A festival that celebrates LGBT performing artists, visual artists, creatives and entrepreneurs
Saturday, Sept. 9
1309 5th St., N.E.
Headliner: Big Freedia
Sometimes the genesis for a new event, book, restaurant or whatever is as simple as its creator pinpointing a void. That’s how it was for Honey Groove, a D.C. music and art festival devoted to queer artists of color now in its third year.
Organizer Kyrisha Deschamps, a 33-year-old native Washingtonian, always enjoyed music, art and the festival experience but felt something was missing.
“I always really enjoyed being in those spaces but remember noticing that while there were queer people, LGBT people in the crowd, we weren’t really on stage,” says Deschamps, who works by day at a non-profit devoted to veterans and people with disabilities. “I really wanted to build something where that was the focal point and to have a space for some local artists I love, like Be Steadwell and the CooLots, I wanted to see them again because I thought they were so great, so Honey Groove was born.”
Deschamps says she appreciates musical talent because, “I don’t have those skills.” Musically she enjoys “a little bit of everything” and music with “a nice, vibey beat.” Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, SZA and Rihanna are some of her favorite big-name acts, but she also loves local bands, especially those featuring queer women of color.
Deschamps, who identifies as queer, started the festival with partners Lisa Gomes, Jonae Davis and Lee Perine and says it’s evolved and expanded somewhat. Now in its third year, Honey Groove is still “mostly centered around women,” but is more trans- and men-inclusive than it was earlier.
“We want everyone to feel included and we’re definitely open to our allies,” she says. “It’s for people who love art, people who are interested in queer culture. It’s a very warm and inviting environment. Last year, people were just happy to be there and there was just this feeling in the air. It was really, really good.”
The event has grown each year and has now outgrown its previous home at Blind Whino after maxing out the 700-capacity space there last year. Deschamps says about 1,500 are expected this year based on ticket sales. The event will run from 2-10 p.m. at Dock 5 (1309 5th St., N.E.). The bands will perform outside. An indoor space will feature vendors, artists, a bar and DJs. Food trucks will be on site as well.
Held in early April in 2015 and 2016, organizers said moving it to September made more sense since it will now have an outdoor component for the first time.
The bands will perform 20-25-minute sets except for headliner Big Freedia, the New Orleans rapper known as the “queen of bounce,” who will perform a longer set.
Deschamps says the festival has grown organically (this year’s budget is about $80,000) and she’s pleased to find people traveling sometimes significant distances to attend. She knows of no other festival with the same mission. There is some overlap of acts that have performed at both Honey Groove and PhazeFest, the long-time LGBT music festival born out of now-shuttered D.C. lesbian bar Phase 1, but says Honey Groove is “totally different.”
“That’s more centered around punk and we’re not that at all,” Deschamps says. “It’s really great that PhazeFest exists, but they have a very different clientele.”
About 70 artists have performed at the event so far and Deschamps says she and her team are committed to working exclusively with small, local and/or queer-owned business to “bring the festival to life.”
“It’s definitely important to have these spaces in general but even more now with everything going on in the world and we’re not really sure how queer people will be protected,” Deschamps says. “It’s important to celebrate each other, to come together. … It all starts with us.”
Be Steadwell calls Honey Groove ‘comfortable and safe’
D.C.-based queer pop singer/songwriter Be Steadwell is known for her live performances with a loop pedal which allows her to add layers of vocals and “build a song live,” as she puts it.
“It’s sort of like a one-person a cappella group,” says Steadwell, 30.
This is her third year performing at Honey Groove. She heard about it as it was being organized the first year from community buzz. She says returning each year is “a joy.”
“It’s just been such a collection of love and energy and joy,” Steadwell says. “It’s a very joyful space. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s unlike any other festival I’ve ever played or been to.”
Steadwell says D.C.’s queer women and lesbian communities are “very segregated unfortunately,” a trend she finds baffling. She guesses the Honey Groove audience the last two years was about 90 percent black whereas PhazeFest, which she’s also played, was more like 10 percent people of color.
Stylistically, Steadwell says Honey Groove attendees will encounter a wide variety of musical styles. She calls her own material “sort of pop music” and says there will be more punk-oriented, R&B, jazz/R&B and more represented. Asha Santee, Steadwell’s girlfriend of four years, will play drums on her set and for some of the other acts as well.
“I think Honey is necessary because we as queer people of color are marginalized in so many aspects of our lives and in culture, it’s just great to be able to have a space where these artists and musicians are placed at the center of the narrative,” Steadwell says. “It’s beautiful and exciting and I think everyone who comes to Honey Groove … they see the generosity and love that’s being shared and you don’t often get that. It just feels so comfortable and so safe.”