A Place to Feel Free: The Aces and Madeline the Person at Wonder Ballroom
After a tumultuous time for the queer community, Provo, Utah band The Aces and opening act Madeline the Person created a safe space for their queer fans at their show at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom on November 13th. Read Bren Swogger’s full review below, and view photographer Emma Davis’ full photo gallery from the show here.
For the LGBTQ+ community, having a safe space is one of the most vital things there is. That’s why the COVID pandemic has been especially hard on those in the queer community. For the past two years, no longer able to gather in spaces that were safe for them–where they could express themselves and find others like them–it became even harder to feel at home.
But along with the rest of the world, those spaces are finally starting to open up, welcoming the community back to the places where they are finally able to feel free once again. And at the Wonder Ballroom on November 13th, Provo, Utah band The Aces and opening act Madeline the Person created just that space for the community there that night.
Though The Aces had played a few small shows here and there throughout the pandemic (along with a handful of festival appearances), for singer-songwriter and blue-haired fairy girl Madeline the Person, this show wasn’t just a return to the stage. In fact, as she made her way to the mic–dressed in a rainbow of colors and fairy wings–she was gearing up for only her second live performance ever.
It may have been her first tour and first time performing in front of crowds, but you wouldn’t know it based on her captivating character and carefully-crafted stage presence. Flowing through her short set of songs, she prefaced each with a story, weaving a narrative of this blue-haired fairy girl named Madeline, as she grows up and learns about herself, her sexuality and the challenges of finding a place in the queer community.
“In 7th grade, Blue-Haired Fairy Girl realized she liked other fairy girls,” Madeline told the crowd, who responded with resounding cheers. Madeline continued: “And fairy boys and fairy people. And she liked this one brown-haired fairy girl. They were in love. But Brown-Haired Fairy Girl wasn’t ready.”
Through the song “Haunted,” Madeline tells a heart-aching story of falling in love with her best friend, trading secret notes and stolen moments, forced to hide as her love struggles with coming out. It’s a story and a sentiment that so many in the queer community can relate to, and delivered in the gorgeous acoustic wrapping that Madeline provided, it brought a knowing hush over the crowd as the words set in… quickly followed by an eruption of applause.
It’s the beauty of these moments and these songs that truly exemplifies the importance of queer voices in queer spaces. In her short opening set, Madeline the Person offered a rainbow-refracted fairy-themed reflection of the experiences of many in the crowd: the challenges of coming out, of facing your own emotions and identity, and of finding who you are as you grow up and out in this world.
And if anyone could understand those challenges, it was the headliner of the night, The Aces. With three out of the four band members–sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez (the lead singer and drummer, respectively) and guitarist Katie Henderson–identifying as gay women, growing up in the overwhelmingly conservative community of Provo, Utah was not the safest of things.
Affected by their religious upbringing, as well as the silencing factor the music industry can have on many queer voices, the Ramirez sisters avoided talking about their own queer experience on the band’s first album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic–even refraining from using pronouns in their lyrics. But on their latest record, Under My Influence, The Aces finally let their true selves show, and in doing so, opened the music up even wider and created a space for their queer fans to shine true.
As The Aces took to the stage that night to flashing lights and ear-ringing fanfare, the four appeared confident and all-powerful in their own identities. Donning a leather jacket and denim jeans, lead singer Cristal Ramirez had full command over the room. However, her dominating presence didn’t keep her from sharing a true connection with everyone in the crowd, as the band spread love and light onto the queer community in attendance.
“I don’t want to talk too much about COVID, but it is so special to finally be here,” Cristal said. “Thank you guys for buying tickets and showing up and for being so fucking loud.”
As The Aces played through songs both off their debut as well as this year’s sophomore release, the crowd at the Wonder joined together–dancing, singing, and ever vocal and proud of their own sexualities, identities, and community.
“Met a girl with a smile that I liked and her name was Kelly,” Cristal sang on the song “Kelly”, finally able to speak her truth from the stage. Hundreds of voices joined in, screaming the lyrics in a powerful unison. “Golden hair and her eyes are the kind make you feel like heaven.”
Watching it all happen, the warm, welcoming, and overwhelmingly queer space that The Aces created was something so magical. And one song in particular, Under My Influence’s “801”, seemed to be the perfect summation of just how important this was for them as well.
Reflecting on their upbringing and the space they found in their own community in Utah, Cristal sings: “Growing up in the 801, there’s only one club so we blow it up. Leave your church shoes and your Sunday clothes, but bring your guilt and we ‘gon let it go.”
As so many let loose and let themselves shine, it was imminently clear that with this tour and album, The Aces had succeeded. After such a tumultuous time for the queer community, they had created a safe space for their queer fans at their shows. No guilt or loneliness was felt. Through their music and their confidence, The Aces brought everyone together.
Catch The Aces on their U.S. tour now through December 19th. They will be joined by Madeline the Person until November 27th. For more information and tickets, visit theacesofficial.com. Find more from Madeline the Person at madelinetheperson.com.