A number of new and exciting gay performers will rock the main stage Oct. 11 at OutFest.
Openly gay electro-pop artist Barry Brandon has a lot to celebrate at OutFest — most importantly, the fact that he’s alive and well.
The 28-year-old singer has had numerous open-heart surgeries since he was born for a rare heart condition that was only diagnosed as Shone’s Syndrome when he underwent his most recent, and hopefully last, surgery.
“As of the eighth surgery, which I had last year in March, everything has been perfect thus far,” Brandon said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and see if my health keeps going. No problems yet.”
Even though he’s been going under the knife since his early childhood, Brandon said he was the most apprehensive about his most recent operation.
“This last one was probably the hardest to prepare for only because the months before were so crucial,” he said. “The surgeons were so afraid to do the surgery. They kept passing me along to a different surgeon. I was older and I was fully aware of every single thing that was happening, the way that they were so unsure about it when I was meeting with them. It brought everything to reality as far as this really could be the last one. But once I got to Minnesota and set foot in the Mayo Clinic, I was totally fine. I knew everything was going to be OK.”
Brandon’s story, focusing on his most recent surgery, is the subject of an upcoming documentary, “The Tin Man Project.” Brandon also established a foundation (theheartfoundationcharity.org), that offers support for children facing major surgery.
He said the reaction to the completed parts of the documentary so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The documentary is not done,” he said. “They’re putting together the official trailer now. From what people have seen — we’ve showed it at some of the shows and it’s on YouTube — people can’t wait to see it. We don’t know when it’s going to be released.”
Brandon said coming through the surgeries in good health is what prompted him to name the EP he released in August “Scar 2 Star.”
“It’s sort of a way to sum it up and my way of letting everyone know that I’m finally taking the leap from the scars of surgery to stardom and celebrity as far as the music is concerned,” he said.
Brandon added that his main artistic inspirations come from two of today’s most cutting-edge pop divas.
“Visually, I guess you could say Lady Gaga,” he said of his influences. “I love the visual aspect of everything she does. Musically, Robyn is my main influence.”
Another new act debuting at OutFest is Hunter Valentine, which is headlining the show and gearing up to mount a full-on invasion of the United States.
The three-piece lesbian pop-rock group formed in Toronto in 2004 and, by 2007, had recorded its first album, “The Impatient Romantic,” and had begun to perform at any and every corner of Canada that had electricity.
Now relocated to Brooklyn and with a second album, “Lessons From the Late Night,” ready for release, the group is slooking to make some serious noise in the U.S.
“We had a lot of Canadian touring experience but had only played in New York or Boston,” drummer Laura Petracca said. “Now all of us are based in Brooklyn, so it’s exciting to be able to have the opportunity to play in all those American cities that we’ve never been to before.”
The band’s hometown of Toronto is often referred to as the “New York City of Canada.” And while the group agrees there are similarities, one of the cities is edgier.
“Toronto and New York are both really artistically driven and that’s probably what brought us here,” Petracca said. “There’s a huge music and visual-arts scene. Those things are definitely very similar about each city and that’s why we were attracted to both of them.”
“Toronto has a little-brother complex around New York,” added bassist Adrienne Lloyd. “I think Toronto has its own identity. Someone recently asked me, ‘I hear Toronto is the gay Hollywood.’ And I thought that was a pretty funny comparison.”
“Brooklyn is probably a much more vibrant and alive city than Toronto is,” singer/guitarist Kiyomi McCloskey added. “I don’t know if they’re the same. Toronto is very diverse, all kinds of cultures, and Brooklyn is as well, but they’re completely different. Toronto is a very clean-cut city and we were drawn to the fact that New York and Brooklyn are a little more rough around the edges.”
While the art and performance aspects of their move were impetus enough for the band to relocate, they admit they had an ulterior motive for their southern migration.
“Hopefully, [we’ll tour] somewhere warm as we approach winter,” Lloyd said.
“We’ll see you soon, California,” Petracca chimed in.
“I’m looking at Miami personally,” McCloskey added.
Apparently, being from Toronto doesn’t make you any more enamored with the chill of winter than anyplace else.
“We’re done with it,” Petracca said.
“We’re tired of putting on a bunch of layers,” McCloskey added. “We want to wear shorts year-round.”
Until the feisty trio figures out their California dreams, they’ll have to be content with rocking out in Philly on Oct. 11, which they are excited about.
“This is my very first time in Philadelphia, ever,” Lloyd said.
“We’re stoked for the cheesesteak aspect of this trip,” Petracca said.
Making your Philadelphia debut by headlining a huge event like OutFest might make a lesser band nervous, but Hunter Valentine wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a great challenge and a great introduction to a city,” McCloskey said. “People don’t know who we are yet. To know us, you need to see our live show. So it’s really exciting to be able to introduce ourselves to them on that kind of big stage.”
OutFest, also featuring performances by Anne Simoni, Dale Varga, Ya Ya Dalight, Allazae, NIO and L.Y.F.E., runs from noon-7 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Gayborhood, on 12th and 13th streets between Walnut and Spruce.
In addition to the performances, there will be a pet show and contest, a high-heel race, a penis-shaped bagel-eating contest, a hula-hoop contest and a dance area.
For more information, visit www.phillypride.org.