Nothing like Nassau Coliseum filled with punk rock and keyed up Kat Von D look-alikes to get this girl going on a hot July morning. I’ve been to many an outdoor music festival, but I was expecting to feel a bit out of place at this year’s Warped Tour
, given the swarms of teenagers surrounding me. Luckily, music is a universal language, and I found soon enough that I wouldn’t be so misunderstood in the masses. This queer writer would, however, be getting as buzzed as the parents who paid big bucks for their angst-filled offspring to mosh themselves into punk-pop heaven.
As usual, my absentminded self forgot to charge my beloved Canon (I only got to take a few pictures), so I had to rely on memory more than machine to capture the experience. With over 30 bands playing on eight stages spread out ½ mile apart from each other, I started homo-hunting immediately. Looking and listening into every sponsor stand, merch booth, and skate ramp, my quest to capture queerness at Warped Tour was a motivating feat.
In the first hour, I couldn’t tell a boy from a boi. And if there were gay boys around, I couldn’t pick them apart from the swarm of spiky-haired, kohl-eyed guys in skinny jeans. Nonetheless, throughout the day, I proudly spotted a handful of assumable gay gals, eleven to be specific. I used the butch scale and any obvious sign (a rainbow, pink triangle, signs of Sapphic affection, anything screaming ‘queer!’) to measure as accurately as possible (‘cause we all know that sexual orientation cannot be defined by physical appearance). Dressed like extras in a Fall Out Boy video, these queer chicks were rocking out just as hard as the straight dudes. One girl had on a tank top with “we are everywhere” and a rainbow printed on it. Without a doubt, we were here, we were queer, and the crowd seemed used to it. There were two lesbian couples announcing their queerness with random kisses and uber-affectionate hugs. Nothing like a sweaty screamo band to set the mood for girl-girl love.
A few beers in, I worked up the courage to ask four random half-naked hotties with “Free Hugs/Kisses” sharpied on their torsos for a hug (I wasn’t drunk enough to ask for a smooch). I then made my way to the all-girl stage in time to catch Shiragirl’s set. Shiragirl, a lesbian punk band from NY, broke down gender barriers in 2004 at the Warped Tour and set up the SHIRAGIRL stage, which helped indie female-fronted bands like Paramore perform every year thereafter. Despite a few technical difficulties, they kicked musical ass with great feminist and gender-revolutionary tunes like “Tantrum” and “Anthem”. Watching a queer girl group command shrieks of joy from both guys and gals in the audience made their sound uber-sexy and smart.
Besides Shiragirl, I was able to catch five more awesome bands take the stage(s). Human Abstract, a hardcore/metal band made the mosh pit go nuts. Family Force 5, a crunk punk band, had everyone bobbing their heads and shaking their collective ass. All Time Low, an emo punk pop band finding MTV fame with their hit “Dear Maria, Count Me In” seemed to be a favorite with the queer girls. Cobra Starship, who may just be the gayest straight band ever, had the crowd doing a sped-up wave to their hit “Guilty Pleasure” while making the “cobra sign”. With Cobra’s catchy beats and keytar funk, even the emo kids were cracking smiles. The Color Fred moved me and the dyke to my left (clutching her chest with eyes-closed) with a few songs about love and loss in a way only a shredding guitar can express.
In the midst of this sparsely homo/ suburban teenage freak fest, I began to ponder queer women’s music and its place in the world now. We have always had queer female artists, but very few were mainstream up until twenty or so years ago. After the riot grrrl movement of the ‘90s and the establishment of MichFests and Lilith Fairs, who did we have but a few queer artists like the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Meshell Ndegeocello, Tracy Chapman, k.d. lang, and Ani Di Franco representing us on a mainstream level? Ani voiced our politics, Melissa named our heartaches, and the Indigo Girls proclaimed our passions. We hearted these women, made them our dykons, and secured them forever in our queer hearts by supporting them as much as possible. Hence, who can sing our suffrage better than one of our own?
We then had indie artists like Bitch & Animal, Tegan & Sara, and Melissa Ferrick come along and continue to sing our sorrows and scream our rage, and who have all now gained a respectable amount of visibility and mainstream fame. But could any of these artists/ bands now take part in alternative music tours promoting mostly white-male-fronted rock? If they did play at Warped, could straight boys and queer bois play nice together in the pit? And an even bigger question: does this generation of queer kids need or relate to our dearly-loved LGBTQ artists anymore?
Shiragirl proved to the Warped Tour bigwigs that queers can share a stage with hetero bands and rock just as hard, and the handful of gays I spotted proved to me that this generation of young queer women are lovers of mainstream hetero-headed punk/emo/rock, of music that’s an alternative to our music. Young dykes nowadays are relating to bands like Against Me! and All Time Low more and more, as different as their artists’ life stories may be. Nevertheless, now with a whole new queer music scene on the rise whose bands would fit right in with this tour, they could have the best of both worlds. The queer music scene at present crosses gender and genre boundaries. Gay girl music is no longer defined by a dyke with a mic and guitar pick.
Bitch & The Exciting Conclusion, God-des & She, The Cliks, Pussy Pirates, Erase Errata, Ms.Led, 8 Inch Betsy, Girl in a Coma, KIN4LIFE, The Gossip, Boyskout, and The Shondes would undoubtedly rock these Warped stages just as hard as the bands I saw play. It’s not that today’s queer women don’t appreciate, like, or relate to our queer musical pioneers of the past or our present state of gay music; it’s simply that they don’t solely need queer artists to speak their stories anymore. Music doesn’t seem to need to be sexually oriented for queer youth today.
In the midst of this musical epiphany, I managed to miss bisexual-for-pay belter Katy Perry and sadly, the Gym Class Heroes. If I was going to find any more Sapphic sisters, what better place than where Katy Perry was performing “I Kissed A Girl” (no matter how many queer girls know she is full of bi-curious bullshit). So after five over-priced Budweisers, six bands, four “free hugs”, and a failed attempt at crowd surfing, what did this queer “warpie” learn? Three things indeed. One- that this generation of queer women looks to all genres of music (mainstream, pop, queer or not) to enjoy/relate to. Long might be the days when only Ani or Indigo were the artists to understand our unrequited love for our same-sex dorm mate. Queer women these days are loving all types of tunes, no matter the sexual preference of their performer. Number two- the queer music scene is stronger than ever, on the rise and filling the airwaves with songs about us, reaching the ears of homo and hetero alike. And three- getting to feel on bikini-clad teenage girls through free hugs is the ultimate way to get warped.