Tegan and Sara’s The Con X Tour Feels Like Church

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Even if no Tegan and Sara songs appear on the soundtrack of your life, it’s quintessentially impossible to be a lesbian and not know who they are. Whether you only know them as the gay canadian duo you couldn’t pick out of a line up or you’ve looked at their faces so much that you forget they’re twins, Tegan and Sara’s The Con X Tour is everything you didn’t know you needed. I knew I needed it and after seeing them at The Theatre at The Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, I still left feeling disoriented.

The duo announced a few months ago that for the tenth year anniversary of The Con, their objectively best album, they would tour the record acoustically. I was sold right there and then. While they both describe the album as their saddest, and it really is morbid, it’s strangely lethargic as well. The songs cut deep but leave you feeling hopeful. That might have to do with the fact that Sara, the more pessimistic of the two, wrote most of the first half and Tegan, the hopeless romantic, wrote the closing songs.

The minute I walked into the venue, I felt like every lesbian on this side of the Mississippi was gathered in the lobby. Both the merch table and the Tegan and Sara Foundation table were crowded with every version of gay you could possibly imagine.  And of course there were nostalgic cutouts from The Con era. 

For all my love of this band and this record, it was my first Tegan and Sara experience. I knew they were good and I knew they were talented, but boy are they good and boy are they talented. Not only was the setlist brilliant, both Tegan and Sara were vocally thriving the whole night.

The setlist included every song on The Con, as well as a few other songs from their catalog and a cover. Now if you’ve been to a Tegan and Sara show, you know it’s half musical performance and half  stand up special. The acoustic setting only amplified that, and it was glorious.

Sara started off the show by warning everyone that they might leave feeling depressed, considering her mental state during the production of the album. But it was the good kind of sad. It was the kind of sad that reminded you of your resilience and your strength. And it was evident in Sara as she delivered every line of every song with raw vulnerability, as if she had written them right before coming on stage as opposed to a decade ago. 

Sara’s shining moment was during Floorplan, when she was standing in front of the microphone and Tegan moved to her usual spot behind the keyboard. Her voice sounded better than I’d ever heard it on any of their records, I was in awe and looking around trying to make sure everyone else was hearing what I was hearing. Tegan’s shining moment was during Living Room when her falsettos single handedly restored my faith in humanity. And when they sang ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’, which is a sad song disguised in pop, it was stripped down and beautifully tragic.  

When they started talking, man did they talk. Subjects ranged from  personal space in the womb,  to which one of Sara’s cats are smarter, to Tegan messing up lyrics. At one point we heard, in fascinating detail, about how Sara cried in the fetal position after every night of the original tour of The Con.

At the end of the of the night, Tegan had an emotional speech about The Tegan and Sara Foundation, their advocacy organization for LGBTQ women and girls, which is getting $1 of every ticket of The Con X Tour. She talked about visibility and the privilege of having had family and friends who were open minded and loving. A privilege that comes with the responsibility to make space for and give a voice to people in our community who might otherwise go unheard.

And yes, if you must know, while Tegan talked I might have cried once or twice or sixteen times.

Even though they’ve musically moved away from The Con, even though their records have more synths than dark chord progressions, they haven’t lost their edge. They’re also just kind of busy saving the world. Tegan and Sara have always held such a special place in my heart for many reasons: their sweet vocals, their quirky sense of humor and their huge gayness. That’s why seeing an acoustic version of The Con, surrounded by the people in my community, felt like church.

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