As downtown Los Angeles continues to be one of L.A.'s fastest-growing gayborhoods, it's no surprise that it has its own Pride celebration — one that, just like the neighborhood itself, has been getting bigger and more robust each year since it began in 2016. In its third year, DTLA Proud has added a third night and a diverse lineup of local queer talent. L.A. Weekly has put together a guide for what's going on both inside and outside the festival for DTLA Proud this weekend. Here's who and what you need to know.
“Proud is a way to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community that lives, works and plays downtown. It's a time to come together and showcase what [it] has to offer to the great LGBTQ+ community,” says Oliver Alpuche, the founder and president of DTLA Proud, as well as the owner of downtown gay bar Redline. “Proud was created separate from [L.A.] Pride and is not part of the Pride circuit — it's not DTLA Pride, it's DTLA Proud. Proud was not created to compete with Pride. [It] was created to showcase downtown and to give local artists a platform to connect with their community. Proud is more of a space to highlight local artists, local businesses, queer performers and community organizations.”
This year's festival, which takes place in Pershing Square, features some of the best known talent in town, including musicians like Big Dipper and top-notch drag performers, from RuPaul's Drag Race and the local queen scene, such as the Haus of Befierce. “I'm always excited about the main stage because every year we try to add performances that expand the definition of diversity,” Alpuche says.
This year's festival will also feature a free, all-ages night on Friday, marking the first time that Proud will be three nights instead of two (Saturday and Sunday will be 21 and over only). According to Alpuche, this year's festival will have a new look: a tropical vacation theme. Proud has teamed with Fruitcake Pop-Up to curate a queer vendor artist alley that will feature more than 20 queer artists and small business owners, including the Pleasure Chest, Soft Daddy Leather and Folklore Salon. The festival will also feature a MedMen rehydration lounge for people to get free water and a Red Bull recharging lounge for people to charge their cellphones so they can post their photo booth GIFs from inside.
And of course there's SummerTramp. First held in 2010, SummerTramp was the brainchild of Andres Rigal, co-founder, board member and creative director of DTLA Proud. “Just like SummerTramp, DTLA Proud is an all-inclusive, accessible festival that represents the diverse LGBTQ+ population,” Rigal says. “Ultimately, both of these gatherings share the same ethos, the same intention of bringing people together in a celebration of love and unity. While SummerTramp has always been anchored in providing these sentiments to the community, DTLA Proud brings this about on a grander scale, operating as a 100 percent nonprofit with the sole intention of bringing awareness to and for our community in the ever-growing landscape of DTLA.”
At this year's festival, SummerTramp will have a brand-new look that includes a 20,000-square-foot water park with pink Astroturf and a lineup of DJs that represent every LGBTQ community in Los Angeles, hailing everywhere from the Westside to Silver Lake to downtown.
With the festival growing even bigger, are there any concerns that it may reach capacity and ticket holders will get turned away, as they were at L.A. Pride in June? According to the event organizers, the answer is no. “I'm not concerned. I think that's a good issue to have if that does happen, as it shows the need for this type of event. I know we are going to do our best to accommodate each person who shows up this year,” Rigal says. “We are all volunteers, which gives you an idea of how much each of us care about the DTLA community and making sure we have an amazing festival. Our team has spent many months preparing for large crowds and the necessary measures to accommodate those anticipated numbers.”
Alpuche echoes Rigal's statement. “As a fairly new festival, we are still going through growing pains. We learned from the first year and focused on our logistics so we can get through the entrance lines in a timely manner. [However], we definitely suggest that people purchase their tickets in advance because we do have a set capacity,” he says.
In case the festival does reach capacity before you've bought your ticket, don't fret, because there's still plenty going on outside of it for you to enjoy. Alpuche's bar Redline (which will also have four booths at the event itself) kicks off Proud weekend with PoundCake Friday night. Saturday the bar will be throwing its Throb party, featuring resident DJ Josh Peace as well as a special, secret midnight performance. Sunday the bar will be hosting a special Shenanigans brunch from noon to 4 p.m.,featuring local downtown drag queens and bottomless mimosas.
Party seekers can head half a mile from Redline to Precinct, which also will have a tent at the festival. Friday night the club will have its weekly Queen Kong party hosted by drag royalty the Boulet Brothers and featuring performances by a number of RuPaul's Drag Race queens including Mariah Balenciaga. On Saturday, Precinct will host its monthly '90s/Y2K dance party You've Got Male featuring performances from drag queens Venus D-Lite, Pinche Queen and Fena Barbital. Sunday afternoon Precinct will host its weekly Bear Bust featuring go-go bears, patio games and $3 pints from 3 to 9 p.m. Bear Bust will be followed by a new party called Funkytown featuring DJ Sindri. “It's always good to be able to grab a bit of shade and A/C on a hot summer day, especially when you're spending it poolside at SummerTramp or in front of the mainstage,” says Precinct owner Brian McIntire. “And as the festival closes at 10 p.m., [the downtown gay bars] plan to keep the party going until late each night.”
If that's not enough, another party called One Eyed Monster will be held at the Globe Theatre. Billed as a “homo mega party featuring three levels of faggotry,” the party is produced and hosted by the Boulet Brothers and will be headlined by L.A. native and Drag Race season nine Miss Congeniality (aka season 9 fan favorite) Valentina. One Eyed Monster is the combined efforts of three existing parties: Queen Kong, Bearracuda and Snap Out of It! The party will also feature numerous “floor hosts” including Dragula contestant James Majesty, as well as a “muscle squad” and multiple DJs. Finally, one other option is the New Jalisco Bar, a Mexican gay dive less than a half-mile from Precinct. Stop by the New Jalisco for cheap drinks or a great Latin drag show.
One notable absence from DTLA Proud this year is a former staple of the DTLA gay scene, Bar Mattachine, which closed its doors last weekend. “[I'll be] moving onto a new project that I'm very excited about,” says former Mattachine co-owner Garrett McKechnie. “[In the meantime, you can] visit me and a few of the old Mattachine regulars at the SummerTramp bar in the festival!”
While the reasons behind the bar's closing are a bit unclear, it's definitely not due to a decline of the DTLA community. If anything, the community is only getting bigger, as evidenced by not only the growth of DTLA Proud but also by the opening of two new DTLA Queer spaces next year across the street from Precinct: Bar Menagerie and French EXIT, both of which are being spearheaded by Rigal. And there's even buzz that Bar Mattachine may be rebranding and reopening as something new in time for DTLA Proud this weekend, although this could not be confirmed at press time.
“I've had the pleasure of calling DTLA my home for 14 years of which I've met best friends [and] family,” says Rigal. “When I think of Pride, I reflect on these experiences of creating meaningful events and spaces in DTLA that will allow others here to have Prides filled with love, compassion and community. I feel it's a big responsibility to build DTLA Proud with those elements so the next generations to come will be even more accepting of the LGBTQ+ spirit that lives in each of us.” We couldn't agree more.
DTLA Proud Festival runs Aug. 24-26, with all-ages Friday, 4-10 p.m., and 21+ on Saturday and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. To purchase advance tickets to DTLA Proud or for more information including schedule and lineup, please visit dtlaproud.org.
To purchase advance tickets or get more information on One Eyed Monster, visit globetheatre-la.com/one-eyed-monster-•-dtla-proud-wknd-saturday-aug-25th-2018/.
Redline, 131 E. Sixth St., downtown; (213) 935-8391, redlinedtla.com.
Precinct, 357 S. Broadway, downtown; (213) 628-3112, precinctdtla.com.
The New Jalisco Bar, 245 S. Main St., downtown; (213) 613-1802.