Crowds withstand cold for Stronger Than Hate Concert featuring Kesha


Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

All proceeds from the Stronger than Hate concert featuring Kesha benefited the Jewish Federation’s Our Victims of Terror Fund.

By Prachi Patel, Senior Staff Writer

A cold Saturday evening didn’t stop the crowd of hundreds of people, faces painted with glitter and hands clutching frozen margaritas, from gathering on Liberty Avenue between 9th and 10th streets to wait for Kesha to arrive onstage for the outdoor Stronger Than Hate concert.

One of those people was Ethan McElhinny, a Pitt alum who first saw Kesha live in 2011 at Bigelow Bash.

“It was a life-changing concert, to say the least,” McElhinny, a Squirrel Hill resident, said. “You know when you’re going to a [Kesha] concert that everybody’s just going to be able to feel comfortable and safe and have a good time.”

The concert on Saturday night was put together by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ organization that brought Kesha to Pittsburgh two years earlier for Pittsburgh Pride.

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Saturday’s event was originally titled “Countdown to Vote” to energize concert-goers to vote in the midterm elections today, but the Delta Foundation changed the name to “Stronger Than Hate” on Oct. 30 in light of of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Oct. 27.

“When the tragic events of Saturday happened, we immediately contacted Kesha’s folks,” Christine Bryan, the director of marketing and development for the Delta Foundation, said. “Kesha was 100 percent all for it, and I think tonight’s going to be a great night.”

According to Bryan, the Delta Foundation and its partners for the concert were inspired by the Pittsburgh Muslim community’s fundraising more than $200,000 for the 11 victims’ families. The Delta Foundation announced they would donate funds from the concert to the Jewish Federation’s Our Victims of Terror Fund.

Bryan referred to the intertwined history of persecution among Jewish and LGBT communities, pointing out the pink triangles LGBT individuals were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

“Both communities are used to being marginalized,” Bryan said. “We wanted to take this opportunity to do a couple things — bring all the LGBT community this [event], and really start a healing process for Pittsburgh.”

Kelly Peters, of Greensburg, had been interested in coming to the Kesha concert with her daughter, but the Delta Foundation’s support of the Tree of Life Synagogue was what convinced her to buy tickets.

“Kesha’s one of our favorite performers,” she said, while holding a Captain and Coke from the concession stand and smiling at her 9-year-old daughter Makayla. “And we love what she stands for. And the tragedy that happened recently, I think it’s very important for the community to come together and support it.”

As for Makayla, she was most excited to hear her favorite Kesha song — “Tik Tok.”

Michael Lawson, a third-year pharmacy student at the University of West Virginia, bought tickets months earlier as a present for his friend Alex Castracane, who had been asking to go to a Kesha concert since the two became friends three years ago in pharmacy school. Lawson also expressed his support of the victims of the Tree of Life tragedy.

“Everybody has their own freedom to practice whatever religion, whatever sexual orientation,” Lawson said. “Everyone has the right to do their own thing, so that’s a big thing Kesha supports, so that’s why we’re here tonight.”

Around 7:30 pm, as concert-goers eagerly waited for the concert to begin, a man in a red beanie, sweatshirt and jeans walked onto stage. He introduced himself as Zachary Quinto — a producer, actor and Pittsburgh native perhaps best known for his role as Spock in the “Star Trek” reboot series — and addressed the Tree of Life tragedy.

“Pittsburgh is a city of bridges. We are a place that builds connections, and hopefully, after such a deeply wounding strategy, that’s the kind of growth we can all push for,” Quinto said. “One of the most effective ways we can push for that is to get out and vote,” he said, as the audience cheered.

After an opening performance, survivors of the February 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sarah Chadwick and Sofie Whitney, took the stage for a speech. The two are activists within the March For Our Lives movement.

“First of all, we love Kesha. Second of all, we are two bad-a– queer girls,” Chadwick said. “After what happened last week here in Pittsburgh, it’s just so much more important to us that we were here today. We are so glad that we could be here to support your community, because something like that, it really ruins a community.”

Chadwick and Whitney both reminded concert-goers of the impact of their vote, and urged the audience to head to the polls on Tuesday.

And then finally, Kesha arrived.

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer
Kesha performed in front of several hundred people on Pittsburgh’s Liberty Avenue Saturday evening.

“I woke up this morning, feelin’ like P-Diddy” she said, as she walked on stage in a white leotard, fog colored purple by stage lights swirling around her. “I grabbed my glasses, I’m out the door, about to hit this motherf—— city!” she shouted, as the audience cheered.

The crowd bopped up and down, shouting the lyrics with her, as she played mostly her older hits, like “Tik Tok” and “Timber,” with a few newer songs off her 2017 album, “Rainbow.”

“This is the part of the show where I tell you to take your clothes off,” she said, after performing “Your Love Is My Drug.” “But first, I’m going to need some clothes,” she said, as the crowd threw bras, shirts and a pair of boxer shorts, all of which she grabbed and dangled off her mic stand.

“Can I get some duct tape here?” she asked, glancing off-stage to her right, before fastening a

pride flag to the mic stand and launching into her song “Take It Off.”

Slowing it down a notch, the audience came together for Kesha’s powerful soulful performance of “Praying,” the entire crowd singing along with her.

“I just want to say I appreciate you being here and celebrating tonight with me. I’m so f—— lucky to have each and everyone of you, so I just want to say thank you,” the singer said after finishing the song. “You’ve been such f—— amazing fans and animals and people. Thank you for everything.”