Troye Sivan, Charli XCX and Pussy Riot were among the artists taking the stage in Los Angeles on Thursday night at the first-ever Go West Fest, which coincided with the first weekend of Pride Month and served as an unofficial kick off to L.A. Pride. The Live Nation-produced event — named after the 1979 Village People song about finding a utopia that’s free from discrimination — brought together an almost-entirely LGBTQ lineup, who performed before a near-capacity crowd at the Wiltern Theatre. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales went to advocacy organization GLAAD.
Other artists on the bill included Allie X, Chika, Quay Dash, Dorian Electra, Gia Gunn, Carlie Hanson and Leland, while singer Daya made a surprise appearance to perform her hit, “Don’t Let Me Down.” The model-turned-singer Shaun Ross, also made an unannounced appearance to debut his new song with producer Duke Dumont, titled “Red Light, Green Light.”
After teasing a new collaboration on social media, Sivan and Charli XCX appeared together to debut a new song during Charli’s set. Reportedly titled “2099,” the bass-heavy track is a sequel of sorts to their nostalgia-tinged duet, “1999,” which they released last fall.
While Charli XCX helped to curate the lineup, Sivan was the driving force behind the festival, and the singer says he’s been overwhelmed at the amount of support the event has received both from fans, and those in the industry.
“I saw so much talent that I wanted to highlight,” he tells Rolling Stone, “and I just thought, ‘What artists do I love and how do I bring them together?’ I’m so over the moon with how everything came together – it’s been a real genuine expression of joy and community.”
Though he only started planning the festival nine months ago, Sivan says he’s been wanting to find a tangible way to give back to the LGBTQ community since he first signed his record deal (originally with EMI Australia and later with Capitol Records) more than five years ago. The fact that he publicly came out during that time, with no major backlash or controversy, he says, is a testament to his team, and also to a changing entertainment landscape.
“Both of my labels really took a chance on me [as a gay artist] and entered a realm that for a major [label] was a really big step,” he says. “And they did it wholeheartedly and never questioned me or told me what to say or what to do. They’ve been backers of whatever it was I wanted to say.”
Go West Fest, he says, was the culmination of decades of artists who may have felt silenced or pressured to stay in the closet for the sake of their careers. “Now it’s the right time, the right space, and we’ve got the right people with their hearts in the right place,” Sivan says.
Sivan’s label, Capitol Records, is an active participant in this year’s Pride festivities. The label held their “Pride Kick-Off Party” at West Hollywood nightclub, Micky’s, on Tuesday night, where contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race performed covers of popular songs by Capitol Records artists. A portion of proceeds from tickets were donated to My Friend’s Place.
As for Sivan, he says he hopes to eventually take Go West Fest on the road, using the event as a place where all people, regardless of gender, ethnicity and orientation, can come together to dance, sing and celebrate.
“Being able to walk into a space and release that sigh of relief and feel seen and feel like I can wear whatever I want to wear and say whatever I want to say and move how I want to move,” he says, “That’s how I want people to feel, and that’s what I want this to be.”