Queer Musicians Take Over Phase 1
Saturday night DC’s Phase 1 will be over-run with a multitude of queer bands. Several local groups—Lost Bois, Angie Head, SolRose—will be opening for the two touring artists Constance Sisk of Virginia, and Eli Conley all the way from California’s Berkeley.
Conley, a classically trained singer, describes his sound as “country-tinged folk with a queer bite.” He compares himself to the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Patty Griffin, Sam Cooke and Dolly Parton “but with radical queer politics.” Sisk, on the other hand is a solo artist who sings along with her cello. “I started experimenting maybe a year ago as a way for me to improve my sense of tuning—a way to make playing scales more fun and musical. Then, I got immersed in building these arrangements of my favorite songs for just voice and cello. I don’t know; it's pretty music. It's heartfelt, and a lot of fun for me.”
Conley and Sisk met in during their freshmen year of high school, when they were both living in Richmond, Virginia. “I had a baby crush on Constance for half a minute, but then she moved away,” says Conley. “I'm grateful that we reconnected post-college when I was back visiting family in Virginia, since we're both political queers who are making and teaching music. It's only recently that I proposed the idea of us playing and touring together.” Sisk adds that last year was the first time they played together for a Girls Rocks! RVA benefit.
This tour is a short one, lasting just five days “Wednesday in Richmond, Thurs in Wilmington, NC, Friday in Staunton, VA, Saturday in DC and Sunday in Baltimore,” says Conley. “I'm working my way up to a nationwide tour, one region at a time.”
In the Bay Area Conley’s played multiple queer venues including the Trans Pride March and the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. “Getting to play at explicitly transgender events is really fun, because the audience has similar reference points to me -- they get my jokes, I don't have to do a lot of explaining, ” says Conley on being a part of the queer art scene. “People will check out your work even if they're not necessarily big fans of your type of art (in my case, acoustic music), just because you're trans and you're queer. But from what I've seen, if you want to make a living as a musician, you pretty much have to be playing for an audience wider than just trans people, or just LGBTQ people.”
When they’re not touring Conley teaches singing classes for queer and trans people, and also holds private lessons. “It’s a pretty great way to make a living,” he says. He also sings in the International Orange Chorale of San Francisco, an award-winning choir that does a lot of experimental, contemporary classical music. On the opposite coast, Sisk teaches guitar lessons, plays weddings and assists other bands with setup. “I am fumbling into songwriting for the first time in my life,” she says. “It's hard for me, and slow-going, but I'm loving this process so far - I have always admired and connected with lyrics and poets, and working with words rather than just notes and harmonies is something I've wanted to do for a long time now. I play in a few bands around town, and have done a lot of collaborating with singer/songwriters as a cellist and harmony vocalist.”
Conley promises that Saturday night will feature “killer queer musicians who are gonna blow you away!” He also promises some new music. “This show is going to be totally amazing,” says Sisk. “I would be there even if I wasn't playing!” The show starts at 8 and tickets at $10. For more information on Eli Conley visit his site at www.eliconley.com