Underneath a tent outside of The Clarice, the sounds of a soulful voice layered with base could be heard in the distance.
Audience members swayed their heads to the rhythms of the music almost entirely produced from the mouth of artist Be Steadwell.
The warmth of a Friday evening and a setting sun enhanced Steadwell’s inviting atmosphere during her NextNOW performance.
“When I heard queer pop I knew it was something I can relate to,” said Patrice Griffin, a Baltimore resident who attended the show with her girlfriend.“That’s what attracted me to her music. I felt like I know her because of my lifestyle.”
Steadwell identifies as queer herself and told the audience she wanted to make music for individuals like her.
“I qualify myself that way because as a woman who loves women I really love songs that I can identify all the way. I don’t have to leave my identity at the door,” Steadwell said before starting off her love song, Tickle.
As Steadwell laughed with the crowd, talking to members of the audience and even bringing Testudo onto the stage, she maintained her strong stage presence both with her charming personality and music. With a loop pedal, a piano and the assistance of Asha Santee, Steadwell’s voice enchanted the entire tent.
“It’s all her,” Katie Mullen, sophomore biology major, said as she described Steadwell’s performance.
“It’s her song messages and her actual voice that makes up everything,” she said.
With the help of her loop pedal, Steadwell created an entire band as she repeated her voice and beatboxing. Even as she performed covers, she transformed songs into her own to such a point that her rendition of Pony took the audience a moment to catch on until they started to sing quietly with her.
Steadwell switched from soft and soulful to haunting and heavy, keeping her audience on their toes as they tried to anticipate what she would play next.
“It’s very moving and I can really get into the music,” Connie Yu, a freshman elementary education major, said.
Yu first started attending NextNOW performances as part of her assignment for the arts scholars program but despite finishing her assignment, she decided to come back and watch Queer Pop. The description interested her enough to even bring along a friend, she said.
“I thought it would sound like regular music except it not being heteronormative but would be LGBT music,” Yu said.
Though Steadwell calls her music pop she includes more elements from folk, jazz, R&B and soul, Steadwell said.
But she did like focusing on the word pop.
“But when I say pop I mean it’s accessible. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s relatable. Everybody deserves pop music and that’s why I call it queer pop,” Steadwell said. “I want queer pop to be able to feel like we have our own pop music. We can hear a song and not change the pronouns to fit.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Be Steadwell.
Naomi Harris is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.