“Are there any rich guys in the crowd who want to buy me shit?”
Popstar Kim Petras is talking to the audience between songs. She is wearing a black leather miniskirt and an off-the-shoulder gold top. The sunlight is reflecting off her long blond extensions and her white teeth are sparkling. Her backup dancers are dressed for a Sexy Mad Max party. She stomps across the stage and blows kisses to the tall person in the Lucille Ball wig in the front row who is pushed up against the metal railing.
“It’s a really hard time in the world,” she adds. “Especially for trans girls.” The crowd hollers in solidarity. One tall man next to me in a maroon t-shirt wipes his eyes as Kim launches into her next song, Hillside Boys. I start jumping up and down to the beat. I quickly memorize the chorus, “Hillside Boys you call my name. You make my heart sparkle like champagne.” I pretend I’ve been listening to Kim Petras for years, when in fact I only learned of her a few days ago, in preparation for this weekend.
I am at Outside Lands, an annual music festival in Golden Gate Park. I am forty-eight which means I paid extra for shade seating and access to upscale porta potties. I am wearing practical sneakers, sunscreen, and a neon fanny pack containing lip balm, Advil, and Band-Aids. Eighty-thousand people are here. There are various stages and dozens of vendors selling acai bowls and dried flower crowns. When I eat my Korean loaded waffle fries at a picnic table across from the Monster Energy Drink booth, I overhear a girl in crocheted pants say to her friend, “Matthew is the king of going to music festivals for the music.”
Like Matthew, I go for the music. I also love the people-watching and the overhearing of comments like, “Oh my god your parasol is everything.” When Pussy Riot plays the Ukrainian national anthem, a dad with his toddler on his shoulders turns to me and says, “These girls are amazing.” He hadn’t heard of Pussy Riot until his Russian coworker suggested he “go pay tribute.”
Pussy Riot is amazing. Apparently so is Wet Leg, the band my husband is seeing on the other side of the park. He texts, this show is incredible. Thank god women can now lead bands. I know what he means. It is no longer unusual to see female-led acts, or in the case of Pussy Riot and Wet Leg, all female bands. I text him back, First bands, next the country.
Later, swaying back and forth during Mitzki’s set, I am transfixed. She sings about the strange discomfort happiness can bring when you are conditioned to constantly wait for bad things to happen. And her dancing is more like theater. At one point she death-stares the audience and then mimics slowly slicing her neck with the microphone. Between songs, I can hear Post Malone across the park screaming, “I fucking love San Francisco.” I whisper into my friend Sarah’s ear, “The patriarchy is always in the background.”
Most women I know feel like we have a lot to be angry about. When Phoebe Bridgers leans into the mic and says, “The world is burning,” thousands of high-pitched “Yeahs” travel across the grassy field like an electric current.
Kim Petras is right. It is a really hard time in the world. Music won’t save us. We will save us. And when we do, music will be blasting.