Friday Night Lights
In which Riese, Laneia, Rachel, Gabby, Kate, Hansen, Cara, Ali, Vanessa, Whitney, Lizz and Carmen read things from their hearts
Rachel: I always have like eighteen different emotions about the Staff Reading, ranging from I’m Pretty Sure The Thing I Picked To Read Is Boring and Dumb to I’m So Excited to Hear Everyone Else to Oh God I’m Going to Cry I Hate Crying in Public back to I’m So Excited to Hear Everyone Else, which is the most important part. This time was no different. I’m so in awe of the writers that we have on our team, and it’s worth crying in public to hear them. On the internet, we usually get to see a very specific side of someone, or maybe two or three specific sides, and I feel so lucky to get to see tiny pieces of tender vulnerability when people read their personal work. All of these humans are so incredible.
Ali: You guys. Whitney. WHITNEY. Whitney. The Whitney Effect: when Whitney speaks, the entire room bursts into tears. I mean, I admit, Whitney is my lesbro. She is the shirt to my pants. But even if I weren’t so fond of Whitney as a human, I still would have melted into the ground at her spectacular reading. A beautiful, moving, sad and wonderful piece about her family and her wedding.
Ali: And OMG, Vanessa! “I wanted to lick her hip bones.” Ugh, and Cara’s piece made my brain happy. And also everyone’s piece. Everyone’s piece! Everyone’s. Piece. You guys.
Vanessa: I’ve never read my work in public before. I write a lot and I talk a lot but I’ve never spoken my written words out loud in front of a (terrifyingly huge!) group of humans before. But you guys let me. And you supported me. And some of you told me I made you cry! And some of you said you understood me, and you knew my story, and you felt like my story was your story too. I felt really safe reading to the A-Camp audience, and I am forever grateful for that feeling.
Riese: True story – once upon a time it was A-Camp April 2012 and I thought I’d be capable of conducting mini one-on-one writing tutorials with campers which I quickly realized was literally impossible with my schedule and I only managed to actually meet with one of the people who’d paid $10 for this honor (and I was only able to even do that ’cause I bowed out of a panel I was supposed to be on) and her name was Vanessa Friedman and she wrote a story about the first girl she fell in love with and we talked about it forever and how to revise it and then it was May and Vanessa read that revised piece of loveliness for all of you, and the whole entire world came full circle!!
Mey: The Staff Reading reminded me why I feel so honored to be a part of the Autostraddle team. Every single person who read at this is so talented and has such an amazing voice and I’m so happy I got to hear from them. I had to constantly be wiping my eye makeup from my cheeks, whether it was from laughing at Lizz’s and Ali’s stories, or crying at Whitney’s, or being able to relate to so many of the others. This gave me such a deeper appreciation and love for everyone on the Staff. I can’t believe I get to hang out with these people and call them friends. Usually, I don’t get to hear stories like this, and when I do, it’s only one or two at a time. But here we got to listen to more than a dozen of them, all of them amazing, all of them refreshing and all of them powerful.
Ali: The whole team is so ridiculously talented, I can’t even. This was one of those times where I wondered what I was doing here, among all these amazing humans reading their work. And I had such tremendous fun reading “So I Was Fisting My Girlfriend.” You guys, disclosure time, I fucking love readings, both those I participate in and those I listen to. Readings are my jam.
Riese: Me too! Last camp I found out that the fact that I’ve been doing readings semi-regularly since I was 16 years old was not actually a common experience amongst other faux-writers my age? I almost wanna say that Gabby was the only one besides me in September who’d ever done a reading before but I’m not sure. Anyhow they’re all naturals and I really loved Laneia’s piece.
Julia: Being there and listening to everyone pour out their funny, heartfelt, revealing stories made me remember why I started reading Autostraddle and what it means to me. It is a place that is driven and consumed by people with giant brains that are fueled by massive complicated hearts. The stories that people read were so beautifully written and filled with so many feelings that were familiar, insightful, hilarious and tragic. I may have cried a little.
Stef: During the Staff Reading, I sat directly outside Eagle on a bench, peering through the window with Megan and camper Leslie from Tiger Beat. I beamed at everybody like a proud stage mom and thought magical thoughts about how amazing all of our writers are. I started crying during Vanessa’s beautiful piece and throughout the rest of the reading, I only got worse. Riese’s piece in particular hit me at a very sensitive time and absolutely floored me, and I want to thank Leslie for taking such good care of me while I was hysterically sobbing like a weirdo.
Riese: I read a draft of a blog post from my old personal blog, Autowin, and before starting I was like, “this a thing I wrote about leaving New York. Some of the people in this room are in this story! Surprise!” and I found out after the reading that that particular announcement struck fear in the hearts of all the stars of my 2005-2008 stories (Haviland, Alex, Carly, Stef) and even some of their girlfriends! But I only said nice things.
Stef: I’m also super glad Riese told a room full of readers that I offer hummus to my friends when they’re sad, because hummus is delicious and it’s totally true. When her piece was over, I had to play music immediately afterwards and I was drunk, hyper emotional and had mascara running down my face like a crazy person! ALRIGHT.
10-Midnight: Lilith Flair (hosted by DeAnne Smith) – Somer Bingham, Haviland Stillwell, Marni, Julia, Stef, Alex, Ashley, Whitney, Cara
Riese: Okay you guys LILITH FLAIR. Lilith Flair was basically like, What Dreams of Riese May Come. Plus I got to sit on the floor with so many Runaway-hearts and Blackhearts. The only thing that could’ve made it better would’ve been if we were all sitting on the grass eating hummus at Pine Knob.
Marni: Driving back to San Francisco after last camp, Riese told me that her vision for the next camp was to have “an evening of lesbian folk rock music,” featuring all of A-Camp’s musically-inclined staff and guests, of which there are many. Needless to say, the title needed work (certain A-Camp staff – ahem, Robin Roemer – were not huge fans of the genre, to say the least), but the idea seemed solid.
Riese: I decided to take an Evening of Lesbian Folk-Rock music to the next level by making it Lilith Fair. Because LITTLE KNOWN FACT Lilith Fair, which took place in ’98, ’99, and 2010, was not just white girls with guitars and feelings! By opening it up to include covers by anybody who’d ever performed at Lilith Fair, we were able to diversify the setlist and showcase everybody’s special talents.
Marni: Fast forward eight months and it was all my dreams come true – there’s nothing better than jamming onstage with friends, especially when those friends have mad chops. In true A-Camp fashion, we had about 0.5 rehearsals before the show, and it all came together magically.
Rachel: The concept behind Lilith Flair is something that I’ve had actual dreams about, so obviously I was super fangirled out, maybe even more than I was at actual Lilith Fair (which I went to when I was 11 with my mom and got a tote bag from). I genuinely want all of these performances on an album.
Mey: When I was growing up, I remember having a lot (and I mean A LOT) of feelings regarding The Indigo Girls, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, and especially Melissa Etheridge. This was long before I had come out as trans or queer, and my male friends didn’t really share my interest in these ladies with their choppy haircuts and denim and acoustic guitars and pianos. So even though my musical tastes have evolved quite a bit, it was amazing seeing a room full of people clapping and cheering and singing along to music that I thought I was alone in caring about.
Katrina: I was honestly worried about Lilith Flair being too campy for camp (sorry I doubted you, Riese), especially since I, like many of you, was born in the 90’s and had no actual firsthand experience of the Lilith Fair, but the second Hav and her band launched into (Jill Sobule’s) “I Kissed A Girl,” it was over. Lilith Flair was the shit.
Riese: “I Kissed a Girl” brought me back to 2006 when Hav sang it with Jill Sobule on the Rosie cruise I was on as Hav’s guest. Other highlights included, most notably, Marni covering “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor which sounded even better on stage than it did on our couch!
Taylor: Lilith Fair was the most delicate dance of irony and unfettered joy that I’ve ever experienced. We laughed, we cried, we all had unfamiliar feelings for Marni in our pants.
Katrina: Shoutout to Cara (aka Hat Benatar) – I knew we had to be friends the second I found myself screaming along to the chorus of “We Belong” like a tearful, crazed fangirl. I didn’t know I had these feelings before. Now I’ll never forget.
Stef: I was most excited to play drums on a sped-up punk cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Adia” with Somer, since it seemed like a hilarious way to pull off a Lilith Fair classic.
Taylor: If you’ve never heard a rock-n-roll rendition of Sarah Mclachlan’s “Adia” then you haven’t lived. I mean it.
Mey: All the songs from Whitney’s amazingly emotional version of “Nineteen” to Cara (as Hat Benatar) and her sing-along choruses on “We Belong” to all the swagger of “Get Ur Freak On” and “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” to my personal favorite, Haviland Stillwell belting out “I Want to Come Over,” brought me into a place of total community and made me feel so much more comfortable for the rest of camp. I knew that I could make references and jokes here that I couldn’t make in my straight- and male-dominated circles back home. It made me feel like these were people I could relate to more than anyone in any other community I had been a part of.
Stef: Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” translated hilariously to acoustic guitar and box drum, and Katrina, Ashley and I had a lot of fun with it.
Katrina: Shoutout to Stef for being so multi-talented and for being the lady version of that super-hot bourgon swilling bassist that everyone always wants to bang. Also thanks for playing that Tegan and Sara song with me even though you hate them.
Carly: Lilith Flair, specifically the “Doo Wop” performance, will forever be etched in my brain as one of the happiest moments on my life. One of my favorite songs, performed by some of my favorite people, in a hilarious hot mess of a performance that still contained the talent, skill and joy that was pervasive throughout all of the performances. Totally amazing.
Marni: A favourite moment of mine was doing Lauryn Hill with Brittani and having Gabby add her scratchy, voiceless flow to the verses.
Rachel: It was fucking incredible, even though Gabby had bronchitis and her throat was literally falling out, and the song even had a surprise special appearance by Katrina via the actual literal grace of God.
Katrina: Shoutout to Gabby and Brittani – I don’t know all the words to “Doo Wop (That Thing)” either. Shout out to Lauryn Hill – YO FREE LAURYN HILL!
Rachel: If you have ever had even the mildest of crushes on an Autostraddle staff member, you are going to be fucking floored. I have seen the light, and it is Lilith Flair.
Riese: Also also! Julia did “Paper Bag” and Stef did “Not An Addict,” two songs which reminded me of my early-to-mid-20s when I was a self-destructive hot mess, and by that I mean reminded me of when I was really cool and felt alive/was too shaky to hold.
DeAnne: Holy shit. How incredible were all the “Lilith Flair” performances? I can’t stop thinking about that show. (They were actually really good, right? I don’t just think this because of all the bourbon Stef was giving me, do I?) The whole night felt magical, from everyone singing along with Cara’s “We Belong Together” to Haviland flat-out transforming into Melissa Etheridge on “I Want To Come Over” to Marni slaying us all with “Nothing Compares 2 U.” NOTHING COMPARES 2 THAT NIGHT. Except maybe the other nights, but still.
Stef: If you told me a few months ago that I would have one of the greatest times of my life playing bass on a Melissa Etheridge song for Haviland, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. My non-camp friends have chuckled at me a little bit when I showed them the video, but guys, that song’s a rocker.
Hansen: The Fister Spit/Lilith Flair night was so much fun. It’s one thing to connect with Autostraddle readers through articles, but it’s another to be like “Hey, look what else I do besides tell you about which state won marriage equality this week.” Reading my own personal work was terrifying, but it made me so proud to be counted among the staff members at that reading and then later at Lilith Flair. Everyone was incredible.
Cara: I will admit that I’m generally skeptical about the lesbian musical canon, but I’m beginning to see the light. I still won’t say I’m a Melissa Ethridge fan. But am I a Haviland Stillwell As Melissa Ethridge fan? Yup. Baby steps. I WANNA COME OVER.
Robin: This night was so much fun. Not only was I grateful to have a minute to sit back and listen to some very talented musicians, but it really brought me back to high school which was both nostalgic and a little terrifying (in a good way).
Riese: The show ended as all Lilith Fairs end, with a group performance of “The Water is Wide.” It was a magical night. I will now treat you to the playlist of all the songs performed that fine evening:
I Kissed a Girl – Jill Sobule (Haviland Stillwell)
Adia – Sarah McLachlan (Somer Bingham)
We Belong – Pat Benatar (Cara)
Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill (Brittani, Marni, Gabby, Katrina, Stef, Alex)
Nineteen – Tegan & Sara (Whitney)
Not an Addict – K’s Choice (Stef)
Superstar / Get Ur Freak On *- Tegan & Sara / Missy Elliot (Katrina & Stef)
I Want to Come Over – Melissa Etheridge (Haviland Stillwell)
Paper Bag – Fiona Apple (Julia Osen-Averill)
Police and the Private – Metric (Somer Bingham)
Nothing Compares to You – Sinead O’Connor (Marni)
Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls (Marni & Haviland)
Water Is Wide – Jewel, Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan (Everybody)
*for everybody’s sake, the playlist includes just “Get Ur Freak On” because you know.
After that the humans scattered into the night, over to Klub Deer, to their cabins to have feelings, or into the woods to bang their ankles on rocks. Or whatever it is you people do after dark. We’ll talk more about Klub Deer in the next recamp, but let’s end this recamp with a little bit of charm from Somer Bingham.
Overheard at A-Camp
By: Intern Somer Bingham
There were so many stray lines overheard as I was late & running to a panel or hanging up my campaign posters — I had to start writing them down. And if you’re just dying to know the context for what was said, see below.
1. It’s kinda competitive. Because…you know. DYKES.
2. It’s like being flogged with a mop.
3. I’m gonna support the SHIT outta you.
4. That accent… it’s a panty-dropper, essentially.
5. I don’t wanna think about how many fingers have been in there, though…
6. A little more fisting. A little less love.
7. Is this box taken by anyone?
1. Jill Houk’s response when I asked about playing basketball at recess and was concerned about getting crushed.
2. Um, I have no idea what the context was. But it is an awesome statement.
3. Whitney said this during the Queer Families panel when talking about wanting to support her future son or daughter.
4. This was overheard while I was traipsing around on the outskirts of camp – Daniela’s name came up in conversation.
5. Someone offered me an opened and partially used container of Nutella. I politely declined.
6. I don’t remember the context of this either, but…make your own.
7. We were packing. Someone wanted a box.
A-Camp October 2013 will take place October 9th-13th and registration will open soon!