A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, named Evan Westfal. He said, “Thanks for sharing your blog with the world,” and he directed me to his website where you can stream his music. He recently put out a new EP, called “Gay Pirates.” He says, “I was hearing a lot of love songs, but none of those love songs had any queer representation. I wanted a narrative that spoke to my identity as a gay man. So that is how gay pirates came to be. I describe the EP as a series of lamentations and exaltation of a very gay love.”
You can check it out here: Evan Westfal
The music is fun and catchy; the lyrics are full of stuff like coy promises and sweet deceits, treasure chests and booty, tight shirts, resiliency, and a “raging sea of hormones.” My favorite is probably the title track.
I asked him a couple of questions, because he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and because I was really curious what it’s like to live in Edmonton. He said,
If I had to explain Alberta to an American, I would say that, culturally, it’s the Texas of Canada. Politically Alberta is fairly conservative, and it’s also a Province that is rich in oil. A lot of our citizens are tradespeople that work on oil rigs. As for my city, Edmonton itself is a really cool city. A river valley runs through the centre of the city, it’s rich in wildlife and flora. The city has a fantastic pride centre, and lots of other queer organizations. To answer your questions regarding weather and topography, Edmonton is really cold in the winters, and really hot in the summers. You are correct, the surrounding areas are prairies.
The pride festival is really cool. Edmonton had it’s first parade in the 1990’s, and it was very small, and most of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. Flash forward to the millennium, and things have changed quite a bit. In the last few years our city hall has raised a pride flag, the Edmonton public school board was a marshall for the parade, and the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton raised the pride flag. Each year over 30’000 people attend the parade. This year the pride festival’s theme is “one pride many voices.” The festival says they’re taking strides to become more inclusive. I think this is a great approach, as pride could definitely stand to be more intersectional and welcoming.
I asked what his musical background was, and also what instruments he plays / does he collaborate? He said,
My background with music begins with my schooling. I am a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, it’s a musical theatre program in Victoria, British Columbia. I think you’ll notice some heavy influences of musical theatre in my songwriting. I then decided to focus on commercial contemporary music, I achieved that through matriculating at MacEwan University. As a musician I’ve had the opportunity to sing backing vocals for Josh Groban, to play for the opening ceremony for the Edmonton Pride Festival, I’ve performed with Opera Nuova (an Edmonton based opera company), and I’ve produced and performed in many cabarets. Right now I’m working on a music video for my song “Gay Pirates,” it should be out in a month or two. As for instrumentation, I play the piano and sing. On my track Gay Pirates, I wrote all the song, but I had some great musician’s record with me. I have to send a thank you to my drummer Julissa Bayer, guitar player Andrew Brostrom, and Bassist David Pollock.
He also mentioned that he volunteers with an outreach program called fYerfly, so I asked him to elaborate on that too:
fYrefly is a great program. The name is an initialism that stands for: fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah! You might notice the Y is capitalized, that’s because youth are the most important part. fYrefly originated as a summer leadership camp for LGBTTQ2SIA+ youth between the ages of 14-24. I attended the program as a teen, and it changed my life. For the first time in my life I got to be surrounded by people like me, I got to share a sense of camaraderie, and I got to feel pure acceptance. I loved the experience so much that I spent over a decade volunteering for fYrefly. Every year it’s a treat to see the difference the camp makes for youth.
I’m just going to repeat that acronym: “fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah!” Haha, I love that! Evan will be performing for the opening ceremony of the Edmonton Pride Festival, coming up on June 10th. If you’re able to get up there – I just looked it up, and for me, it’s 34 hours away, by car! It’s up there!
Also, related, here’s one of the first posts I ever wrote – an experience I had at a wedding:
Effeminate Pirate Orders Fruity Drink on Party Boat
Just like in past years, I know I’m behind on the pride-related post, but this really is when our city celebrates pride. This year’s theme was “Let’s Make Magic.” My partner and I took that concept and twisted and twirled it to suit us. She has a wand that a friend made, and she has lots of fun black clothes. She also has badass sword earrings and newish leg tattoos. I have this zebra print cowboy hat that I’ve worn a lot for drag performances, and recently it’s acquired a white plastic flower, but I don’t know from when or where. I also had an idea for a magic trick. Here’s some pictured from right before we biked to get down to the parade:
This year, we started out earlier than usual, and went to a friend’s house for a brunch party ahead of time. Three of them were wearing black matching short-shorts in overall form, with nothing underneath, plus loads of glitter and spray paint and face makeup. They had made incredible puppet-like creations to carry, and they planned to watch the parade and then jump in at the end. That sounded fun! But my spouse and I also wanted to march with her employer (a food co-op), like we had done last year. So we split our time half and half: after the party we went to find her group, and we did half of the parade with them. I handed out 300 coupons for $5 off a $25 dollar purchase. I love handing things out!
Then about half-way through, we jumped out and walked back to where our rouge group of friends were watching. Every time a dog walked by, a bunch of them would go pet him/her. And every time there was a gap in the parade, they’d all walk into the road to fill the space until the next group caught up. Once the last group passed by, they jumped in and started chanting, “The People, The People…” and urging other spectators to jump in and join. A lot of people did! The mass got larger and larger until we reached the end and people started dispersing. It was a blast! Usually in the parade, I’m with a small group, and it was really great to just get swept up in this energy.
Afterward, we decided not to go to the festival because of the admission cost and crowds. We met up with some of my spouses co-workers for pizza and beer. The following day though, we actually attended the picnic, which I haven’t done since I was a teenager, because we wanted to catch up with some friends. It was low-key. We saw some drag performances, which do not quite translate into a mostly sober, middle-of-the-day, middle-of-a-field environment. Haha.
This may have been the most fun I’ve had during pride in years. I think because we were with different people, throughout the weekend, and just because I was less stressed and anxious. With less anxiety, there’s more potential for fun! I love it! (Also, we were having a lot of fun with our costumes!!!
Here are some past posts about Pride:
I got this gem at a thrift store in 2000 or 2001. Back when you could still get old t-shirts for $2. I remember especially liking it because I never really thought that Kodak was known for their batteries. As if this t-shirt was an announcement to remind people that they should buy the batteries too, while they’re at it. I haven’t worn this in years, but I wore it all the time in college. I actually had it in a box of shirts I wanted to keep but were no longer in rotation. It’s coming back into rotation now, full force! Although, there is a hole in it, and it is one of the delicate ones that are getting pretty threadbare. So, we’ll see.
Oh, I also wore it in the pride parade in 2006, because I was going for every rainbow color in my outfit, and this fit the bill. Now I’m noticing some colors are more prominent than others: I could have been marching for McDonalds! (And Kodak, of course. …In 2006, the company was giving it’s best shot in the production of digital cameras, but by 2012 it filed for bankruptcy and phased out of that market. It’s still hanging in there in the printing and imaging fields, and it does still produce certain types of specialty film. I couldn’t find anything on the Kodak wikipedia page about batteries though!)
I’m realizing that I need to change the way I fold my shirts. They all have a crease down the middle (see top photo) that I need to get rid of, by learning how to do it like a pro. There are a bunch of videos on how to accomplish this in 2 seconds, like this:
I tried it a few years ago, but never got the hang of it. I feel a lot more motivated now though. It’s going to be fun to learn.
(One note about the upcoming week starting tomorrow – my spouse and I will be on vacation in MA and NH – I’ll be away from the internet. I love not going on the internet for long spans of time, but I will miss staying up-to-date with blogs!)
This post is part of a series about my t-shirt collection – now that I’ve had top surgery, I can wear them all again, all the time!
For more posts in this series (so far), see:
I know I’m behind on the celebratory Pride post – this really is when my city celebrates Pride. Why it’s not in June, I’m not sure. Yesterday was the parade and festival, and today is a picnic. There were some other events throughout last week too, but I wasn’t really in the loop. Usually we just march in the parade, whether it’s with an actual group, or just kind of infiltrating, doing our own thing.
We dressed up in fun outfits, like every year. I gotta say though, that personally, it’s losing its excitement. It used to be such a thrill. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I’ve done it so many times, but it’s just sort of meh, now. Nothing lately has felt exciting – maybe that’s part of rebounding from all I went through lately. I hope the world takes on a shimmer, once in a while, again soon…
This year, my partner’s employer (a food co-op) was in the parade, so we marched with them. They had 2 banners, some people dressed up in produce costumes, and a couple of shopping carts holding buckets of soapy solution to make giant bubbles with. And also a dog, riding in a cart. I handed out coupons for $5 off $25 purchase – we got rid of 600 coupons!
After the parade, we went and ate burritos and then came home to relax. We watched a documentary on Tig Notaro.
Then we went out to a bar for an event called BRAWL (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League). They sporadically hold events at different bars, and it’s always a fund raiser for some organization. This time it was the gay alliance. Lady arm wrestlers take on a whole persona and have an entourage go out into the crowd and drum up bets for who will win. There are two winners – the strongest arm, and the one who raises the most $$. They had names like Malice in Wonderland and Beth Amphetamine. It was pretty entertaining. There was an announcer, referee, and DJ to enhance the hype.
I guess it was cool to see some people while we were marching and to go out to an event. I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I asked my partner about it, and she said I haven’t seemed very engaged lately. I agree with that. When will that return? She says I should just keep putting myself out there and going through the motions. I agree with that too.
I know that pride month is long over, and it would appear I’m quite a bit behind, but this actually is when Pride happens in our city. I’d been having a glum summer so far, and this day really helped lift my spirits. My partner and I marched in the parade with the local gay alliance (the one I’ve been doing office volunteer work with, since January).
I woke up early to help create 8 balloon “backpacks” to be worn at the parade. I didn’t end up claiming one to wear, so my partner and I decided to create our own balloon backpacks, you know, so we would fit in better.
As we marched, I seriously could feet the pride sinking in, for real. The parade followed a new route this year, and it was a definite improvement. Lots of people cheering, protesters much less prominent (for whatever reason.) My partner and I held hands for a while! I said hi to and hugged other people I knew from the alliance. It feels super great to know I’m starting to become more connected to this community, a little bit.
This was not my first time marching in the parade, not by a long shot. But it was my first time marching with a group, legit. For about 7 years straight, I would merge in with the parade to do my own thing, sometimes with my partner and friends, sometimes just with my drag buddy. In my own way, I was protesting the fact that groups have to pay for a spot. I strongly felt that, even though I didn’t belong to a group, I belonged in the parade. It was always kinda chaotic. Frenzied, manic energy (sort of forced, sometimes).
We walked with boomboxes playing our fave song (not the club hits.) We rode our bikes. We handed out flyers for radical queer reading groups, for performance nights, for the anarchist community space. We gave away candy and hugs. We hoola-hooped, danced, ALWAYS created huge gaps between ourselves and those in front of us (accidentally) because we were interacting with the crowds so much which caused us to delay walking forward, haha. At some point, it started to feel exhausting, but I kept thinking I had to keep doing it – it was a tradition. Last year, I let myself off the hook, didn’t even attend. This year, we’re figuring out different ways to do it. It felt pretty great.
I read some reflections on Pride this past month – that it’s corporate, that it’s not inclusive, that it’s not worthwhile or necessary any longer. If, by chance you do feel this way, next year, consider making Pride your own by merging into the thick of it, or streaking through the middle of it, and giving voice to whatever it is you feel you want to say. Be the people you feel you’re not seeing!