The Music That Moved Me in 2018: Marissa Corrente
Written by Marissa Corrente
2018. Ooooh-wee. It was quite the year, my friends. Seems, though, that most of them are, right? Full of some really great highs and some really low, lows, which is really just… life. Along each step of the way were m’people – both my related family back in Rhode Island where I’m from and my chosen family here in Orlando. And it’s actually the latter – my chosen fam – who got me back into an experience that, for some reason over the last couple of years, I’ve fallen away from but love: going to concerts.
Here’s my disclaimer: I’m a radio kinda gal. As in, that’s how I listen to music. So I’m prettyyyyy mainstream when it comes to what I know. You know what I did for the very first time this year? Signed up for a Spotify account. I know. Welcome to 2018. But tell me you’re going to see live music, and I’m pretty much game – even if it’s an artist I’ve never heard about before.
Soooo… as I reflect on this last year, I thought it’d be fun to go back through some of the music that resonated with me from three of the shows I went to. And it’s no coincidence that many of these shows were shared experiences with people I love. I’m grateful to them for reminding me of the joy and power that comes from seeing musicians share their amazing talents in such raw, creative, and authentic ways.
First up… The Spook School. Ida actually reviewed their (at the time) new album, Could It Be Different? back in February. The review was freaking fantastic, so when Ida said she was going to see them at a show in Atlanta, I was in. Here’s what I knew about the band before heading into the show: They describe themselves as a “queer indie-pop punx” band. They’re from Edinburgh, Scotland, and they’re proud that they’ve become known as a “trans punk band.” Explaining why, lead vocalist/guitarist Nye Todd told journalist, Chris Thomas, “I think it probably makes it easier for other trans and queer folks to find our music… We’re not only our identities, but we are proud of them, and happy to be identified with them.” And finally, I also knew that their lyrics are powerful. Full of hope and also pain - they share their lived experiences in such an honest way. And in doing so, confront the gender binary and toxic masculinity head on.
Needless to say, I was excited to see them perform. And that excitement was well founded because they rocked the show. In addition to Todd, the band includes guitarist/vocalist Adam Todd, singer/bassist Anna Cory, and drummer Niall McCamley, and together they were electric on stage. I recommend any of their songs, but the one that still gets stuck in my head (in the best possible way; I’m a sucker for a good hook) is Still Alive. A song about sexual assault, Still Alive, is a commanding anthem of survivorship. With those guitar riffs and drums, it’s been in my heavy rotation ever since we cathartically danced and screamed along: “Fuck you / I’m still alive / And I’m not goin’ anywhere / With you!"
Then flash-forward to June when I saw Ray LaMontagne perform for the first time live up in Chicago (annnnd again in November here in Orlando, because why not?). I love a good folk-y, singer/songwriter, and LaMontagne is hella talented. In May, he released his seventh album, Part of the Light, and like many of his previous records, his lyrics on this one are intimate and personal. For a man who is an extremely private person, this really does seem like an incredible gift – opening himself to the world through his music with a palpable vulnerability.
Take the first single released from the album and one of my favorites, Such A Simple Thing. The track starts off gently, but also earnestly: “Tell me what you're feeling / I can take the pain / Tell me that you mean it / That you won't leave again.” Very quickly the song swells into the opening lines of the chorus with all the power of LaMontagne’s vocals and guitar behind it: “Tell me what your heart wants / Such a simple thing.” In tune with its title, the song’s composition is straightforward. Haunting vocals, guitar strings strumming along, fortified with solid drums; the simplicity of the sum of its parts adds to the song’s beauty. Just as sharing The Spook School with chosen family was immensely meaningful, sharing these shows with my partner made the experience even more special, and the music more resounding. I’ve been a fan of LaMontagne's music for a bit now, so seeing him do his thing, finally, was a (two time) highlight.
This summer was a music filled one for me, because following that in July, I was over at the House of Blues taking in Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer Tour. And y’all, it was a SHOW – a work of choreographed, intentional, artful, inclusive genius, just like the album. If you haven’t listened to it (the album dropped in April) please do it now. Like, right this very moment. I'll be here when you get back.
Just this month NPR named Dirty Computer the best album of the year, writing “Monáe speaks her truth to power across a funk pop soundscape... [she] captures the bliss of sexual fluidity, the eloquent anger and spirituality of black feminism, the temporary high of nihilism, the sandbagged weight of self-doubt and finally the euphoric reckoning of learning who you are… She celebrates herself as an other and shines for those on society's fringes.”
And the concert was all those things and more. Highlights included a celebratory, joyful dance off which included concert-goers hand-picked and brought up on stage by Monáe; dancers sporting the PYNK pussy pants and “Highly Melanated” t-shirts; and a tribute to Prince, one of her mentors. The most powerful moment of the night though came during the encore and was deeply personal to Orlando.
Before launching into the night’s last few songs, Monáe took a moment to pay tribute to Sasha Garden, a black trans woman murdered the week before in Orlando and the 49 folx taken from Pulse. She read out each person’s name, and in doing so, she acknowledged them and brought them into our shared sacred space. It was so authentic, so beautiful, and immensely meaningful for our sweet town.
Her very last song, Americans offers a critical reproach of the US: “War is old, so is sex / Let's play God, you go next / Heads go up, men go down / Try my luck, stand my ground / Die in church, live in jail / Say her name, twice in hell /Uncle Sam kissed a man / Jim Crow Jesus rose again.” But the song also provides a promise of the America we could be instead: “Until Latinos and Latinas don't have to run from walls / This is not my America / But I tell you today that the devil is a liar / Because it's gon' be my America before it's all over.” The message was undeniable and powerful: For them and for us, we keep fighting.
So these songs, along with many others, have been on my playlist ever since (Thanks Spotify!). Honestly, they would have made it into the rotation regardless of whether I saw these shows or not because the music is just damn good. But there’s something about listening to music live, seeing an artist bare their heart and soul in that way, that gets deep down inside of you. I’m grateful to have had these moments this past year, and to have rekindled my love for live music.
Here’s to 2019, and seeing more music that moves us. __________________
Marissa Corrente was in second grade when she saw her first show, Boston's own New Kids On The Block. Though she didn’t have her glasses yet and couldn’t actually see a damn thing-- she heard everything she needed. Born and raised in Rhode Island, Marissa is a total elections geek; her passion for civics makes her current home in Orlando, FL a better place every day, Step by Step as NKOTB would say.