Leslie and the Lys – Wish You Were There

Thursday night I went to see Leslie and the Lys at a local St. Louis venue called Plush. I had first seen that Leslie was playing here last November, I bought my ticket on November 8th and encouraged a few of my friends to buy tickets as well.

Like so many things that I plan far in advance, this sounded fantastic when I bought the ticket, and then less and less fun as the time drew near. This winter has been so awful, colder than I’ve become used to, more snow than I prefer, and topped off with a damaged ankle that makes me paranoid of falling and leaves me in not-inconsequential pain when I use it too much – it’s just seemed a lot easier to stay in the house and be grumpy than get out and do anything.

So it was difficult to get out on a Thursday, especially when I saw that Leslie was not even taking the stage until 11 p.m. – on a school night! My old lady bones dreaded the next day.

So much color

However, this show ended up being one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I genuinely enjoyed myself and felt real pleasure and joy – a very rare state for me.  No secret, I think, that I mostly tolerate things and feel I’ve done well if they are not actively unpleasant. To really have fun-fun when out with other people is just not a thing to which I bother to aspire.

So many funky moves.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from the show, or from Leslie herself. I had formed an idea from watching her videos that she was a take no shit give no shit kind of person, and I love the fun of her music. But I wasn’t sure if in person she’d be sarcastic or deliberately gross. Her music and videos seem to be all about enjoying yourself, and being goofy, but sometimes musicians like that can have a sort of vicious self-mockery in person that robs the fun from what they’re doing. Not Leslie. Never have I seen a performer so seemingly in real enjoyment of their own act, and their own persona.

This is my favorite photo of the night. So much fun.
This is my favorite photo of the night. So much fun.

Leslie was there to have fun, and the audience was there to have fun with her. The vibe was so relaxed and… well for lack of a better word fun. Everyone was chilled out and dancing and enjoying Leslie – and even with several technical glitches the act was amazing.

There’s something about her music that’s just the celebration of self, and doing things that bring joy – dancing, moving, sweating, being with friends – without giving a shit what you look like, or what other people think. That’s what I wanted to experience and that’s what I saw.

Her set was partly a giant Barbie-style fold out box. I HAD that Barbie fold out dressing box as a kid. I was enchanted.

 Her costumes remind me of being a little girl, and putting on all your most colorful and resplendent clothes, and staging shows in your bedroom in which you are the superstar. She reminds me of what all little girls could grow up to be if no one ever made us self-conscious. If no one ever stole our pleasure in pageantry and play and dress-up and dancing—no matter what our bodies look like. If no one ever told us that our clothes had to match and our stomachs had to be flat, and if not then we were not allowed to enjoy our bodies without ridicule. This is what it feels like before the world takes your joy away.

Leslie is a woman who (appears, anyway) genuinely happy with who she is, is doing what she loves with and for people who appreciate her and, most importantly, is not concerned with making sure that she is conforming to other people’s expectations of what she ought to be. In fact she contravenes those notions explicitly. Wearing every single thing we’re told not to wear, drawing as much attention to herself as possible, existing in the middle of a riot of color and movement and ridiculousness – it was really magnificent.

For the briefest of moments while at that show I got a glimpse of what the world would look like without men.

What we could all be and how we could all feel if every moment of every day wasn’t burdened with the sixteen tons of expectation that weighs down our every move. Not dancing as if no one was watching – dancing as if everyone was watching and we all found each other’s joy amazing.

I wish you had been there.

5 years ago

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