Thursday, June 20, 2013

Swaying To The Music

I photographed another show last night.

I'm a little tired; I've seen and photographed six bands in the last nine days as well as having attended two movie sneak previews, a comedy club performance and a late Friday after-show party for visiting comedian Bill Burr.

It's tough being me.

But last night was different and, perhaps, worthy of a few words.  As I stood pressed up against the stage with the mainly female audience members I saw something that made me feel good about where our culture seems to be headed.

The singer took the stage.  Her band came out before her; twin brothers book-ended the singer, Brandi Carlile, as she made her way onto the House of Blues' main stage to a chorus of cheers, whistles, and catcalls.

She played for almost two hours as her slight frame bounced up and down on that dimly-lit stage to a set of country/rock/folk tunes that bellowed from her and the band.

The crowd knew the music well; the sold-out throng was mainly female.  And a good part of it were lesbians: tall ones, fat ones, some were of the lipstick variety, others formerly-married-then divorced/outed ones, and a bevy of others in various stages of defining their sexuality.  One couple was perched to my left; a very tall black lady proudly dressed in her army fatigues stood with her arms around her partner, a short, stout white woman.  They swayed back and forth with the music.

Next to them stood a family; mom, dad and two young daughters were within elbow distance of the swaying partners and no one uttered a disparaging word or attempted to cover the young ladies' eyes from the two women, obviously in love, who stood indifferent to the crowd around them.

I smiled when I saw that.  We've come a long way since the early 1990s when Melissa Ethridge and kd lang dared to reveal their sexuality to a somewhat-shocked America; after their famous coming-out parties (do you remember the magazine cover where a scantily-clad Cindy Crawford "shaved" kd lang? How quaint that cover seems today.)

Brandi Carlile, a phenomenal singer and songwriter, played for another hour after that sight, her voice echoing off the rafters of the club.  As I peered around the audience behind me I saw an awesome sight.  People of all stripes, men and women, women and women, and families alike all listened to the lyrics and, it seemed, each listener took away something a little different from what they were hearing.

It reminds me of a few friends of mine.  They have a daughter who is an amazing young woman.  She just finished up her second year of veterinarian studies at Ohio State.  She just returned from a relief trip in Central America bringing much-needed vet services to animals of small villages.  She is an accomplished equestrian.  She loves her parents, friends, and animals with a ferocity.  She has a sparkling and sometimes-biting sense of humor. 

She also has a girlfriend in a years-long committed relationship.

I don't think they'd mind me talking about her in this fashion, and any of you who know me personally know of whom I speak.  My friends accepted their daughter's sexuality a long time ago and are committed to her happiness and that she be treated equally in the eyes of the law.

A generation ago all of the things I mentioned about her would have been relegated to the back burner in favor of one defining characteristic and caustic description: Dyke.

When I see her postings on Facebook or think about her academic accomplishments that's the last thing that comes to my mind.  I see a young woman who is so much more than that; maybe if the bigots and close-minded fools who spread so much hate and fear around the planet would take five minutes to have a conversation with a wicked sense-of-humor-vet-student/animal lover/awesome daughter our world would change for the better.

Or if they attended a concert and saw a smoking hot songstress sway on the stage while belting out a throaty rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," they'd see things a little differently.

For all I saw last night was a great show peppered by people from all walks of life, clapping along to a tight band.  Two hours of great music made almost fifteen hundred people happy about their lives and a respite from the fact that life can be tough.  They were taken away from their homes, their troubles, and the fact that, in some places in the world, two women in love can be jailed or even killed for daring to sway to the music, even if the songs being sung were the soundtrack of their lives.

So Brandi Carlile sang and sang; her lithe frame and booming voice filled the House of Blues.

And the thought that she's married to another woman didn't affect my appreciation of the music one little bit.