MATT YEE - THE VOICE OF LONG BEACH GAY PRIDE
By Jason Serinus (May 10 2001 Long Beach Update)
Matt Yee is all jazzed up. Shortly after receiving the prestigious "OutMusic Director's Award for 2001, he will kick off his upcoming summer Pride Tour by performing and MC-ing Long Beach Pride May 19-20,
In the last 12 months, this winner of Hawaii's "Best Variety Show CD" Music Award has performed at the March on Washington, Pridefest America, and Long Beach, Northampton, LA, and SF Pride events. His previous cabaret shows, which have already been seen in Philadelphia, Palm Springs, Chicago, Fresno, and San Francisco, continue with "The Liberace Luau Show (Midwest) and "Matt Yee's Twisted Love Luau" (West Coast). These are so far scheduled for Douglas Dunes Resort in Michigan, a June 1 CMG Concert in Hollywood, Milwaukee Pride, San Francisco, Key West, and Provincetown.
Touring the Pride and gay theater circuit has helped Matt perfect his art. "By traveling and performing so much," he explains, "I get to see a lot of Gay America. That's where my material comes from and truthfully that is where I've found my voice."
Born and raised in Honolulu, Matt Yee has been singing and playing piano since age three. His full, handsome baritone earned him a vocal scholarship to Dartmouth, and helped ease him through his law apprenticeship. After a number of years as a law associate, he quit the firm so he could devote more time to singing and performing. After starting a contemporary island reggae band, his break came five years ago when Hawaiian Public Radio sponsored him in two sold out solo concerts. Matt chose to perform his own material and talk about his life. It worked. Since then, he's performed four nights a week at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, entertained on NPR, played with the band, and toured his shows in Hawaii, California and a host of other mainland cities.
Of his shows, Yee explains that "Cabaret is an intimate, meaningful exchange between artist and audience about what's going on in our lives. It's funny, it's outrageous, it's got costumes, but ultimately it's all about being human with each other. Gay is part of it; getting older and dealing with parents and ex-lovers are other parts.
"What amazes me is that straight women and couples will come up to me and say, 'I heard your song, 'I'll Reinvent Myself,' and it describes my life as well.' I'm a gay Asian American man, but I find the most wonderful thing is that it's not limiting. People get what I'm going for, regardless of their background."
"My stories and songs are metaphors for our lives. Gay singer Deian McBryde once said artists like us are cultural workers. Our job is to see and record what's going on for our generation and the generations around us. Not only for history but to learn from the lessons that life teaches us. Of course for me, I do it with humor...that's where my songs like 'Bath House Blues' comes from."
Matt began touring with a two-hour, old-fashioned variety show with a New Age twist. "Back in the olden days, when lava was still flowing on Oahu," he explains, "you'd turn on the TV and see an hour variety show. I just love that stuff. Mine comes from a very current perspective. Our local paper, The Advertiser, said I was 'Hawaii's most daring experimental artist.'"
Last year, he toured with The Love and Liberace Show, which he describes as "Elton John meets Liberace in a celebration of the spirit of gay divas." Since then, his shows, which include much audience participation, have become more outrageous.
Matt has also performed The Original Diva Show, The Aloha from Hawaii Show, and "a show for every holiday you can imagine." Sometimes Auntie Matilda, one of his drag personae, appears. He once did a Chinese Auntie's Love Lines where you phoned in and for $2.99/minute got her advice on love. His "wonderful" lover of over six years, Paul, acts as MC whenever possible.
Matt received much encouragement for developing his craft from eleven year's of attendance and performance at California Men's Gathering, twice-yearly gatherings of 300 men who share "heart space." CMGs, he explains, "provide the opportunity to say whatever is in your heart in a very loving and accepting way. It sounds very New Agey, but it's actually extremely powerful. As gay people, we're not brought up to say what's in our heart, much less be honest about our orientation. CMGs are a coming out opportunity on the subject of being human."
Matt sings and plays with boundless energy, No matter the subject matter, there is always a smile on his full, beautifully trained voice. His award winning CD, MATT YEE: EVERY FACET OF MY HEART, may be obtained through his website, www.mattyee.com, www.cdbaby.com/mattyee, or, if you prefer to support a faceless mega-corporation which is killing local businesses, www.amazon.com.
When I asked Matt what vision he had of the future of the gay community, he referred to his recent experience dancing at San Francisco's "Café" with a "whole new world of 18 year olds. You have white, black, Asian, male, female, straight, gay, drag queens, TVs all dancing together and having a great time. That's the vision.
"How do you get there from here? Hopefully it's everybody making their own kind of music and doing their own show."
from Long Beach Pride 2000