It was another tryingly cool night in Chicago, but inside the Empty Bottle temperatures sweltered as Big Freedia and her bootylicious dancers got things hot, sweaty and a little bothered. Before all the p-poppin’ madness, our own Chances Dances DJ troupe and Salonathon, a weekly queer-friendly showcase featuring emerging artists at Beauty Bar and beyond, entertained the crowd and got the dance floor loose.
Around 11:30pm, Big Freedia’s DJ traded places with DJ CQQCHIFRUIT and kicked things off with DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.” Wearing white jeans, a dark denim vest and a white shirt with a print of herself (as any diva would) bearing a Cheshire grin and shades, Big Freedia took the stage, setting her designer purse on an amp. Her hair was surprisingly modest, relaxed and short with just a dash of highlights. As she greeted the anxious crowd, two curvy ladies (aka the Shake Team Divas) wearing cotton booty shorts with “Who Dat” on the rear, came and stood at her sides. They about-faced, bent at the knees and began wagging their rumps just as Freedia tore into “Excuse.” At the front of the stage, the crowd responded by bouncing up and down in their stance, while the back offered more room to, as Freedia says, “Bend it ova/Touch ya toes.”
The songs transitioned into each other without a moment’s pause. Three male backup dancers tagged in, sharing the exhausting duty of dancing to the speed driven pace of the beats. That was until the music stopped abruptly. One dancer gave the DJ a look, but Freedia gracefully addressed the audience, asking for them to join in singing “Gin in My System,” an early hit in her decade-plus career, a cappella.
When Freedia invited the crowd to come on stage, a couple dozen people eagerly hopped up, shining their backsides to the rest. An assortment of age, color and style, Freedia’s fans have two things in common: no judgment and a love of shaking ass. (Jessica Burg)