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PRINCESS NOKIA @ STARLINE SOCIAL CLUB - OAKLAND, CA (05.06.17)

Written  Sunday, 07 May 2017 by 

Destiny Frasqueri, better known as Princess Nokia, is the most powerful woman I’ve ever seen grace the stage. Last night she gave the Starline Social Club energy like I had never seen it; whereas my experience with the space has been mainly through Noise Pop’s (((folkYEAH!))) series and, at most energetic, pop-punk bands like Tacocat, last night it was turned into a night club with bright laser lights and banger-dropping DJ’s. The audience was full of love and celebration, dancing and jumping around far before Princess Nokia began and cheering wildly every time Frasqueri or someone in her crew teased the audience and peeped out from the lighting booth. 

My favorite thing about the Starline Social Club will always be its lack of a backstage, forcing the artist to actually walk through the crowd on their way to finally perform. Nokia does not lie when she raps, “when I step up in the party it’s a function of course,” because when she strutted through the audience the crowd absolutely went wild, screaming and dancing before her music even played. Despite her small stature the largeness of Frasqueri’s presence overwhelms the room, and seeing someone with that kind of a superstar presence in the 400-person capacity Starline Social Club was purely surreal.

She started with her biggest hit “Tomboy” and the crowd exploded. Then, after catching the audience’s attention, she began with her first of a series of powerful speeches, declaring the room a safe space for queer black and brown folks and especially femmes. “If anyone is being disrespectful or rude or sexualizing anybody you will be kicked out” she firmly pronounced, adding for the queer black and brown folks “I don’t care about what’s going on out there but in here you are free.” The couple in front of me mimed their tears while shrieks and screams echoed through the space. Frasqueri has no problem laying down the rules, making the space exactly what she wants it to be: a safe space for freedom and empowerment.

Her following set defied a normal structure, starting with her biggest hits and moving towards more of the deep cuts, allowing isolated sections first for partying excitement and then later, for more serious moments that allow the crowd to really hear what she has to say. She managed to give us a space to really appreciate the presence of the people around us, encouraging us all to hold our sisters and celebrate ourselves as she spun around on stage, arms stretched wide and basking in her own glow. She somehow walked the line between dominantly owning the space and also intimately connecting to the audience, spraying her cooling mist on us, burning sage, and continuously acknowledging individuals with “thank you baby” or “bless you baby.”

She finished with an optimistic and incredibly powerful speech about the generation to come after us, and how much better a world they will have with the progressive parents our generation will be. Most inspiring was probably when she declared “listen sister, you might not have a voice in front of your family, but god damnit your daughter is going to have a voice,” almost bringing herself to tears and bringing me to tears along with her. I left feeling so incredibly inspired and warm at heart, despite having just danced my ass off for the last two hours. Princess Nokia was everything I imagined her to be and more, and her show is certainly one that will not be forgotten.

Photo by Javier Romero

Veronica Irwin

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