Wolf Trap is set to host their inaugural Out & About Festival with headliner Brandi Carlile and performances from Lucius, Rufus Wainwright and Yola.
When Andy Valenti, guitarist for the D.C. band Oh He Dead, learned they were booked for Wolf Trap’s Out & About Festival — where they would share the bill with artists including Yola, Lucius, Rufus Wainwright and headliner Brandi Carlile — he knew it was a big deal. He just didn’t realize how big of a deal until he shared the news with some friends in the queer community.
“I told them that we’re playing on a show with Brandi Carlile,” Valenti says. “They were like ‘Brandi f–king Carlile?’ They freaked out.”
There’s a lot to be excited about with the launch of Out & About. The brainchild of Sara Beesley, Wolf Trap’s Vice President, Program and Production, the two-day festival on June 24 and 25 will feature Carlile headlining both nights. The singer-songwriter has an extensive history with the venue, first appearing there as an opener for the Indigo Girls in 2008. According to Wolf Trap’s Vice President, Development, Sara Jaffe, the festival came together fairly quickly.
“Brandi Carlile is an amazing partner for Pride,” Jaffe says. “It was just a great fit that came to fruition.”
Scheduled for the final weekend of Pride Month, the festival gives members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the DMV (and beyond) as well as allies a chance to celebrate the human rights advancements that have been made over the years.
CEO and president Arvind Manocha says he hopes the festival provides an opportunity for all generations to celebrate who they are.
“It’s hard to imagine a festival like Out & About happening where I grew up in Ohio, but certainly it would have meant a lot to me, as I hope it does now to younger members of LGBTQ+ communities today,” he says. “Visibility is an important part of empowerment. Inclusivity has a powerful impact on self-confidence.”
The festival will utilize all three of the park’s stages, allowing attendees to experience the entire campus of Wolf Trap and its recent renovations.
“Part of the reason it’s ‘Out & About’ — I mean, the ‘out’ is fairly obvious — but we want people to get out and about in the park and to really do a walkabout to feel like they’re here for the day and experiencing all this,” Manocha says. “Which is why we’re activating the Meadow Stage. We will have something going on at the Children’s Theatre as well so people are encouraged to come through and walk through [the park].”
Singer-songwriter Wainwright, both a friend and colleague of Carlile’s, didn’t hesitate to jump on board when she reached out to him about the festival.
“I’ve had the pleasure of both hanging out and working with [Carlile]. She’s just fun to be around and I love singing with her,” Wainwright says. “When she does want me to be a part of something, it’s usually pretty special, so it was a quick ‘yes.’”
In a time when state and local governments are passing laws criminalizing the existence and expression of members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Wainwright — a member of Generation X who witnessed everything from the AIDS epidemic (and the government’s non-response) to the passing of the Respect for Marriage Act — hopes that Out & About will serve as a rallying cry for the community.
“I think we’re in a somewhat regressive stage,” Wainwright says. “It’s like we’re activists again, and we’re out there fighting for our rights once more.”
“When we create moments that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and our allies, it helps show people that it’s okay to be who they are, and that they are seen,” Manocha says. “Younger people, folks on the journey of coming out, and older members of the community who might still carry with them some of the hurt or fear they experienced growing up in less enlightened times will hopefully find joy and a measure of peace while surrounded by nature and listening to the artists on the bill.”
As one of the two local bands on the bill along with D.C. band Bad Moves, Valenti is honored to be part of the festival and its message.
“Our band has been aligned with the LGBTQ+ community and we’ve played Pride Festival twice before,” Valenti says. “We really value our friends in that community and want to do what we can to support and uplift what everyone’s doing.”
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA
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