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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin

Pictured Nedra Johnson, Anthony Whitaker and Shelley Mille, and Jill Sobule at Queer Is Folk.

Getting the Folk 'Out'

On Saturday, May 21, Scott Free is assembling a bounty of talent for the Queer is Folk Festival at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Remaining within folk's tradition, the music will reveal the gay experience and personalized stories of growing up differently. The evening will be showcasing some of the principal gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered artists in the music community.

Just don't except the Friends character Phoebe to be singing off key about her cat in a coffeeshop. While folk music has some pretenses, the Queer is Folk Festival embodies an arsenal with guitars in tow, but delivered in a pop, even an experimental vein.

Chicago's Scott Free conceptualized this event with the Old Town School of Folk Music in mind, noting the show is really about the venue, whose nature and classes impressed him. However, with a sense of something missing, Free felt like a queer show was needed there. When asked whether he would consider bringing the show to other cities, he cannot imagine it not being at this Lincoln Square site and the show would lose its effect elsewhere. Based on the name of the eyebrow-raising Showtime series, Scott Free christened his show with a sense of humor.

This festival will grant the performers great exposure, especially in a time when gay artists are being cast aside by major labels. Free also admits his intent on having the community recognizing its own musicians and its own uniqueness. Most attending the Queer is Folk Festival do not know who all of the acts are, but the show's reputation is based on quality music.

Jill Sobule, best known for her breakout hit 'I Kissed a Girl' and her song 'Supermodel' on the Clueless soundtrack, will be one of the artists performing. Scott particularly enjoys her honesty and how she presents herself in an exposed yet fun manner.

While having many influences, Nedra Johnson will be bringing her special blend of blues and R&B with folk. Her acclaimed debut 'Testify' boasts her craft with lyrics. Also from New York like Johnson, Dudley Saunders fuses his form of folk with jazz and experimentalism.

In between making pride stops and finishing up her next album, transgendered artist Namoli Brennet has a habit of leaving her audience in a fascinated awe with her lyrics and openness. Veteran act of Chicago's Homolatte series, Coat with Libby Reed, and Windy City duo Anthony Whitaker and Shelley Miller round out the line-up for the Folk Festival.

Not only is he organizing the event, but Scott Free will be one of the performers there as well. He has been nominated for two Outmusic Awards, including song of the year for 'Another Day of the Cruelty' and for Out Artist of the Year.

The independently released 2004 album 'They Call Me Mr. Free,' has Scott Free remembering the bleak days when AIDS was on the rise without government funding during 'Ronald Reagan's Funeral' and then he rewrites the history of the Beatles with 'John Loved Paul.' Wit and clever lyrics run throughout, however, the standout track is 'Another Day of the Cruelty,' in which Mr. Free takes on the controversial rapper Eminem's vocal style and sound. Instead of ranting like the 9 Mile Star, Free voices the unjust neglect and brutality a particular gay youth suffers.

The Queer is Folk Music Festival will be benefiting TYRA ( Trans Youth Resource & Advocacy ) , a drop-in center in Lakeview geared to transgendered adolescents and youths questioning their gender identity. Scott's work is geared toward the antagonism gay youth face, wanting to focus energies on supporting youth, especially the transgendered.

Scott Free also hosts a weekly queer performance forum Homolatte at Marrakech Expresso in Ravenswood.

Prior to the Queer is Folk Festival, there will be a wine reception at 6:30. Tickets for the event are available through and at the Old Town School of Folk Music, ( 773 ) 728-6000. Also see the Web site Article Link Here

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