At Seattle Pride Parade last June, a boisterous crowd of red-and-black uniformed musicians marched down Fourth Avenue. Well, they were marching half the time, at least—the other half they spent dancing, skipping, and spinning with synchronized precision. Rainbow accents adorned their uniforms. A color guard spun elaborate flags, to the audience’s oohs and ahhs.
The marching band is just one of many ensembles at Seattle’s Rainbow City Performing Arts, an organization that provides queer and allied musicians and artists with opportunities to perform in various settings around Seattle.
For years, Seattle’s LGBTQ community has thrived. Drag queens strut down Broadway. ReBar and Queer/Bar anchor the nightlife scene. For years, Pioneer Square’s Casino was the go-to same-sex dancehall.
But for all the queer and allied band geeks out there, Rainbow City bridges the gap of queer advocacy in music ensembles. The band is part of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association, a group of over 40 primarily-LGBTQ ensembles across the country. But as the only one in Washington State, Rainbow City may be the only exclusively devoted space for these performers.
Musicians from every professional walk of life, from attorneys to doctors to educators, come together at Rainbow City to perform as a tight-knit family, says artistic director Timothy V. Norris Jr. “They are artists when they come into that space. They have an opportunity to truly express themselves in an open environment, where we embrace fear and embrace taking risks."
The marching band performs throughout the summer, but its best gig might be playing as Reign City Riot, the brass and drumline band that hypes up Reign FC fans at Cheney Stadium. The music doesn’t stop when marching season is over: A 90-person concert ensemble rehearses weekly year round to perform concerts with Purple Passion, Rainbow City’s jazz swing band. And this Saturday, at the Broadway Performance Hall, the band plays an interactive puzzle and game-themed concert.
In addition to hiding crossword puzzle answers in each song and incorporating Super Mario Brothers props on stage, the band will play a musical rendition of the classic baseball poem, “Casey at the Bat.” In lieu of having a historically white, male narrator, audience members will hear the tale of Casey’s woeful strikeout from a woman of color, Lakewood reverend Amy Roon.
After Saturday’s concert, Norris plans to continue creating spaces for musicians of all backgrounds with a spring concert called Voices for Change. “[We’re] creating and building a community so that we are doing more than just living silently without talking to one another as neighbors,” he says.
Jan 25, Broadway Performance Hall, $25