Rufus Wainwright, packs of batteries, and YA: A Study in

On Wednesday the 18th July, I went to see Rufus Wainwright in the Iveagh Gardens. I regret nothing.

It was due to a spur of the moment decision several months ago. I was talking to a friend online who had seen him perform in London–sitting in a Starbucks, supposed to be revising but taking a break instead–and Googled to see if he was performing in Dublin this year. I’d missed him every time he’d been in Ireland, so I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But he was playing in July! I checked the date and decided I’d twist someone’s arm into going with me. (Housemate and Ex-Housemate, thank you very much for agreeing to the arm-twisting!)

Whenever Rufus Wainwright is mentioned, the first thing that pops into my head is carrying a battered CD player around college (with the necessary spare batteries) and playing Want Two on loop as a I churned through my many English and History essays. (At one point I was able to time how far I should have been in my essay wordcount by how far I was into Want Two.) It sounds silly, trite, but Rufus Wainwright got me through the final year of my undergrad.

Most of the acclaim and gushing is usually given to Wainwright’s quietly reflective Want One, but I’ve always preferred the louder, brassier Want Two, the pink album that declares it’s doing life its way, no matter what others think. Perfect for a girl who knew she was gay, knew her life wasn’t going in the direction she’d expected, but was painfully aware her style and demeanor wasn’t quite adapting to this change. The girl who wanted her life to be different but didn’t know how.

(I ended up bolting to Dublin for a Masters once the undergrad was complete, so to a certain extent I did something, at least.)

I still have the CDs–this was before I joined the iPod and iTunes revolution–and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I listened on loop, though I can tell you I went through many, many packs of batteries. Listening to Rufus Wainwright felt a bit like loving Plath–cliche, expected of a teenager–but I didn’t care. I listened to him on and off once arriving in Dublin, discovering new music and attempting to figure out my twenties, but I’d often come back to one of his albums and linger over the songs for a few days. I didn’t realise how deeply ingrained his music was in me unti Wednesday night, when I’d remember a song based on only a few opening notes and the words would come flooding back. (I mouthed along, probably deeply uncool, but what about this blog post made you think I was cool?)

One of the things that really pleased me when we reached the concert venue was the eclectic crowd: not just older teenagers and twenty- and thirty-somethings, but people my parents’ age and older. In Ireland, at least, he seems to appeal to many different age groups. And he’s flamboyantly, unashamedly gay: not just in how he speaks or dresses, but there are many references to this in his music. If you’ve read interviews with him, he’s pretty frank about wanting mainstream success but also not at the expense of being someone he’s not.

It hit me, in the middle of a song I was kind of dancing along to, as I have no rhythm and not enough bravery to dance like so in public, that this was similar to the kind of writing I wanted to do. Unashamedly gay (because YA ficiton needs more lesbians on its shelves) and involving things that I’m excited to write about, even if they won’t all appeal to the mainstream. (And in regards to trends: well, I’ve loved werewolves since I was twelve, an unfortunate YA subject to write about in the last few years.)

So that’s what I decided when I got home from the concert: to be brave about writing, and to keep on with the lesbians. And to start getting up early before work to get more done, like I used to do with alarming regularity but then gradually started slipping on. I even tapped it on the back of my bedroom door, so I’d see it every time I left: BE BRAVE.

He was amazing live, just so you know.

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