The first day of the inaugural Emerge Impact + Music festival and conference kicked off at the Linq Friday night with the “Owning Your Voice” panel, hosted by Justin Favela and Emmanuel Ortega of the popular local podcast Latinos Who Lunch. The turnout for could have been stronger, but the lineup, featuring a smorgasbord of poets, comedians and writers—not to mention sets by Saudi Arabian singer Rotana and Austin, TX rock outfit Residual Kid—hinted at the powerful weekend of programming to come.
By 10 p.m, everyone had filed over to Brooklyn Bowl for the Fairy Tale Ball and Emerge was in full effect, suggesting that this should have been the conference’s kickoff event. Hosted by the black queer magazine for men The Tenth, the Fairy Tale Ball gave the audience a fierce history lesson in Harlem ballroom culture and voguing, a dance style that grew out of the New York house scene. Friday night’s ball was loosely based on Disney’s Cinderella, and opened with three dancers performing as mice Jaq and Gus. Soon after, Fairy Tale Godfather Michael Roberson arrived and explained the history of ballroom. “Without Black and Latina trans women, nothing would be possible for us,” Roberson said.
Of course, Cinderella would be nothing without the main character, who also doubled as Beyonce, thanks to the amazing Queen Bey impersonator Michell’e Michaels (also known as Miss Shalae). “How does Cinderella not get invited to the ball when it was girls like her who invented it first?” Roberson asked—drawing attention to those who take from ballroom culture but don’t know its black and trans origins. “Thank you for welcoming Cinderella to her own ball.”
Later at the Bunkhouse, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee had just finished up a solo set when Lauren Ruth Ward took to the stage around 11:30 p.m. The LA roots-rock singer completely won over a crowd that, per Ward’s question, admittedly didn’t know who she was. With her raspy, fiery vocals, a delivery not unlike Courtney Barnett's and a wild and ferocious stage presence, Ward earned an entirely new legion of fans at the Bunkhouse that night. It was just the kind of thing you’d hope to see from a festival focused on breaking emerging artists.