The Aces create comforting gay haven with ‘Pridestream’ virtual concert

photo of Aces performing
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The Aces are just like us: They’ve gone through their share of heartbreak, identity crises and self-acceptance — and they’re also very gay. Live from Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles, the indie-pop quartet, three of whom identify as queer women, held a “Pridestream” in celebration of Pride Month and loving yourself for who you are. The June 15 livestream was full of touching music that individuals from all walks of life could relate to, and personal anecdotes from the band members about their experiences dealing with love in the LGBTQ+ community.

The Aces’ performance was electrifying, to say the least. Before the show, lead guitarist Katie Henderson hopped on the chat and conversed with audience members eager to see both the livestream and The Aces’ return to live concerts in the near future. The love was palpable; the chat flooded with declarations of “Happy Pride” and rainbow flag emojis.

The quartet started off with the funky “Zillionaire,” with lead singer Cristal Ramirez passionately singing, “Cause your loving makes me feel like I’m a zillionaire.” Her wearing of sunglasses indoors added to the effortless nature of the performance, which had the precision and poise of a studio recording. At first, it seemed that kicking off the set with a song about love was fitting, but the band later revealed that the entire set would be about the turmoil and the joys of queer love.

“It’s motherf—ing pride,” cheered Ramirez. Her sister Alisa, the drummer, quipped in response, “Nothing’s gonna rain on our parade.” Ramirez asked the audience and her bandmates how they were feeling, to which they responded, “We’re feeling very gay, as gay as can be” — all except for “spicy straight” bassist McKenna Petty, who instead said, “I’m not gay, but I love the gays.”

More banter ensued between the four, who established the livestream as a celebration of all things queer, complete with a specially curated setlist packed with the band’s gayest songs. Though the set was prerecorded, The Aces’ effort to engage the audience with their stories and jokes was admirable. What really made the show personal was the members detailing the backstory to many of the songs they played and why each was important to their queer identity, allowing for moments of relatability, vulnerability and tenderness.

Much to fans’ pleasure, The Aces played a slew of songs off of their 2018 debut, When My Heart Felt Volcanic. “Stay,” a song about relationships on the road, was joyfully upbeat, and Henderson’s bright telecaster sound resonated beautifully about the recording studio. “Bad Love,” which the band referred to as the “OG gay bop” was a fun, bubbly number about forbidden love and choosing to live in your chaos. The band exuded Kelly Clarkson breakup vibes, unafraid to be themselves and proudly taking “To err is human” to heart.

The highlight of the show was when the band played “801,” a tribute to the struggles of coming out in the conservative, religious small town in Utah where the four grew up and the gay club that played an important part in helping them discover their identities. The song itself gave off a sultry, desperado energy, which was fitting for the band’s closeted identity while growing up in the 801 area code.

In more tender moments, The Aces’ performances of queer love story “Kelly,” their first song using she/her pronouns, and their cover of Tegan and Sara’s “Back In Your Head” were deep personal dives into Cristal’s, Alisa’s and Katie’s coming out stories, as well as the band’s ties to the queer community. 

Even through the screen, The Aces were able to create an environment and show that was incredibly uplifting and welcoming, a true safe space for members of the queer community to celebrate Pride. Not only did the band play a diverse set of songs, the members shared sensitive and eye-opening, yet all-too-common queer teenage memories. The Aces were able to capture so much of the highs and lows of queer love, all woven into fantastic music.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.