Allison Weiss on playing Orlando: Im not going to hide in the shadows’

Less than 24 hours after the Pulse nightclub atrocity, Allison Weiss took to the stage in Orlando, FL. The gay singer-songwriter talks community, the cathartic power of music and defending LGBT pride

While performing a solo set in Orlando, Florida on Sunday night, the singer-songwriter Allison Weiss broke the cadence of her strum and sighed before singing the lyric: I will make it out of this alive.

Its from a song about finding the will to carry on after heartbreak, but in a room of around 150 people who rejected terror to take solace and express solidarity through music, there was an acute awareness of its literal meaning.

I wrote that song for myself as much as for other people, said Weiss on Monday. Its a reminder that as bad as it gets, you get to wake up and see the sun every day. Thinking about the people at the Pulse nightclub who didnt have that luxury was tough, but it gave the lyric even more power.

When Weiss took the stage, the city beautiful was less than 24 hours removed from the atrocity at the popular LGBT nightspot, which is now the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

The following night, many at the intimate Back Booth venue just two miles away stood in sombre silence, listening intently to Weiss and fellow artists. Others sang along viscerally. Some anxiously glanced at smartphone screens, seeking information on whether loved ones made it out alive. In at least one case, the news was not good.

For Georgia-born Weiss, 29, amid the heartbreak, the experience was cathartic, an important display of community, but also a statement. For a gay woman and vocal advocate for equality, it was a chance to stand with the LGBT family.

This was an LGBT-related crime and I am gay. Im not going to hide in the shadows because of some lunatic, she told the Guardian following the final east coast show supporting Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. It was absolutely so important to me to stand up there and be who I am, and I wanted to show my fans its OK to be who they are, too.

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Following a collaborative decision to proceed with the show amid the chaos of Sunday morning, focus turned to ensuring safety. Security was tripled at the tiny, enclosed venue in the deserted downtown area. Pat-downs were given and bags barred from entry, perhaps signalling the dawning of a new reality in America.

As we were driving down, Orlando declared a state of emergency, Weiss said. So, as a performer, I want to make sure Im keeping myself safe and my fans safe. The other side is: how do I go out there and play a show when something that horrible has just happened?

Throughout a 30-minute guitar-driven set, which she called the most emotional and challenging of her career, the endearing Weiss, sporting a rainbow armband, asked the audience to live your life from a place of love. The anguished pleas took the place of jokes to lighten the tone amid all those songs about heartbreak.

I thought Orlando deserved the same show everyone else had, she added. It was the same set, but its really hard to get up there and say here are all my trivial songs about my trivial life where all these people have just died.

Still, it was really a special feeling to be up there feeling that vulnerable and know the audience was feeling that vulnerability too. When youre in a room full of people all singing together, you remember youre part of a community.

During the second to last song, I asked the crowd to sing along with me and we all screamed it together. It was like a pure serotonin rush we all really needed.

AW (@allisonweiss) June 13, 2016

Thank you Orlando. Felt good to sing with you all tonight.

For Weiss, a hole in the heart appears partially filled by a resolve that the progress made by the LGBT community will not be eroded. Saturdays events have offered a tragic reminder theres still a distance to travel towards equality and acceptance.

The fact that it happened during pride week she adds, tailing off slightly. People just see the parades, the parties and the fun, but what were really celebrating is the fact were no longer persecuted.

This shooting reinforces that theres a bunch of anti-gay rhetoric and legislation right now thats allowing these people to think its OK to feel like were not all equal. But we are. Im happy to stand up and be proud, promote that and show, especially, younger kids that they shouldnt be afraid.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/14/allison-weiss-orlando-lgbt-pulse-attack

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