Nashville Shows Its Pride: Music City’s Pride Festival Boasts 3 Stages, Parade & Festival

When musician Mike Maimone moved from Chicago to Nashville, he didn’t expect to find a particularly vibrant LGBTQ+ community. But not only did he find one, he’s opening Nashville Pride’s main Equality Stage June 26 for a full day of music in the city’s Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park for thousands of his newest friends.

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OPENING IN PRIDE: Recording artist Mike Maimone opens Nashville Pride’s main Equality Stage Sunday, June 26. (Photo by Melissa Alderton)

Nashville Pride has taken place since 1988 and grown from a march of about 250 people. This year, there will be more than 250 artists participating July 25-26, primarily at the downtown location but also at various venues including a June 23 Pride Night at the Nashville Sounds baseball stadium.

The festival’s lineup opens with Maimone, includes VINCINT (who recently penned a Pollstar guest post), Walk The Moon and headliner Tanya Tucker.

For a relative newcomer like Maimone, Nashville Pride is more than a party. It’s home.

“It’s an honor for me to be a part of it, obviously,” he says. “I moved here from Chicago and I was not expecting there to be such a vibrant LGBTQ+ community. And all genres of music are represented. There’s a number of organizations that do queer-based music events and are creating safe spaces for queer musicians, whether it’s Americana or country or pop or rock. There’s this broad spectrum of queer music community. And I think to have that big stage for national pride is just the most exciting way to kind of put all that on display.”

Maimone has been a keyboardist, singer and songwriter going back to his days at the University of Notre Dame. He went on to form the Chicago band Mutts and also performed with Company of Thieves.

He found a welcoming community in East Nashville, where he continues recording and performing as a solo artist.

“In the neighborhood here, there’s a bar called Lipstick Lounge, and that’s where Rainbow Collective puts on their Tuesday night showcase,” Maimone recalls. “That was kind of my entry point into this scene, playing their singer/songwriter night and then getting to know a lot of other queer singer/songwriters. And from there, I was exposed to a breadth of queer artists that are doing this thing in Nashville.”

“This thing” includes Nashville Pride, which was born out of a culmination of events. Its 1988 debut followed by one year the founding of T-GALA (Tennessee Gay and Lesbian Alliance) and a bus trip to Washington, D.C., in 1987. The group chartered two buses to participate in the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The first Nashville Pride event took place at the city’s Centennial Park, moved in 2009 to the much larger Riverfront Park, and in 2014 moved to what is now Centennial Capitol Mall Park to accommodate crowds estimated at 35,000 by 2017.

“I think it’s great to kind of spotlight national pride, because I don’t think the rest of the country understands that this is a progressive city and there is a big LGBTQ+ community here,” Maimone says. “So, I think that’s going to be really great to shine a spotlight on it.”
There’s a lot to shine a light on. In addition to the concert stages, drag shows and writers rounds, Nashville Pride includes the Saturday Pride Parade, a market featuring 225 vendors, a kids and family zone, artist installations and VIP amenities.

“I went last year and I had the sense that it was big because, you know, the headliners were definitely well-known artists,” Maimone says of the Equality Stage where he will perform.

An event of this size costs money to produce, and the lengthy roster of sponsors includes global, national and local brands including presenting sponsors Bridgestone and Nissan, as well as Amazon, Jack Daniel’s, Cracker Barrell, Curb Records, Warner Music Nashville and professional sports teams Nashville Titans (NFL) and Predators (NHL).

Among Nashville Pride’s media partners are radio stations The River 107.5 and Lightning 100, both of which have featured Maimone on their playlists.

“So I’m a piano player, it’s like piano funk music,” Maimone says. “So if you can think of like Dr. John & The Meters kind of inspired piano music, you know people can dance to it.”