Regional Music Preview: LUSCIOUS QUEER MUSIC FESTIVAL (Saratoga Springs Retreat in Upper Lake, CA)

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by Tony Frankel on August 19, 2014

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


It’s one of those events that seemingly come out of nowhere; a happy collision of music, community, camping, and nature that will no doubt cause grief among those who heard about it after the fact. From August 22-24, 2014, the Saratoga Springs matt-alberRetreat Center will be hosting the first and hopefully annual Luscious Queer Music Festival.

This is a fairly major event with 22 acts totaling more than 50 artists on a main stage: An amazing array of queer musicians and comedians will perform throughout the afternoon and evening from Friday at 4:00 until Sunday at 4:30 (the fabulously funny Marga Gomez is the festival’s main MC). Eclectic genres of music include singer/songwriter, rock, electronic pop, soul and funk, and experimental punk rock. And naturally what fabulous shin-dig would be complete without dance parties? Various DJs will spin selections varying from old-school classic soul and pop to house and techno centering on Bay Area underground music. I can already feel the energy at the Comfort & Joy Afterglow party.

Cris WilliamsonSome of the industry’s most sensational, trail-blazing entertainers will be on hand. Sunday’s heartfelt closing concert offers women’s music pioneer Chris Williamson (her groundbreaking album, The Changer and the Changed, practically defined a movement); soul singer Gina Breedlove (“think Minnie Riperton meeting up with Dianne Reeves, having a prayer circle”); and composer and captivating live performer Holcombe Waller, known for his arresting, elastic vocals and subtle but knife-twisting folk and pop songwriting that dances with the elements around themes of nostalgia, intimacy, and the search for spiritual meaning.

Vicki RandleAlso expect the folk who defy labels. I promise unforgettable times from the trans-sensational, trans-genre artist Justin Vivian Bond (of Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway and Shortbus fame); and the powerfully vulnerable activist, singer, and spoken word poet Mary Lambert.

The line-up is phenomenal, but I’m especially looking forward to the sweet and soulful Matt Alber; lead singer and guitarist for the brash, unapologetically out gay rock band Pansy Division, Jon Ginoli; singer-songwriter Karmen Buttler (hear two of her singles here); gentle folk artist Melanie Demore (check out these terrific tracks); and Skip The Needle featuring former Tonight Show band member Vicki Randle (“if Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Chrissie Hynde and Chaka cloned a baby, this would be the result”).

Saratoga Springs Retreat CenterThis is also an opportunity to hear new kinds of music curated specifically for the LGBT community, but anyone is welcome. Regardless of the genre, it will be amazing music.

Participants can enjoy this celebration of GLBT life in many ways. You can get a day pass, stay for one or two nights, or make it a gaycation and grab a weekend admission which grants access to all performances and dances, and includes use of the pool, hot-tub, and hiking-trails (passes begin at $45).

LusciousSchedule-2104-webThe party starts on Friday afternoon when campers set up on this clean, extensive 260-acre property nestled in a gorgeous, sheltered valley in the Clear Lake resort area between Sacramento and Mendocino, about two and a half hours north of San Francisco (RVs are also cool, but no hook-ups). There are various first-come, first-serve camping areas to choose from: You can be close to the central areas of Saratoga Springs or in a more remote and quiet spot, in the shade or in the sun, with plenty of showers and restrooms nearby. There are indoor accommodations on the property, but most have been reserved already by a very accommodating staff and the talent. A few remaining VIP packages include cabins and organic gourmet meals. Even if organizers reach the maximum of 1000 participants, it will never feel crowded.

gina-breedloveFires are prohibited due to drought conditions, but why cook? Bring those coolers and P+J sandwiches or purchase coffee, beer, wine, and affordable eats from on-site food vendors. You can purchase an in-and-out pass if you simply must go to an all-you-can-eat buffet or find indoor lodging minutes from the entrance to the Retreat. But how could you not camp at an event like this? And don’t forget to bring a blanket to sit or lay on while watching the stars on stage and off.

Astonishing performers. Stellar venue. Queer family. Nature. An antique 19th century round house mineral pool. An Open Mic taking place on a smaller stage. Meditation, star-gazing, relaxing. A Heart Lodge catering to a niche community. All while raising funds for LGBTQ people seeking asylum. Depending on its success, the Luscious Queer Music Festival may or may not return, so this just may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


photos courtesy of Luscious Queer Music Festival

Luscious Queer Music Festival
Saratoga Springs Retreat Center
10243 Saratoga Springs Road in Upper Lake, CA
August 22 – 24, 2014
for more info and tickets, visit

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