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The Billings Gazette
June 19, 2008


Jane, Again
Noted Billings band reunites for
Pride weekend show

Of The Gazette Staff

Photo by BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff

Pope Jane members Holly Shawver, Kristen Coyner and Danielle Egnew, from left, practice for an appearance at the Montana Pride Celebration.

It has been eight years in the making, but the members of the all-girl rock group Pope Jane are in the same town, and they intend to rock out.

"The outpouring from the Billings community was humbling," vocalist Danielle Egnew said of the public reaction to the reunion.

The rockers, who enjoyed local celebrity in the 1990s, will headline a show at the Montana Pride Celebration.

Pope Jane's performance at the Loft on Saturday night will be the first appearance by the band's original members since 2001.

The show, like Pride weekend, will be for the gay and straight communities of Billings.

"It's an everyone show," Egnew said.

Bassist Holly Shawver has been raising four children in Billings with her husband during the band's hiatus. For her, the concert offers a trip down memory lane.

"I'm excited for the reunion. It's fun to relive my youth a little bit," Shawver said.

For drummer Kristen Coyner, a chance to shake off the rust coincided with an event she cares about.

"The pride event was pretty cool, because to have a pride festival there at all is remarkable," Coyner said.

Pope Jane is just one highlight for the weekend, Pride coordinator Robin McClure said.

Pride weekend is an annual celebration to recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Montanans and Two Spirit communities.

McClure explained that it is a time for people to express themselves proudly and let the community know that LGBT people are "no different" than anyone else.

"It's turned into an arena for people to meet people and have fun," she said.

It's also a special weekend for those who feel alone and fear discrimination.

"They can be out for one day a year. We like to be able to offer that escape," McClure said.

The Pride Ceremony kicks off Friday with a drag show performed at the Loft by the Imperial Supreme Court of the State of Montana.

Ryan Carney, co-executive director for the ISCSM, said the show promises entertainment, and the proceeds will go to charities around the state.

"We're really looking forward to it," he said. "It'll be all sorts of fun."

The lineup includes 15 performers and will be emceed by Miss Jade. The show begins at 8:30 p.m., has a $10 cover charge and is open only to people 21 and older.

An alcohol-free, no-charge bowling night for those under 21 will run concurrently at Sunset Bowl.

Saturday will begin with a parade at 10 a.m. on North 26th Street. McClure said the parade is a traditional part of a gay pride weekend and a way for a community to support its members.

"It's a way for people to show they are proud," she said.

McClure also said the visible support from nongays and religious groups at the 2007 parade was encouraging.

"The support of the spiritual community last year was astounding," she said.

After the parade, the festivities move to North Park, where there will be a variety of vendors and food options from noon to 6 p.m. The Festival in the Park will offer tattoo artists, massage therapists, bingo, gay games, a beer garden and musical entertainment from Judy Fjell, Kym Berry Music and the Missoula Gay Men's chorus.

"There's so much for people to do," McClure said.

McClure said the gay games are traditional festival games with a twist. The three-legged race will take place on an obstacle course, and contestants in the egg race will have to complete a puzzle while running with their egg.

North Park will host the kickball tournament as well. Vanessa Browning, a local teacher and a member of the Batters Not Included team, said the party in the park is all about community.

"It's a very inclusive, very accepting weekend," Browning said. "It's nice to connect with people we don't see very often."

The concert at the Loft begins with singer Josh Zuckerman at 7:30 p.m., followed by comic Jenny Sherwin at 8:30 p.m. As the headliners, Pope Jane will go on at 9 p.m. with a promised two-hour show. Coordinators will fence off the Loft parking lot to accommodate the large number of attendants.

Since it is a 21-and-older show, younger participants and their families can play on the giant, inflatable Twister board or play games with members of Students Helping Others Understand Teen AIDS.

Sunday wraps up the weekend with an interdenominational faith service in North Park at 9 a.m., followed by a farewell breakfast at 10 a.m.

McClure said the organizers are expecting a larger crowd than last year and have stepped up security measures in light of the recent white-supremacist graffiti. She encouraged all members of the community to attend and interact.

"It's not just for gay people, and we'd prefer not to have it that way," McClure said.

All the proceeds from the weekend will go to charity through the Montana Pride Network.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Pope Jane and listen to their music.

Published on Thursday, June 19, 2008.

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