Big Freedia might just be the most resilient, hardest-grinding artist alive. Over the past decade, the New Orleans-born-and-based bounce artist has withstood trumped-up criminal charges, family tragedy, and mixed audience reception to become a beloved international party host and MC. She’s been sampled by the queen of pop herself, Beyoncé, and Freedia can proudly boast of not only her career but also a six-season TV show and autobiography.
If anyone has perfected the art of grabbing an audience’s attention and never letting go, it’s Big Freedia.
She'll return to our shores this Saturday, March 31, to perform at Miami’s premier den of depravity, Churchill’s Pub. This weekend’s show marks a quick turnaround for the ever-busy artist, who performed in Miami last October as support for LCD Soundsystem’s show at the James L. Knight Center.
“It was an amazing tour. We connected and we jelled really well,” Freedia says of opening for the beloved indie-dance act. Speaking on the phone with New Times from New Orleans, she says she joined LCD on the road last fall following the recommendation of a band member who had seen her live years earlier.
“He told the band about me, they listened to me, and they all voted that they wanted Big Freedia on tour with them,” she recounts. “So I was very honored and pleased towards them for making me a part of that journey. All the shows went well; we had people's mouths dropping — and their asses as well — so it was a fun tour.”
Freedia’s time supporting LCD Soundsystem proved markedly different from her experience opening for another indie darling, the Postal Service, in 2013. As a lyrically explicit and sexually aggressive bounce performer, Freedia had left many concert attendees confused as to what they were seeing and why she’d been slotted before Ben Gibbard’s introspective and sensitive synth-pop project. Five years onward, Freedia asserts that audiences have become better accustomed to
“That tour was a little rough, but I think that over time, everything grows on people, and this LCD tour was totally different from when I opened for the Postal Service,” she says.
Now she's touring as the main attraction, and that's not the only difference from her past shows. At Saturday's Miami show, she’ll take over an intimate, dark, and dingy bar rather than an immaculate and imposing theater. Although she feels comfortable in rooms of all shapes and sizes, Freedia says she prefers the closeness of smaller venues.
“I like both. I like the dynamic of being able to connect with my fans on a more intimate level at smaller clubs,” she explains. “But on bigger stages, it makes your performance better because you have to push a little bit harder to connect with the fans because you're so far away from them, [especially when] the stage is so high and you can see over the crowd. It gives you a good feeling performing on both, but I definitely prefer smaller, intimate crowds and intimate clubs where I can really connect with the fans and they can just touch me and all reach [me].”
Her tour follows the February release of her latest single, “Best Beeleevah.” According to Freedia, “Best Beeleevah” is only the first of an onslaught of new works.
“The new record label that I'm on, Asylum Records, they're pushing me really hard to get everything going,” Freedia says, noting that “everything” includes new videos, more singles, and, eventually, a follow-up album to 2014’s Just Be Free.
Since the release of that record and Freedia’s breakthrough moment earlier in the decade, the artist says she’s lost none of her step — or, indeed, her bounce. Asked how she relaxes after one of her infamously boisterous shows, she offers an uncharacteristically laid-back response. “She goes back to the room and she sleeps,” Freedia says with a laugh.
She chalks up the longevity of her career to her ability to decompress fully once she steps off the stage, as well as the sheer love and energy from fans at live shows.
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“I still get that energy because of my fans and the crowd. When they interact with me and they go hard with me as I go hard, it just makes me continue to go harder. But once I come down, I come down; I take it all the way back down to zero 'cause I give so much onstage.”
Reflecting on her career thus far and what lies ahead, Freedia rightfully takes a great deal of pride in what she’s accomplished, as well as the example she’s helped to set for aspiring New Orleans musicians and artists.
“I've brought bounce music around the world, so I can say that I have been the ambassador for bounce music and helping to make people aware of what the culture of New Orleans is,” Freedia says. “And over the years, my style has improved, my stage performance has improved, making music in a studio has improved. Everything is just getting more and more polished over the years of hard work and putting the hours in, and steady openin' doors for the younger generation of bounce artists to let them know that anything is possible if you work hard enough at it.”
Big Freedia. With Delish Da Goddess, Otto von Schirach, and Master Feathers. 9 p.m. Friday, March 30, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $18 via ticketfly.com.