Few contemporary pop albums have managed to impact queer culture quite like Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 sophomore effort, Emotion. Packed with soaring '80s synth production, explosive melodies, and relatable lyrics about love and lust, the unlikely project has become a lasting LGBTQ cult classic.
Now, a group of Brooklyn-based performers are throwing CarlyFest II, the second annual get-together, celebrating two years since the pivotal album's release. The event is hosted by Sam Banks and Charlene--two mainstays of NYC queer culture--inside their home and DIY party space, "Casa Diva."
This year's iteration will feature DJ sets from Banks and Anthony Dicapua, as well as performances from Charlene, Qhrist with a Q, Kelsey Dagger, Megababe, and more. Special guests, who're aptly nicknamed "Carly Stans," include Rooney, Orlando Estrada and Daryl Coke.
Dubbed "the gayest party of the summer," Banks says CarlyFest was originally "created out of a desire for me to indulge in the stickiest, creamiest pop music all day long with a bunch of friends doing Carly numbers, and then me and Anthony [Dicapua] playing the dumbest gayest DJ sets of the year."
Much like Robyn's Body Talk series and Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster, he says Jepsen's Emotion instilled in him and many others a newfound sense of self-love. "It renewed my obnoxious amount of pride to be a faggot," Banks says.
Last year's CarlyFest was one of summer 2016's hottest, rainiest days, which forced the crowd off the roof and inside Casa Diva--a cramped, sweaty scenario for superfans who didn't just go there to dance (if you know what I mean). "We all got naked and did shows till we couldn't breathe from the humidity," Banks says.
This type of community event is a celebratory display of how queer people express their love, Charlene says, both sexually and also "in the culture we consume that captures our bursts of pure joy, the agony of heartbreak [and] the sheer intensity of our experience."
She argues LGBTQ people are drawn to Jepsen's Emotion in the same way they're attracted to the surreal romance of Broadway musicals. "They are messages from a utopia where it's cool to break out into dance on the sidewalk--where bubblegum pop is not a slur," Charlene says. "In this way, CarlyFest is a celebration of queerness itself."