LGBT Music Fest Coming to Nashville Feb. 1-3

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Earlier this year, Chely Wright, country music’s first established, openly gay artist, told CBS News that Music Row passive-aggressively froze her out of its once-you’re-in-you’re-one-of-us social inner sanctum after she came out in 2010. “I'd love to see some real public support for the LGBT community from my industry,” Wright told the Scene in June, elaborating on her comments. “I am frustrated that no one wants to talk about LGBT equality.” While Wright’s plight is perhaps indicative of a country industry that’s slow to embrace, or even acknowledge, gay and lesbian lifestyles, an LGBT singer-songwriter festival is set to befall Music Row’s backyard early next year.

The LGBT Music Fest Nashville will debut at venues in the vicinity of Demonbreun and Division streets, Feb. 1-3, 2013. The multi-genre, multi-stage, weekend-long event will feature educational seminars on recording, publishing, song plugging, promotions and more, in addition to parties and performances for and from more than 400 artists, patrons and volunteers.

“I think the LGBT community is pretty energized,” festival founder Cornelius Robertson tells the Scene. “The [festival’s] overall goal is for LGBT music creators to network within the industry and expose themselves to the public. They really don’t have an event [for that]. This is Nashville. This is Music City. Why shouldn’t we have it?”

Robertson says LGBT Fest is essentially an extension of his two other festivals, The Nashville Songwriters Festival, which debuted at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in 2003 and now happens at venues like The Red Rooster and Best Western every summer, and the similar Independent Music Festival, which is set for October.

“I guess I’m gonna catch a little hell for it,” Robertson says of putting on and LGBT-friendly event. “It is a little controversial, and I hate to mix people’s feelings with other events, this does have its potential to be emotionally charged for some people, so I’m not sure how some may react; you know, like if you’re Chick-fil-A or something.”

Like the Songwriters Festival, the mostly volunteer-run LGBT Fest will center on a by-pant-seat communal atmosphere in which badge holders will also have the opportunity to perform. “We try to scratch together enough to have the event. It’s put together by volunteers and so forth. The educators are donating their time and talent, most of them,” Robertson says. “We’re mostly a music and music-related industry gathering. We’re not trying to get tons of general public, but with the LGBT-type event, we possibly could. So we might have to prepare for some of that.”

The festival’s home base will be the Music Row Best Western Lounge, where many of its events will also be held. At press time, other venue, performer and educator lineup info is still to be determined. Register to attend, volunteer or perform on the festival’s official site. General admission armbands are $20-$50 and festival badges are $125-$300.

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