By Katherine Chung | 17 October, 2023
The Aces’ concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C, fell at the end of the first week of LGBTQ History Month. It was the drummer, Alisa Ramirez’s birthday. This past summer, I became a fan of The Aces. What drew me to their band was their partnership with SoundMindLive.org. The band is donating $1 from each ticket sale to support American mental health programs. And they are providing LGBTQ and mental health resources at the merch tables on their North American tour. In addition to their partnership with SoundMindLive, you can write a letter to your younger self and tell them that things will get better, on their website. This project allows fans to unpack their emotions and connect with the band. There is even an option to send in a letter anonymously if you do not want to add your name.
In a recent interview, the band's drummer, Alisa, said that their latest album, I’ve Loved You for So Long, is about "us coming from Utah and kind of processing our youth and the stuff we went through as closeted kids in such an oppressive hometown and stuff... and also just exploring adulthood and having sh*t from your teen-hood affect you if you haven't processed it." These projects are the perfect ways to support fans struggling with their mental health, LGBTQ-related topics, and the Aces’ commitment to these issues as fans follow them on tour.
When I arrived at the venue, I secured a spot on the balcony. During that time, I had the chance to meet a few individuals attending with their significant others. The steps behind me quickly filled up, showcasing the wide range of fans: teens, young adults, couples, parents, and grandparents. On the floor, fans were taking selfies, exchanging friendship bracelets, and making new connections. In the room, I felt like I was free to be my true self, surrounded by people who shared a love for the same music.
The pre-show setlist included familiar songs from the show ‘Heartstopper’ and early 2000s music – an ode to what the quartet wished they had growing up. The band began the show singing “Always Get This Way,” the third track off of their album. In an interview from earlier this year, The lead singer, Cristal Ramirez, explained that she experienced anxiety, panic attacks, and depression when they wrote and recorded the song. Hearing this song made me feel happy and grateful to be there since I was anxious to go to the concert by myself.
Cristal continuously expressed her excitement about performing in Washington, D.C, throughout the show. She acknowledged the crowd and encouraged us to sing along with the band. I have been to concerts with minimal audience participation, but this one felt different thanks to the band's infectious energy. To celebrate Alisa's birthday, she performed an extended drum solo, the 9:30 Club brought cupcakes and a cake to the stage, and the whole venue sang Happy Birthday twice. It felt like we were celebrating as a family. As someone who grapples with mental health challenges and birthdays, it was heartwarming to see how much her bandmates cared about her.
A few songs in, Cristal called for an intermission because there were technical difficulties. Instead of leaving for a break, the band decided to create an impromptu comedy and fun facts about the D.C. stand-up routine. Katie, one of the guitarists, shared some lighthearted cow jokes that had the whole crowd laughing. McKenna, the bassist, not typically the one with the mic, shared her excitement about the night and her interest in D.C. history. With the moment feeling awkward, Cristal took the mic from her and refocused on the crowd in front of her. It was a reminder that artists like The Aces know how to uplift a crowd when things do not go as planned. However to fix the technical issues, there was a 10-minute intermission where the band left the stage.
The second half of the show was louder and more active. One of my favorite moments was during “Not The Same” when Cristal grabbed a lesbian pride flag from a fan and waved it in the air. The two women beside me were hugging each other and recording the moment. It was a moment of joy and acceptance. Cristal Ramirez knows how to connect with her audience. She is someone I look up to because of the way she openly and freely discusses her sexuality.
Before “Stop Feeling,” Cristal delivered a heartfelt and personal speech about how much the band had helped her with her mental health struggles. She said “I didn’t know what life was going to be like, and if I was going to live authentically, out, and proud. The only thing that got me out of bed was these three. So thank you so much for being a part of that. Without you guys, none of this would have been possible. We love you so, so much. Thank you! So if you know this next song, please sing with me.” –After her speech, I watched fans cheer and sway back and forth to the music. The crowd could not take their eyes off Cristal, admiring her bravery to be her true self in front of a sold-out crowd.
In a USA Today interview, Cristal said "How can we give up on those [queer] people? I think that we have to keep fighting to create safe spaces everywhere we possibly can." Attending a show by The Aces does not require you to be openly out or to have everything figured out about your identity. The only prerequisite for the show is to embrace and appreciate everyone for who they are.
A day after the show, I shared my videos of Cristal waving the lesbian pride flag and her speech on The Aces’ Discord server for the Washington, D.C. show. I was not expecting to get an emotional reply from a fan. They thanked me for sharing the video and said they started tearing up while watching it. Every part of The Ace’s performance was exhilarating and positively impacted the fans' moods. Thanks to The Aces, we were there to support each other, cry together, and connect back on the internet.