words and photos by Shannon Claire
Leslie Hall, "born to give the gift of jams," and her ever-so fabulous LY's took over the Waiting Room last Friday. I have been listening to Hall's latest album Destination Friendship over and over again for the past couple of weeks. For those unfortunate souls who have not been exposed to the awesomeness that is Leslie Hall, let me catch you up to speed real quick.
Hall (out of Ames, Iowa) entered her high school homecoming parade in a beautiful sparkling pink thrift store gown, neck brace and a tiara. The tiara was worn by her mother when she was crowned Miss Auburn, Neb., in the early 1970s. Hall's eccentric efforts paid off as she made the local newspaper and was later in the year crowned prom queen.
After the wonder years of adolescence, she began a gem sweater collection that has grown to more than 400 sweaters. She has also built up an astonishing adorning fan base that brings those sweaters to life. Naming her collectibles "Moonlight Gravy," "Route to My Feelings," "Goblit from Bethlahem [sic]" and so on, Hall has a "gallery of glamour" that surpasses a few sweater-wearing grandmothers.
With the interweb star boom in the mid-2000s, Leslie found herself amidst a strange predicament of Internet fame. In need of raising money to pay a bill for exceeding her bandwidth, she took the unknowing advice from her fans who left comments on her site and threw on the gold pants and grabbed some old school friends. Leslie and the LY's were soon releasing their first album Gold Pants.
Fast-forward through a few more musically diverse albums, some one-of-a-kind YouTube videos, being named by VH1 as one of 2007's top 40 Internet stars, and ongoing projects and appearances with Nickelodeon's Yo Gabba, and you'll find Leslie and the LY's on an adventure.
From tracks such as "Here to Win," to others such as "Power Cuddle" and "Hydrate Jirate," Hall is all over the board in a good way. This is beats, breaks and harmonies you might hear in an underground dance club crossed with a grindy underage dubstep, trance-like electronic DJ party, with Britney Spears behind the turntable no less.
The show Friday night surpassed any club-like atmosphere I've been in, well, quite honestly since I've moved to this beloved state. The Waiting Room was packed with devoted bedazzled fans. Gold, silver and other metallic leggings and leotards were the winning choice to pair with the crowd's eccentric tops and gems. The energy was infectious and with openers that sit in on each other's bands, it gave a great BFF vibe.
Pennyhawk, in which Hall plays drums, played in Lincoln at the Clawfoot House (R.I.P) at the end of last summer. Started by Kate Kennedy, Pennyhawk was a band where a few friends could get together for sing-alongs and whatnots. Now they are Ames, Iowa, sweethearts.
I was impressed with them last summer, and their set Friday night whisked me off my feet with Kennedy's sweet guitar playing and swanky melodies. They have a few more band members now, and I say the more the merrier. I definitely recommend getting a hold of their new album, Sisterbones, full of creative storytelling, jazz horns, autoharp, a tickling picking guitar and more.
Ramona and The Swimsuits took stage shortly after a little dance break in between sets. Britney Spears was the invisible guest of honor that night. I haven't heard Britney being played in a club like that since I used to party in the clubs in the Castro District of San Francisco with my boys. RTS consists of a few members of Pennyhawk, Kennedy included, and these same members contribute to the LY's as well.
Ramona and The Swimsuits are a definite DIY band, taking off-pitch tunes and garage-like sounds to a great level that you want to skip down the street to. Their track "We Got Cable" points out how getting cable can make you realize how much you love, well, love. They sport side ponytails, bows and scrunchies, neon leotards and striped skirts. Watching them made me feel like an 8-year-old girl dancing around my room, wearing pretty much exactly the same thing, and just loving life and singing as loud and as happily as I wanted to.
So far the stage had boasted video projection, talking life-size puppets, multiple costume changes (all hand-crafted by Hall's mother), and I wondered what would come next. I didn't have to wait but a few seconds into Hall's first song to remember it was time to party. I was consumed by the high energy and my love for gettin' down I almost forgot I had to pay attention. She played some personal favorites such as "Body Rolls," "Blame the Booty," "Power Cuddle" and "You're Not Taken?" as well as hits, oldies, new tracks and a love song.
You also can't have a Leslie Hall performance without a gem sweater contest. Bringing about five people to the stage, she announced a winner. The reward was being jerked around and thrown down to the ground, along with getting to dance with the band to their infamous "Gem Sweater" track.
All this considered, the highlight of the night was the after-show dance party DJ'd by the LY's. Usually the crowd goes home after a long night of gettin' down, but that's not what these folks are about. While half the crowd approached Leslie Hall who took to the merch booth for photos and signatures, the other half continued to bust a move until we were falling down from the beat-dazzling overload.
I can't wait to catch another Leslie and the LY's show. I loved the camaraderie among all the band members. It reminded me a bit of what we have here in Lincoln with artists like Green Trees, Powerful Science, Bad Speler, Windpants and Universe Contest: diverse talented musicians making music for everyone.
If you missed out or want to reminisce, check out the photo slideshow below: