has grown from a small community gathering into something completely unique: a safe and inclusive space where tens of thousands of people can gather to embrace everyone for who they are. With the obvious increase in demand for the L.A. Pride festival, we will be working with the city of West Hollywood and the community to continue to improve and evolve the festival."
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Christopher Street West's full statement from Sunday:
"We know that we made mistakes and we are sorry. Yes, we oversold tickets and we accept responsibility for all the issues that caused at the door.
"We sell more tickets than the venue can hold for two reasons: 1) We want as many people as possible to enjoy the festival and to support our community partners exhibiting there (as a nonprofit organization, all proceeds from the festival go to support the LGBTQ+ community); and 2) festival attendees have traditionally come and gone throughout the day, which has allowed us to flow through more attendees over the course of the day or night without hitting venue capacity. Yesterday, however, many attendees arrived early and stayed all day. This has never happened before. We were not prepared for it. We are truly sorry. This will be fixed next year.”
People who have tickets or pre-purchased wristbands for Saturday — that were never scanned at the gate — can request a refund by emailing See Tickets at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (323) 908-0607.