New Orleans has produced many popular LGBT musicians over the years, including historical figures like piano legend Tony Jackson and R&B crooner James Booker (a.k.a. “The Black Liberace”), as well as contemporary artists like superstar Frank Ocean, Grammy-nominated folk singer Mary Gauthier, and the Queen of Bounce herself Big Freedia. The city’s welcoming atmosphere, genuine appreciation for the arts, and the fact that there’s a performance venue on nearly every corner, makes it an ideal place to be a working LGBT musician. And there’s always new, emerging musicians to keep an eye out for. In the meantime, we rounded up six local, LGBT musicians you should know.
Winner of the 2017 Big Easy Award for Best Emerging Artist and Best Funk Band, Sexy Dex and The Fresh mixes a range of musical genres, from electronic to funk to new wave to pop. Fronted by lead singer Dexter Gilmore, the band released its most recent EP, Don’t Play My B Sides, in October 2018 and can frequently be seen around town, including at Gasa Gasa and Three Keys at the Ace Hotel.
Named Best Rap and Bounce Artist in the 2018 Big Easy Awards, this proud Louisiana native has been making a name for herself beyond just her hometown, performing alongside artists like Big Freedia, Peaches, and Le1f, as well as being featured in Diplo’s web series “Blow Your Head.” She’s a regular performer at Poor Boys, and has appeared on stage at One Eyed Jacks and the Music Box Village.
Genderfluid queer artist Ruth Mascelli (a.k.a. Psychic Hotline) mixes punk, goth, and techno to create music with a message. Their brand new EP, Heat Index, released in July 2019, is about the changing environment and Louisiana’s vanishing coast. They have brought their unique brand of performance art to places like Poor Boys and The Mudlark, as well as to a number of warehouse parties and generator shows.
The beloved performer is more than just a local drag act, taking things one step further by singing and playing the guitar and drums. Vanessa performs weekly at Buffa’s, Kajun’s Pub, and the Golden Lantern, where she can be heard singing original songs and acoustic covers by everyone from Lady Gaga to Michael Jackson and Tom Petty.
Singer/songwriter Joy Clark has been making music since she was a little girl growing up on the Westbank. Since then she has played hundreds of shows at some of the most popular venues around town, including Chickie Wah Wah, Buffa’s, Tipitina’s, Southern Rep Theatre, Cafe Negril, and Cafe Istanbul. She has also performed alongside Cyril Neville at French Quarter Fest and appeared on stage at Jazz Fest.
The self-proclaimed “folk rock diva” and rare bird is an absolute powerhouse behind the piano, blending jazz, folk, rock, soul, and gospel music. Some of the places where she’s performed include Siberia, Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, and the New Orleans Jazz Museum.