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After Orlando shootings, St. Pete Pride performers resolve to keep party vibe alive

Elliott Yamin won't lie: He had second thoughts about coming to St. Pete Pride.

First came the June 10 murder of The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie as she signed autographs after a concert in Orlando.

"That incident really hit close to home," said the American Idol Season 5 favorite, "because I started to think about the situations I've been in where, god forbid, that could have happened to me."

Then came the June 12 massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, an assault on the LGBT community that left Yamin so rattled he called to check on security at the Flamingo Resort, where he and fellow Idol finalist Blake Lewis are performing Saturday night.

"I had my reservations about even coming," said Yamin, who is straight. "I've never played a Pride event before. Knowing that there's still so many people out there who don't accept that lifestyle, and knowing that violence occurs sometimes, it's heartbreaking."

The Pulse shootings remain a big charcoal cloud hanging over what's normally a gorgeous rainbow tableau in St. Petersburg. Less than two weeks after the attack on Pulse, this weekend's St. Pete Pride, one of the largest LGBT gatherings in the country, will go on as planned, albeit with more security than ever before. The city will deploy extra police, both uniformed and undercover, and emergency responders will be on high alert.

But will performers feel up to performing?

The entertainment world has reacted to the Orlando tragedy in different ways. Nearly every celebrity on social media has spoken out about the shootings with a mix of sorrow and outrage. Some have stepped up with donations or special performances. This week, Orlando was slated to host fund-raising concerts by country acts like Cole Swindell and Billy Currington and rockers Imagine Dragons and Nate Reuss, with all proceeds going to victims and families through the OneOrlando Fund.

But that doesn't mean some performers aren't nervous. During a June 15 concert in Charleston, S.C., the band Death Cab For Cutie walked off stage amid technical difficulties and fan rowdiness, in part because, as bassist Nick Harmer told Billboard: "We're all feeling a little skittish after Orlando."

St. Pete Pride's signature entertainment event is Friday's SP2 Concert with dance singer Deborah Cox on an outdoor stage at 2600 Central Avenue. Jennifer Real, who's also performing there, said that immediately after the shooting, she was struck with an unexpected "fear about performing in gay clubs," which she often does.

"I think all of us thought, Oh my god, I'm never going to do this again," Real said. "But I'm not going to let fear overwhelm or overcome me."

St. Petersburg band Karmic Tattoo is also on the bill, playing a Pride event for the 10th time. Even though singer Lisa Noe has friends who lost friends at Pulse, she hasn't wavered about performing.

"I haven't really felt nervous about it other than just the normal performance anxiety that I get before a show," said singer Lisa Noe. "I choose not to live in fear of things that may happen. I like to deal with the things that are happening."

Both Real and Noe expect the mood at this year's Pride to feel significantly different from last year's event, which came on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples could legally marry.

"I feel like there's going to be more kindness, more people reaching out to give each other hugs," Real said. "I see it as people coming together and being stronger."

Noe said she'll probably address the tragedy from the stage, as many performers have, often in touching ways. On June 15, Brendon Urie of the band Panic at the Disco came out for his band's June 15 set at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre draped in a rainbow flag. Two nights later at the same venue, Keith Urban opened his encore with a moving solo rendition of U2's One, dedicated to the victims in Orlando.

"Although I didn't know anybody in that horrific incident, I did, because they're just guys and girls, brothers and sisters," Urban said. "They had dreams, hopes, plans, just like every one of us."

Another American Idol alum, Blake Lewis — who's also straight but has a passionate gay following — will take part in the St. Pete Pride parade before his and Yamin's gig at the Flamingo. He's not at all worried about security.

"I can't be fearful of hypothetical situations, which a lot of Americans seem to do," said Lewis, who performed at Pulse a few years back. "Immediately I was like, Bring me there now. I'll go sing for them now. Lightning doesn't strike twice."

Yamin's internal debate about whether to keep his Flamingo gig didn't last long. He said he's even flying in early to hang with some gay relatives who are coming from Fort Lauderdale.

"I'm honored to be part of this event," he said. "There's no time like the present to stand up for those in that community, and maybe do what little part I have in this to bring joy for a half an hour to someone who's coming out to listen to some music and enjoy all the festivities."

The same is true for Lewis.

"All I want to do is hug all the victims and do whatever I can, whatever it is, to put a little light in their life," he said. "If I can put a little sparkle in their day and reach out and sing some songs, it makes my heart happy."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

St. Pete Pride Festival

The daytime festival from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday expands another block covering Central Avenue from 22nd Street to 28th Street with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, a wellness pavilion, art and food. Free. Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. stpetepride.com.

St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade

St. Pete Pride's popular parade hits the streets of Grand Central after sunset lead by Grand Marshalls Miguel Fuller (host of the Miguel Show on Hot 101.5), Kathy Castor (U.S. Representative for Florida's 14th congressional district), Annie Hiotis (Carlton Fields), Lucas Wehle (transgender activist) and the Tampa Bay International Film and Arts Festival. The block party, on Central between 22nd and 27th streets, brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 5 p.m. Saturday. The parade steps off at sunset, about 8:30 p.m. Free, but for $40-$1,500 you can buy exclusive "glamstand" seats. St. Pete Pride Promenade Route, Central Avenue and 28th Street S, St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 

Blake Lewis and Elliott Yamin

The American Idol singers will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Flamingo Resort, 4601 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. $15 and up. (727) 321-5000, flamingofla.com.

Other events

Big Pride Brunch: Before heading out to the St. Pete Pride vendors festival, indulge in an a la carte brunch menu including banana maple pancakes with fruit and vanilla creme, cinnamon rolls, mimosas, bellinis and Bloody Marias. Regular menu also available. Menu prices vary. Cider Press Cafe, 601 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 914-7222. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Friends of Dorothy: Music From the Land of Oz: This LGBTQ Pride Month event features singer-actors Sara DelBeato and Michael Raabe presenting musical selections from The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, Wicked and other Oz-related music. Benefits the LGBTQ Resource Center. $15. Catherine Hickman Theater, 5501 27th Ave. S, Gulfport. (727) 893-1074. 7 p.m. Tuesday.

LGBTQ Pride Lunch and Learn: Gulfport author Susan Gore discusses "Religious Freedom Restoration Act Madness and the Law of Unintended Consequences." Free. Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave. S, Gulfport. (727) 893-1074. Noon today.

Pre-Pride SP2 Concert: DJ L-Mo, Karmic Tatoo and Jennifer Real warm up the crowd before Deborah Cox takes the stage for the St. Pete Pride premiere concert. Purchase a pit pass for a guaranteed spot right in front of the stage. Free, $20 pit pass. St. Pete Pride Promenade Route, Central Avenue and 28th Street S, St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 7-11 p.m. Friday.

Pride Shabbat: In conjunction with St. Pete Pride, Congregation B'nai Isreal holds a Shabbat service celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning Jews, friends and family. Kevin Lane, co-founder of Freefall Theatre, serves as guest speaker and cantor Jonathan Schultz leads singing. Everyone receives custom designed Pride skullcaps and a cocktail oneg reception follows the service. Free. Congregation B'nai Israel, 300 58th St. N, St. Petersburg. (239) 826-0954. 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Pride With No Labels: Mayven Missbehavin hosts the 21 and older only red carpet St. Pete Pride event with performances by Aaron Bonk, Vita DeVoid, Gemma Lux and Anita Waistline; go-go dancers; music by DJ L-Mo; and a celebrity appearance by Zuly Ramos of The Bad Girls Club. Includes one free shot and valet parking. $10. Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg, 123 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg. (813) 438-3537. 10 p.m. Friday.

St. Pete Pride Kick-Off Rooftop Party: Kick off Pride at this party with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway, live entertainment and Cabana Boy cocktails. No cover. Castile Restaurant and 360 Rooftop Bar at Hotel Zamora, 3701 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 342-0084. 8-10 p.m. today.

St. Pete Pride Run: The 5K run through Gulfport includes a finish line party with beer, live entertainment and DJ dancing in the streets. $25. Gulfport Casino, 5500 Shore Blvd. S, Gulfport. (727) 342-0084. 7:30-11 a.m. Saturday.

Thinking About Pride: A series of LGBT and St. Pete Pride related short films followed by a feature length film. Free. University of South Florida Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, 780 Third St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 873-4407. Noon-3 p.m. Friday.

Drag Queen Bingo: Drag queens call the numbers for 10 games of flamboyant bingo. Benefits the Healing Heroes Network. $10. Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille, 28910 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater. (727) 400-6996. 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Gay Girls in Damascus: In this Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival showing, the kidnapping of a Syrian blogger turns out to be a hoax. Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (813) 879-4220. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

After Orlando shootings, St. Pete Pride performers resolve to keep party vibe alive 06/21/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 6:07pm]
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