Rachel Devitt

Rachel Devitt is a writer and editor who currently writes and edits predominantly in the digital media world for outlets like Rhapsody and Google Music. She also has a PhD in ethnomusicology and is working on a book about pop music in queer performance art. She plays the flute in Chicago's LGBT marching band (and realizes the futility of said endeavor).



"I Love a (Pride) Parade: Queer Community-Building, Temporary Spaces and Politicized Kitsch among LGBT Marching Bands"

Sandwiched between a flashy, Absolut Vodka-sponsored bar float and the local grocery store chain’s giant parade version of a shopping cart, Lakeside Pride Freedom Band, Chicago’s LGBT marching band, thunders down the street of the city’s annual Pride parade like a modern-day, pink Polo-shirted janissary band. The crowd whoops, the color guard tosses their rifles in the air, and the band breaks into their show piece: a Sousafied version of “Eleanor Rigby.” Their performance is at once a part of a historical annual celebration that commemorates the birth of the gay and lesbian rights movement and a response to the commercialism that many community members feel has turned Pride celebrations across the country into displays of crass consumerism.

This paper will examine the ways in which LGBT marching bands use popular song to bridge these two impressions of Pride, perpetuating the party but also realigning it with ideologies of community building and social activism. I argue that LGBT marching bands use the volume of their sound to participate in the project to making temporary queer spaces out of public city spaces, juxtaposing the pseudo-regimentation of marching band traditions with the carnivalesque qualities of Pride celebrations. At the same time, I explore the ways these queer community bands use aesthetics of camp, kitsch, and nostalgia to claim sonic space in a popular music culture that often marginalizes them.