By Vanessa Leigh
I forget how music keeps me going more than anything. It brings me back to myself, keeps me light when times are heavy, out of my head and back into my heart. Music dates with my women of color friends are a must in summers full of music festivals and live concerts.
My friend Betty and I hadn’t seen each other in a while and she generously treated me to dinner and some live music! Two words. Light Asylum. Light Asylum is Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello. They make post-punk electronic, synth-wave with a pop sensibility. Not my usual live show scene, but Shannon Funchess is EVERYTHING. They played the Echo and had two opening acts. Sister Crayon, who killed, and Cold Showers who revamped every 80s post-punk industrial synth pop band you can think of —but well. After nine years of being back in Los Angeles, this was my first visit to the Echo. Betty and I were two of a handful of people of color at the Echo. I wasn’t surprised or particularly bothered, but as usual, it was noted.
I have usually gone to the Echoplex which is literally downstairs from the Echo on a street below Sunset. The Echoplex hosts one of my favorite dance nights, Dub Club which is roots reggae with a little latin and afrobeat mixed in. My first visit to the Echoplex was actually a craft fair where I first sold my millinery. Since then I’ve watched favorite rock acts, new wave reunions, high drag shows and of course, grooved for hours to reggae. All of these shows seemed to be pretty diverse compared to the Echo. The Dub Club more than others, but still.
The Echo crowd was very white. Betty and I made our way into the crowd a few feet from the stage waiting for our headliners to come on. A group of maybe six or seven white folks weaved their way through the crowd and somehow ended up in front of me. I was prepared to sweat, fuck I was already sweating. Annoyed at the regular occurrence of unmindful bodies unable to share space, but alright. As the show began and the music started I was elated. I was mesmerized by Shannon whose deep raspy voice was permeating every pore of my being.
The spell was broken as 6 foot 2 inches of grown man kept backing into me without regard. A few songs later, his tall thin white crew had literally displaced the short Latino guy who was previously swaying next to me. A wiry guy had somehow ended up in his place doing the David Byrne impression I had admired from afar but was growing tired of as he kept hitting me with his elbow. I kept checking on Betty who was on my right and being pushed back by another random white woman who couldn’t be bothered to dance but kept changing her posture and leaning back onto Betty as if she was bored.
Somehow one of the blonde girls made her way in front of me to the left, had let down her bun and was jumping up and down right on top of me with her hair blonde locks swinging in my face, and I started to get pissed off. I know it’s a show, I know people have contact when dancing, I know that it wasn’t by design, but I also know that white folks, maybe in particular young long, lean tall blonde white folks – drunk off their ass don’t have any problems taking up space. No matter who else is in that space.
Just as I have learned to groove and move my body to abandon with my feet planted flatly on the ground. I know how to do what I need to do in a limited space because so often I’m not allowed space in the world. To voice my opinion without being accused of being angry, to take a seat on a crowded bus or train without being accused of being an asshole or called a bitch.
I am a fat black woman who has been begrudged space my whole life. I don’t abide by that designation, but I do consider my space in the world often because of it. My baby boomer mother would call it consideration, as would I because it’s ingrained, but it is as much subjugation.
As I started to rage at these all grown up children of the corn, I got some relief as a couple of them sought out more booze and I found my way back to Shannon, back to Light Asylum and let the music hypnotize me and take me away. I finally let go. I channeled that anger into waves of synth and Shannon’s deep soulful voice.
Light Asylum was the thing. Not letting anyone dictate how I take up space is the thing. Still resonating on the echoes of L.A.