Big Freedia’s bounce explosion at DC9

May 25, 2011

There aren’t enough euphemisms to describe a Big Freedia show in the pages of a respectable newspaper, but one must try. Because if the explosion of profane, posterior-centric dancing madness that took place at DC9 on Tuesday night creeps further toward the mainstream, trend watchers will have to explain how an ambiguously gendered, ornately coiffed, gruff-voiced rapper from the housing projects of New Orleans launched the next big fitness craze. If there’s room for pole dancing, then bounce can also help you get your core strength and cardio on.

In cultural conversations about post-Katrina New Orleans, bounce music rarely catches a mention despite crossover hits such as Juvenile’s “Back That [Posterior] Up” that sneaked bounce into pop music more than a decade ago. But like other regional, insular forms of party music (Baltimore’s club, Brazil’s baile funk), the underground dance music culture fed by DJs and blogs is tapping bounce for inspiration at the same time it’s being embraced at alternative music festivals and even South by Southwest.

So thinking that the D.C. scenesters and young professionals who came to DC9 wouldn’t know what they were getting themselves into was incorrect. They came to the club ready to bounce, and Big Freedia was primed to oblige, even if the audience members’ enthusiasm for bouncing often exceeded their execution.

Making her way through the crowd to roars of approval, Freedia bellowed that she was going to turn Tuesday night into a Saturday night. Her DJ dropped the frantic beats of her hit “Y’all Get Back Now” and she immediately backed herself into bounce’s signature double-time wobble dance that served as a starter pistol as well as a demonstration for those who aspired to shake it fast.

In placing bounce in a rap lineage, Luther Campbell is the first comparison who comes to mind. With party chants equally obscene as Uncle Luke’s best work, drum machine beats at the same tempos and a deification of the derriere in perpetual motion, Freedia worked the crowd into a frenzy for an hour. She conducted a form of carnal square-dancing, with call-and-response refrains, New Orleans neighborhood shoutouts and instructions for increasingly more athletic variations of the basic booty shake.

But unlike Luke and rap at large, it’s trickier to apply concerns about misogyny since in Freedia’s case, a self-proclaimed “sissy” is exhorting crowds of mostly women to gyrate in adoration of her and for one another. And the explicit sexual lyrics are flipped in context when the rapper is openly gay. So everyone bounced with a clean conscience, it seemed, and men joined in only when invited by the women. A magnanimous master of ceremonies, Freedia eventually drafted most of the audience into her stable of dancers and, by the show’s sweaty close, it was indeed a scene from another of Big Freedia’s hits, “[Posterior] Everywhere.”

Anderson is a freelance writer.

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