Those who attend the 41st Annual Willy Street Fair on Sunday, September 16th will have the opportunity to experience Madison’s (soon-to-be-not-so-)best-kept secret as the local “cute queer punk” duo Gender Confetti!!! opens WORT’s Underground Stage lineup at 12:00 PM.
Composed of Elyse Clouthier (she/her and they/them pronouns) and Sylvia Johnson (they/them), Gender Confetti!!! are poised to win listeners’ hearts with scrappy dance-punk, sparkling lyrics, and unbridled joy. Having completed a tour of the Pacific Northwest, Nebraska, and Minnesota with Madison’s Olyvia Jaxyn on the back of a transcendent, seven-track demo entitled QUEERS OF JOY, Clouthier and Johnson (pictured below) hope their optimistic, “do-it-together” punk allows listeners “the space to feel upset or lost or awkward, while arguing that those feelings can be overcome, and translated into [collective] empowerment” to dismantle oppressive systems. This gesture toward a better future pervades the duo’s ambitions.
“I want to work collectively to empower myself as well as the community I work in, to flatten hierarchies of oppression,” says Clouthier. “I want to treat life like a collaborative art project. For me, that involves a fusion of music, skateboarding, and art. I want to live in the center between ‘Do It Yourself’ and ‘Do It With Friends’, because its impossible to do just one or the other.”
Johnson hopes to permeate revolutionary ideas into society with their artwork and political activism. “I want to create spaces to foster radical conversations, materialize solidarity, and develop new ways of relating to one another,” Johnson shares. “For me, this involves expanding queer nightlife, writing political theory, poems, and songs, involving myself in sites of political struggle, engaging in acts of mutual care, and fighting for socialism.” Collectively, the duo aims “to be social and political leaders [and] develop queer people into being leaders as well.”
Musically, listeners can expect to groove to liberatory queer tunes “expressing joy, mutal care, anti-capitalism, fluidity, romantic friendships, radical trans feminism, and queer courage” as Johnson’s alternately ethereal and blistering riffs and Clouthier’s propulsive, exuberant drums envelope audiences. Their demo may be a rough, albeit functional, product, but damn is it good.
After serendipitously catching Gender Confetti!!!’s visceral set at Dead Media in Minneapolis, I recalled feeling similarly empowered — and utterly astounded — by G.L.O.S.S. and Mommy Long Legs, whose debut LP Try Your Best is one of this year’s best releases. Unfortunately, both of those groups have separated due to personal reasons. Punk musicians are people, too, and may struggle to balance their political involvement and creative endeavors. Considering this, Johnson and Clouthier “want to do conventional band stuff (playing shows, recording albums, making cute merchandise, and touring around the world) for as long as it makes sense.” Beyond that, the duo wants “to do political education, LGBTQIA+ activism, and mental health support.”
Gender Confetti!!! is a soft-yet-resolute blessing in a brutal world, a friendly hand extending from a bright future, and one of Madison’s can’t-miss acts. See them dazzle us this Sunday at noon.