Musicians came together to raise money for an awesome cause.
By Olivia Langenberg
Features and Lists Co-Editor
The Ally Coalition hosted it’s 4th annual “Talent Show” on January 24. The Ally Coalition was formed back in 2012 by the band Fun and designer Rachel Antonoff, basically with the mission of promoting equality for LGBTQ people. This Talent Show is held annually to benefit homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City. Previous years saw Carly Rae Jepsen, CHVRCHES, Charli XCX, Sara Bareilles, and Elle King as musical guests, as well as a variety of famous comedians such as Fred Armisen and Hasan Minhaj. This year’s show took place at Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan, and featured Lorde, Kacey Musgraves, The National, Shamir, Spoon, Andrew Dost, and Bleachers as musical guests, and Aparna Nancherla, Phoebe Robinson, Jacqueline Novak, and Mike Birbiglia as comedians.
I found it rather interesting that this show took place at a venue in the middle of Times Square. I’d never heard of it, nor had I ever been before, so I decided to do a little research into the venue’s background. The space was actually commissioned by The League for Political Education, with the intention of educating people about important political issues of the time. When it was first being built, the group was fighting for women’s suffrage, and by the time it was completed, the 19th Amendment had passed. They say that the building then was a symbol of this victory and for an optimistic future. The famous phrase “Not a bad seat in the house” is attributed to Town Hall due to the lack of box seating. I can say this phrase definitely applied, because I was in the second to last row of the upper balcony and I still had a good view. I’m not sure if the organizers of the show chose the venue for its history for hosting activists and educational programs, but I think it was suitable for the event’s cause.
Kacey Musgraves was the first to take the stage. The show was set to be primarily acoustic, so she simply sat on a stool with her guitar and let her vocals be the main focus. I’ve never really listened to her music before, nor am I much of a country music fan, but I actually enjoyed her performance. Set times were capped at around 10 minutes, so she only had enough time for 3 songs. I think she chose them well- two new songs, and one of her most popular songs, “Follow Your Arrow.” The funny thing, though, was that Kacey forgot the words during “Follow Your Arrow” and had to ask people in the front row what came next. I first felt a little uneasy that the show began with a performer who forgot the words to her song, but the way she played it off made the atmosphere lighter.
After Kacey’s quick acoustic set, I was surprised to see Aparna Nancherla take the stage. I knew there were some comedians in the lineup, but I hadn’t expected one to appear after just one musician. I wasn’t familiar with her work either, but I was pleasantly surprised. I tend to gravitate toward dry humor, and Aparna had me hooked with quick one-liners and self-deprecating jokes. She told a joke about how people become shapes in the winter because of how many layers they are forced to wear, and the entire room erupted in laughter. I personally related, as I often feel like a giant circle when I’m clad in my puffy winter coats. Supposedly, Aparna was named one of “The 50 Funniest People Right Now” by Rolling Stone, which is super cool. I enjoyed her fresh take on stand-up, and she was my favorite comedian of the night.
After Aparna ignited the crowd, non-binary artist Shamir came out, the first to declare membership in the LGBTQ community. Once again, I wasn’t familiar with Shamir’s work, but from the second he started singing about straight boys ruining his life, I was on board.
Shamir’s performance felt the most intimate and raw, while simultaneously remaining lighthearted. His second song, “90s Kids” featured lyrics giving props to college kids, acknowledging their struggles and how their problems can be degraded by their elders. It was definitely a highlight to see a LGBTQ person of color perform at the benefit.
At this point in the show, I started to space out. I can’t name many notable moments from this moment until Lorde took the stage an hour later. Jacqueline Novak did a weird stand-up routine about french fries, which stopped being funny about 2 minutes in, but unfortunately I had to sit there for another 8 minutes of it. Spoon played a few songs that sounded the same and didn’t really capture my attention. Phoebe Robinson performed a stand-up routine that definitely went over the time limit. She was funny at some points, and at others I found myself staring intently at the back of the guy in front of me’s head. Mike Birbiglia talked about his experience at a fertility clinic, which was also funny at times and trying too hard at others. The National performed a few songs, which didn’t wow me that much, but they did have some horns to accompany the piano.
Just when I thought I would fall asleep before I ever got to see Lorde, she finally came out!! She was dressed in a white billowy top that made her look like a cloud princess. Jack Antonoff sat alongside her at the piano, and the two played a few covers and a few songs off Lorde’s Melodrama. I don’t get to hear Lorde acoustic enough, and it was a great opportunity to hear her voice in its truest form. Lorde and Antonoff wrote her recent album together, and their friendship was refreshing to see live. Unfortunately, though, their performance was interrupted by a heckler, who shouted “Israel is nice,” likely due to Lorde’s cancellation of her performance there. Antonoff quickly jumped to her defense, shutting him down and reminding everyone why we all were really there. At the end of the day, this concert was to benefit homeless LGBTQ youth. While it’s great that so many talented artists came to showcase their art, it was really about raising money. Lorde was obviously my favorite part of the night, since I’m a little biased towards her. I enjoyed that Antonoff was with her, though. It made me imagine what the process of making Melodrama was like.
Obviously, the night ended with a performance by Jack Antonoff, accompanied by his band Bleachers. They began their set with a tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries, performing a rendition of their song “Dreams,” followed by some of the group’s own songs. Antonoff closed out the show with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” urging the night’s earlier performers to come out and join them. It felt like an appropriate way to bring the night to a close. My opinions aside, I believe the night was a success. The Ally Coalition raised $193,000 for homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City, and that’s what really matters. In hosting this show annually, more exposure is granted to people who don’t always have a voice in media. LGBTQ people and allies can come together and stand up for equality, while enjoying music and comedy. Each year the show seems to grow, and I’m excited to see what the Ally Coalition continues to do in the coming years.