Scene: Austin

 
 

I sat down on some steps
by a side door near a dude wearing a band wristband who was obviously drunk off
his ass. Twenty minutes later I heard a group approach the door, but I was
so deep into my email that I didn’t pay any attention until the sound of heels
distracted me.

The first thing to catch
my eye when I finally looked up from my computer screen was a pair of red pumps,
followed by long, shapely legs, a black pleated yet puffy mini skirt,
a matching short, fitted jacket, and finally the profile of Leisha Hailey.
Leisha, Camila and the rest of the band tried to enter through the side door,
but it was locked from the outside. They started banging on the door and
yelling, "Can you let us in?" A few minutes later someone finally
appeared on the other side of the glass door and let them in.

By the time the third
band finished their set, the baby dykes started trickling in. A few even had
UHH T-shirts. The young ones were followed by a more diverse cross-section of
women, from college girls in head-to-toe Abercrombie & Fitch to a few women
I’d seen at the Equality Texas party the week before.

When the band came
onstage to set up, the cameras emerged and women started yelling out Leisha and
Camila’s names and declarations of love. If this weren’t Austin, I would’ve been afraid for the band’s
safety. A horde of women moved closer to the stage but kept a respectable
distance because, you know, "We live in Austin, we see bands all the time so we’re
just gonna chill while you play."

Austinites can sometimes be
standoffish in their "too cool for school" swagger, and yet the "no
photography" sign at the entrance was blatantly ignored. Mid-show, someone
from the festival staff started telling people they weren’t allowed to take
photographs, including a woman I’m pretty sure was Camila’s mother, who told
the guy, "That’s my daughter." Yet she obliged and stopped taking
photos.

UHH played several songs
of angsty synth-pop. Even though their performance was tight, displaying the duo’s
high-quality musicianship, the crowd was relatively quiet for most of the show
save for enthusiastic applause after each song. Things did liven up quite a bit
when the band performed "Say So," a single from their digital EP I See Red.

Leisha, who announced
that UHH’s first full-length album would be released May 20, mentioned that she
thought some audience members might know the track, and indeed several people
sang along.

Sticking to the strict
SXSW schedule, the band ended their set after 45 minutes, even as women shouted
for an encore. The audience then stood around for a while and watched UHH pack
up their things. Leisha moved instrument cases and amps while still sporting
those red pumps.

By the time the next band
came onstage, almost every single fan of the band had disappeared into the Austin night. The next
band was left with their friends and parents cheering in support.

Scene 4: The Victory Grill
Besos and Blues, March 20, 2008
Tragic Bitches, March 23, 2008

The oldest blues club in Austin is the top venue to
catch queer people of color performing onstage or hosting dances. Entering the
club is akin to walking back in time, as the interior has not been updated for
ages. The walls are lined with posters from events in the 1950s to the present
with queers of color amply represented, including Lambda Award-winning author
Sharon Bridgforth and poet Marvin K. White.

The Victory Grill
opened its doors in 1945 and quickly became a haven for black soldiers
returning from World War II who wanted to enjoy good music and eat down-home Southern
cooking. Segregation prevented blacks from entering most of the other clubs in
the city, and through the years all the big names in jazz and blues came though
the club on the "chitlin circuit," from Billie Holiday to B.B. King.

Last month, allgo, a
statewide people of color organization based in Austin, hosted two shows within one week at
the Victory Grill. The first, "Besos and Blues," was a collaboration
between Sharon Bridgforth and Texas-born, Los Angeles-based Adelina Anthony.

Adelina Anthony (left) and Sharon Bridgforth

The audience reflected
the racial makeup of the east side of Austin, predominantly black and Latino.
Unfortunately, a long history of de facto segregation has split the city along
racial lines, with Interstate 35 dividing east and west.

In the weeks leading up
to the show, both Sharon and Adelina refused to tell allgo what the show would
entail, making it a surprise for the audience who were largely familiar with
the work of both artists.

Sharon, a tall, handsome butch,
sported a custom-made shirt designed by a fan with the names all of her works on
the front in gold script. She performed, along with guest singer Florinda
Bryant, parts of her performance novel the
bull-jean stories
. The novel celebrates the life of a fierce Southern black
bulldagger during the 1920s. The hilarious vignettes of bulldog Jean’s
adventures had the audience in stitches.

Adelina, a "Xicana-Indígena
lesbian multi-disciplinary artist," frequently performs in high-femme
attire, but that night she flipped the script when she came out as her alter
ego, Javi, and performed a social comedy on life as a bisexual Honduran
immigrant in Los Angeles.

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