For International Women’s Day this year, I got invited to check out the concert and experience that was Don’t Ever Let Them Silence You. The event was an artist showcase by and for women, LGBTQ folks, and people of color, and all profits for the night went to The Center for NYC’s LGBTQ Community, a nonprofit organization that provides advocacy, family services, cultural events, and wellness services.
What a night! With artists and comedians and musicians and burlesque dancers, at first I compared it to an avant garde salon where minds like Marcel Duchamp might frequent–but throughout the night I realized that no, nights like these are not a new phenomenon. People have always needed to come together and wear their hearts on their sleeves in the name of art. If you feel a little outcast, a little unlike the rest of society, there will always be a community ready to welcome you in–and that is the night I spent on International Women’s Day.
I loved getting to document these performances (however I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for photographing burlesque so I decided they wouldn’t look too kindly on a camera flashing mid-strip–I added content from their platforms instead), and I hope you’ll fall in love with them too!
The fabulous femme-C of the night was Divina Gransparkle, who did one of the best jobs MC-ing that I’ve ever seen–not even a minute was lost to dull silence–and kept us laughing, cheering, and engaged the whole night.
Hair Club for Jen was the first band of the night, kicking it off with some good ol’ rock that proves that punk’s not dead. A special shoutout goes to Fem Appeal (I’ll talk about her later) who joined in as a go-go dancer and giving me my favorite photo of the night.
Now before tonight I had only seen the movie Burlesque with Christina Aguilera, and the first performance of the night by Abby Fantastic was another memorable first for the night. She’s also going to be in a Burlesque version of Wrestlemania soon and I highkey want to bring the guys who got me into wrestling.
As much as I love comedy, I can’t say I’ve ever seen live standup. I went to an improv show once, but Elsa Waithe took my standup comedy virginity. Waithe is the kind of person that could make you laugh in a one-on-one conversation or in a crowded theatre–exactly the kind of person you want at a party.
Next came Ratas en Zelo and I had no idea an accordion could be punk rock (oh was I pleasantly surprised). Most of their songs are in Spanish, and they inspire riot grrls and revolutionists everywhere.
This performance by Dolly Would had a bit of tomboy flair, so to speak, which perfectly fit a classic rock song. I couldn’t help but think “Napoleon Dynamite but sexier” with a blond wig, glasses, white t-shirt and jeans–simply really fun and engaging while pushing the envelope of what sex appeal can be.
Some of the most memorable parts of Ginger Twist‘s standup act were her cowboy boots and her tongue-in-cheek musical parody. I’ll never get tired of “she’s saying what we’re all thinking” bits, but, you know, comedians just do it better.
Veronica Viper‘s performance was one I couldn’t look away from. She first starts out in a shrouded cloak, but goes on to reveal more sparkles and diamonds in an entrancing, ethereal dance. You are watching a transformation through dance, and you find yourself utterly captivated.
We caught wind of Fem Appeal‘s love for costumes during her guest performance with Hair Club by Jen, and she came back with an electric-yet-ethereal performance. You feel transported to a place where costumes and clowns and balloons all came together in a show inspired by Salvador Dali and nightclubs at 3am. It’s thrilling.
Closing the night was TinVulva, whose frontwoman Sarah organized the night and brought the house down with killer vocals. At this point the show was creeping towards 1 in the morning, and they continued to electrify the audience with trumpets, powerful lyrics, and the punk spirit we know and love.
I don’t think you can truly understand live music–and live performance–until you see it for yourself. Who is at your backdoor doing something creative? Who is in your neighborhood doing something cool? It’s up to us to discover, to create, and to make sure that everyone’s voice can be heard.