All-Ages Knoxville Show Commemorates Stonewall Riots

In addition to all the PrideFest goodness and the events leading up to it, Knoxville will be treated to a unique lineup of musicians and spoken-word artists at Friday night’s Stonewall 40 concert.

The all-ages show, from 6-10 p.m. at the Catalyst, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that ushered in a new era for America’s LGBT equality movement. Event organizer Sonya Easterday, whose band Kamuy will also perform at the show, offers a brief—and colorful—history lesson:

“The Stonewall Inn was a mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village in the 1960s,” Easterday says. “It was, at the time, illegal to have a ‘gay’ bar, or to be gay for that matter, which resulted in lots of payoffs to authorities and lots of harassment and arrests. At 2 a.m. on June 28, 1969, as the bars were closing, there was a police raid at the Stonewall. The crowd from this bar, as well as surrounding bars, became agitated with the police brutality that was taking place and a riot ensued. The police—of which there were four initially—had to barricade themselves in the Stonewall while waiting for backup. The riots continued for the next three nights.”

Easterday wanted to commemorate Stonewall’s anniversary, and to give Knoxvillians a way to celebrate how far the LGBT community has come and to reflect on how far it still needs to go. As a musician, a concert seemed an obvious choice.

When Easterday began contacting bands and spoken-word performers to fill the show’s roster, she received an enthusiastic response. “The performers are local and all of them were immediately positive and supportive,” she says.

Stonewall 40’s musical lineup includes local pop/rock acts Senryu, Rumblytums (featuring Metro Pulse art director Travis Gray), the Moon Her Majesty, “Appalachian Gothic” songstress Leslie Woods, and ukulele virtuoso Madeline Ava. Spoken-word artists slated to perform are m.c. Black Atticus and poets Shonna Cole and Kari Hoffman.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Tennessee Equality Project, a Nashville-based group that advocates statewide for LGBT equality. “I decided to make it a fund-raiser because in order for equal civil rights to be granted to LGBT people, unfortunately, there is a lot of work that needs to be done and it costs money to fight these battles,” she says.

While the concert will benefit LGBT causes, Easterday stresses that the show is aimed at anyone who enjoys good music and poetry, regardless of orientation. “Most of the performers are straight and honestly, without the support of straight allies, the ability to obtain equal rights would be so much more difficult,” Easterday says.

“I’m looking forward to the variety,” says Cole. “Where else can you get slam poetry, ukulele, and alternative rock at the same show?”

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