I hate concerts and I always have. One of my first concerts was The Toadies at Union Station in Indianapolis, IN. I was 16 years old, the venue was packed, and I really should have enjoyed myself. But I didn’t know any of the songs, there were all these other people there, I kept being pushed by other rowdy teenagers who were doing their best impersonation of a mosh pit and, like the teenage grandma I was, at some point I convinced myself that I was going to be crushed to death. I left the concert and waited by the concession stand until my mom came to pick me up.
Not much has changed. I am a notoriously fickle concert-goer. I don’t like crowds, or loud noises, or paying more than $5 for a beer. I don’t want to see opening acts, I don’t want to have to stand if I don’t feel like it, I don’t want to be crushed into a venue with a gaggle of strangers and then crushed back out again when the evening ends. I don’t want to wait in line for drinks and the bathroom and drinks again and the bathroom again, repeat for infinity. But here’s what I do like: Sia, Jessica Williams, Leslie Jones, vocally supporting access to reproductive rights, and free shit. Which is how I found myself at the Wolstein Center on Saturday night, surrounded by a screaming crowd.
All Access 2016
was a concert put on by a joint venture of organizations who strive for reproductive rights. The point of the evening was to get together a group of friends, go see an awesome show, pay nothing, and create a community of people who are vocal supporters of reproductive rights. There was an informative aspect to the proceedings, with each act punctuated by speeches and testimonials and awkward Family Feud style games that highlighted efforts to cut off women’s access to reproductive health care. These punctuations were at times educational and at times preaching to the choir but also a part of the deal because, as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free concert.
The event was sold out, the crowd was excited, and they turned out some fashion. I saw little black dresses, giant Sia-style wigs, chokers, dark ruby red lips, backless gowns, men in tank tops scooped so low it felt indecent to look, men in fedoras, men in blanket capes, men in fedoras and blanket capes, woman in towering leather stiletto heels, jeans so tight they may have been paint, and elaborate green plastic crowns woven from dozens of glow necklaces. The glow necklaces were free, and handed out at the venue, and they adorned the head, neck, wrist, ankle, and waist of every person in attendance. When the lights went down in the arena we all glowed the same, bright green.
The event was well produced and the performers delivered. Natalia Lafourcade provided a beautiful performance from Mexico City. Teyana Taylor took to the stage in a leotard that defied physics, gave us a live version of Kanye’s “Fame” video, and also slipped in a few 90s covers that caused all of the non-millenials in the audience to show ourselves. Jessica Williams kept the energy up as emcee, and I could have listened to Leslie Jones for hours. That woman is so funny – she told a story about accidentally flinging a ponytail at Prince that will keep me smiling for years. Sia was the headliner and presented a live version of her music videos, with folks on stage performing the rich modern dance choreography that is her trademark. The on-stage performers moved in almost perfect sync with a pre-recorded video that played alongside the live performance. Sia herself stood in the back of the stage, completely covered by hair, and sang with a clear perfection. I’m not fully convinced that Sia was actually there. It may have been some lady in a big wig mouthing along to a recording, but fostering doubt about whether she exists or not is Sia’s gig, so well done.
There were, of course, protestors outside of the venue, because stating that you want an individual to be able to have actual access to something that is her legal right is, somehow, controversial. There weren’t many protestors, though. The combination of rain and thorough security made it so you couldn’t tell if people were protesting or waiting for the bus while leaning on horrific signs.
Besides Leslie Jones, a highlight for me was the swag – I walked out of there with 28 glow necklaces, temporary tattoos, stickers, buttons, fans, glow bracelets, and a branded dental dam that I took in hopes it will one day horrify my grandchildren as they go through my scrapbook. The entire concert was done by 10PM – perfect for a teenage grandma.