SXSW 2017: 16 Queer Moments from the Annual Austin Festival
Once again the SXSW Conference and Festivals took over Austin, Texas with its plethora of films, live music, celebrity conversations and industry panel discussions. For 10 days, the vibe throughout the city was electric, with visitors from all corners of the globe scrambling around the city’s Downtown area, floating between the 10-day festival’s numerous venues. SXSW 2017 featured no shortage of queer programming, from films making their world premiere to discussions centered around the role LGBTs in everything from the entertainment industry to tech landscapes. Queer-favorite performers made the rounds as well, and messages of resistance and persistence were filtered throughout keynote speeches.
While we covered SXSW 2017 extensively throughout the course of the festival, there were so many inspiring and quotable queer moments that we’ve decided to gather them all below. Many of them we’d already covered in this guide to the festival’s best queer content assembled earlier this month, but many were of course on-the-fly moments we were able to catch real-time.
Here are 16 queer moments from this year’s SXSW 2017:
1. Bravo’s new reality series got people naked for the sport of it.
“The core of Stripped is pure Bravo,” says Shari Levine, EVP of Current Production for the cable network. The show, a “social experiment reality series,” is based on a hit Danish format in which participants go on a journey of self-reflection by forgoing all material possessions, including their clothes, for three weeks. SXSW 2017 saw Bravo host a pop-up during the festival’s first weekend, which meant guys (“hot social media influencers,” to be exact) ran around Austin in nothing but nude undies. We weren’t complaining. See more images of those hot guys here.
2. ‘Dear White People’ finally gave its gay character some serious love.
Justin Simien released his film Dear White People in 2014, and SXSW saw him unveil the first two episodes of his continuation, a Netflix series, to an eager crowd. Whereas Simien had been criticized after the film’s release for his treatment of the film’s only gay character, in the upcoming series Lionel gets the entire second episode to explore his sexuality (and journalistic ethics). Simien also revealed that his series’ “game-changing” fifth episode will be helmed by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. Read more about Dear White People‘s SXSW revelations here.
3. Atomic Blonde is the bisexual spy thriller we never knew we were craving.
This David Leitch-directed shoot ’em up movie had its world premiere during SXSW 2017, and Leitch, Charlize Theron and James McAvoy came out to present it. Theron plays MI6 super-spy Lorraine Broughton, who in between kicking serious ass (and getting hers kicked, too) leaves time to sex up a rather hot French spy named Sandrine. Check out “5 Things to Know About Atomic Blonde” here.
4. Patti Smith broke it down for Rooney Mara.
The film festival component of SXSW 2017 opened with Song to Song, which follows four people against the backdrop of Austin’s indie music scene. The film itself is chock-full of star cameos, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Florence and the Machine, the Black Lips and Lykke Li. Our favorite moment, though, features the ultimate empowering female punk-rocker Patti Smith. Watch a clip in which she imparts wisdom about art, life, loss and love to actress Rooney Mara here.
5. The guys who run Twitter accounts uncovering free booze, food and fun at SXSW are great (gay) resources.
Anyone serious about scoring free food or booze at SXSW knows to follow @thefreenoms and @OpenBarATX, two Twitter accounts that help freeloaders and locals keep their bellies full. What many people don’t realize is that the guys behind the accounts happen to be gay. We spoke to them about creating the accounts, that time SXSW threatened to sue them and the pressures of keeping everyone drunk and happy. Check it out here.
6. Gays love horror films, and SXW had sneak peeks of three great ones.
At this year’s SXSW, Annabelle 2 (release date Aug. 11), the remake of Stephen King’s It (release date Sept. 8) and Alien: Covenant (May 19) were all previewed with sneak peeks, the last of which was a total surprise. During a revival screening of Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien, the director — along with cast members Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride and Michael Fassbender — presented three scenes totaling 15 minutes to theatergoers. A panel called “Face Your Fears: An Exclusive First Look & Filmmaker Discussion” the next day treated horror fans to teasers of Annabelle 2 and It. Read more about the content of those teasers here.
7. Marc Jacobs recalled his infamous naked Instagram snafu.
Remember in 2015 when fashion designer Marc Jacobs accidentally posted a pic of his butt and penis on Instagram for the entire world to see? Well, it came up once again during day four of SXSW 2017 during a conversation dubbed “The Fashion Designer in the Age of Social Media” in which Jacobs chatted with Vogue‘s Creative Digital Director Sally Singer. Read more about their discussion here.
8. The festival came out against bathroom bills and shamed ‘unwelcoming’ states.
During a keynote speech, Jessica Shortall, managing director of Texas Competes — a coalition of 1,200 Texas businesses opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation — spoke against the state’s transphobic bathroom bill. Even better, she was sure to note that if a state’s brand is discriminatory, it can hurt that state’s economy. Read more about her keynote address here.
9. Kesha opened up about online bullying and dropped hints about her much-anticipated new music.
Day five’s conversation with the world-famous pop star never did turn to her much-publicized legal battles with producer Dr. Luke, but those in attendance were treated to some insightful stuff. Not only did the pop artist open up about online bullying and her past struggles with eating disorders, but apparently she’s written 70-80 songs (!) for her upcoming new music project, which she says has country influences. (“It’s not necessarily a county record. I fucking love pop music — it’s innately what comes out of me. It’s fun. But I’ve gone back to the storytelling element of country music.”) Read more about what Kesha had to say here.
10. An artsy doc about growing up gay in Russia won the Grand Jury Award.
Most people know gay director Wes Hurley for his campy melodrama web series Capitol Hill, but the young director dropped his comic schtick to direct Small Potato, an autobiographical short documentary that retells the story of how he and his mail-order bride mother emigrated from Russia to America. The film uses digital projections, personal interviews with Hurley and his mom, clips of vintage porn and even has a queer twist. The award and the film itself portend great things from to come from Hurley and co-director/cinematographer Nathan Miller. —Daniel Villarreal
11. “The Netflix for the LGBTQ Community” received a standing ovation.
Damian Pelliccione reportedly received a standing ovation after introducing himself at a SXSW interactive panel on video streaming during the festival’s first weekend. That’s because he and his three friends are the founders of Revry, a streaming video app purely for LGBTQ shows and movies. It’s now available in 70 countries with English-language and international queer content and their first exclusive series, Gayborhood. —D.V.
12. PWR BTTM performed the best set of their career.
When queer punk rock duo PWR BTTM first unveiled their music a few years back, roughly half the people loved it and the other half rolled their eyes, chalking up their name to a cheeky marketing gimmick. But that’s all changed: The duo has expanded into a fourgy, and critics and recording professionals agree their Wednesday night set at Stubb’s BBQ was one of the best in their career — complete with sloppily applied glitter makeup, frank banter about the political power of music and requisite hilarity as they destroyed one of their own stage costumes. Luckily, you can watch the entire beautiful mess for free. PWR BTTM’s new album, Pageant, comes out May 12. —D.V.
13. Queer side-festivals Stargayzer, Y’all or Nothing and Lesbian Wedding added queer shine to SXSW Music.
Anyone seeking openly queer music at SXSW 2017 didn’t have to look very hard thanks to Austin’s gay-friendly local tabloid, The Austin Chronicle, which spread word of the numerous side-festivals featuring LGBTQ musicians. In addition to SXSW’s official lineup of queer artists, there were also unofficial side-festivals like TheRepubliqFest 2017, Stargayzer, Y’all or Nothing, Lesbian Wedding and Phone Home, each happening on a different day and each filled with killer artists like Christeene, Saturn Rising, Thelma and the Sleaze, Tom Boi, Aye Nako and many more. Queer music podcast Homoground also held court at many of the side-festivals in its perpetual quest to spread queer music to the masses. —D.V.
14. Queer rockers and allies tackled sexual and gender-based harassment in music venues.
An estimated 65% of women and 25% of men have experienced harassment, and these numbers go up for transgender people, Muslims and other women of color. Now imagine those same numbers and people in a dark, crowded music venue serving up lots of alcohol and hard rock — you can understand why Jessica Raven and her SXSW co-panelists presented a discussion entitled “Safe Space to Rock: Combating Harassment in Music.” Raven is co-director of the Safe Bars program that teaches bar staff to recognize and respond to harassment. The panelists stressed that everyone at a music venue should learn to recognize signs of harassment and de-escalation strategies and should communicate openly about bands, venue personnel and patrons who facilitate harassment. —D.V.
15. Lana Del Rey performed her first Apple Music Showcase at SXSW.
On the festival’s second Friday, Lana Del Rey, the songstress who “sings seriously about trivial things,” gave her first live performance at an Apple Music showcase. She played “Love,” a song off her upcoming collaboration album, and left without an encore despite the crowd’s clamor for “one more song!” Fans can see pics of Del Rey’s breathtaking performance and hear her performance of “Love” from her SXSW appearance. —D.V.
16. Todrick Hall says “We need to tell the stories that we want to hear.”
The YouTube star came to Austin to premiere his documentary Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall, and we were able to get some alone time with him to discuss the film and his meteoric success. He also touched on the reality of “casting couch” situations in Hollywood. “Luckily,” he says, “I did not do anything that I was not proud of. With the morals that my mom instilled in me, I just didn’t think that it was a road that I should go down and not something that I should do.” Read our full interview with Todrick Hall here. —D.V.
(Featured image courtesy of SXSW)