Attending a live performance by New Orleans’ queen of bounce, Big Freedia, requires some advance preparation. First, you must come dressed to slay — or at least to sweat. Next, dust off those dance moves, especially your twerk. Finally, allow yourself space to truly seize each and every moment that the one and only queen diva is on stage, because her show has communal, curative properties that transcend a live-music concert.
“I use my music to bring people together and to heal,” Big Freedia tells New Times. “When you come to a Big Freedia show, you release all your cares and stresses. No judgment — just enjoy the experience.”
Big Freedia will bring her blend of bounce music and dance to Space Park on Saturday, June 26. The event, which also features eight-piece New Orleans brass band the Soul Rebels and Afro-Cuban funk artist Cimafunk, is part of a summer concert series hosted by New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club and local event promoter the Rhythm Foundation.
Though the sound has garnered national attention only in the last few years by being featured on hit tracks like Drake’s “In My Feelings,” bounce music has been inextricably linked to the culture and ethos of New Orleans for decades. A pioneer of the genre, along with artists like Katey Red and Sissy Nobby, Big Freedia released her earliest singles, "An Ha, Oh Yeah” and “Gin in My System,” in 1999. When Beyoncé invited Big Freedia to contribute vocals to “Formation,” the anthemic closer of the queen Bey’s 2016 ode to forgiveness, Lemonade, Freedia’s signature vocal style and lyrical messages of self-love and the valuable pursuit of pleasure reached ears the world over.
“Bounce music originated in and is 100 percent New Orleans. Others can learn how to let loose and escape from bounce music,” Big Freedia says. “No one knows parties and performances like we do here.”
With states across the nation lifting COVID-19 restrictions this month, Big Freedia can once again take the stage and do what she has done best for the past two decades: create connections with live audiences. Before the curtain falls on each Big Freedia show, a healthy amount of the audience may end up on the stage themselves, twerking their hearts out alongside Big Freedia’s longtime dancers Tootie Tootz and Shantoni Xavier. In this way, Big Freedia breaks down barriers separating performers from audiences, turning venues of all sizes into one giant house party.
“I am delighted to be back on the road. Connecting with audiences and fans is by far my favorite part of my job, and I have missed it,” Big Freedia says. “I think my fans feel very connected to me. They give me back the energy that I give them.”
The Rhythm Foundation, the event's co-presenter, believes that shared cultural experiences like live-music shows create empathy and positivity, therefore strengthening diverse communities. Gregory Johnson, a member of the communications and marketing staff at the foundation, says bringing the sounds of New Orleans to Miami will encourage cross-cultural exchange and respect.
“Connection is the first step to understanding, and we hope the cultures represented onstage will foster bonds to strengthen the communities we serve,” he says.
Alex Kurland, director of programming and talent buyer for Blue Note Jazz Club, says Big Freedia was chosen for this series because of her ability to empower others through sharing her life experiences in an authentic, raw, and relatable way.
“Big Freedia is of the most unique, inspirational, relevant, and influential performing and recording artists of our era and a musical collaborator transcending genre,” Kurland asserts. “There's just nothing better than experiencing a high-energy, vibrant, funky Big Freedia show live and direct. Buckle up. Miami is in for a real treat.”
Big Freedia says she wants audiences to let loose and express themselves alongside her at the June 26 performance, and she knows Miami will deliver.
“I want them to feel lighter — like a weight has been lifted or released, like they just went to church,” Freedia says. “Miami is one of my favorite cities. After New Orleans, no one parties like Miami.”
Big Freedia. With the Soul Rebels and Cimafunk. 8 p.m. Saturday, June 26, at Space Park, 298 NE 61st St., Miami. Tickets cost $35 to $55 via rhythmfoundation.com.