Johnny Blazes and the Pretty Boys rocked the stage at FNR
The sounds of rousing horns and tight, soulful vocals filled Sarner Underground on Friday night as Johnny Blazes and the Pretty Boys performed at Friday Night Rock for this year’s Dartmouth Pride Week.
The band played a lively set that included various covers as well as clever original songs off their debut album Soul Vernacular, which was released this past September.
Lead singer Johnny Blazes formed the band with their father, guitarist J. Johnson, in 2011. The two talented musicians had a charming onstage dynamic and were supported skillfully by the rest of the ensemble, which featured back-up vocals, keyboard, bass, percussion and an impressive horn section.
Hirsh Elhence ’17, Friday Night Rock’s current booking manager, said that he and the students organizing Pride Week wanted to select “a band that would fit the ethos of Pride… someone who could represent the community.”
Elhence heard that the band had played at the Boston Pride Festival in June.
“We listened to them and they sounded great,” he said. “They have [this] burlesque, glitter rock vibe.”
Blazes, a captivating entertainer with experience in circus performance, vaudeville, drag, burlesque and more, said that the band aims to get audiences up on their feet.
“Our music is intended to make people dance,” they explained. “So the audience that I really want to reach is people who want to dance, and who appreciate really tight and exciting musicality.”
The band easily achieved this goal during Friday night’s show. Students in attendance said they felt encouraged to let loose and were inspired by Blazes’ confidence and boldness onstage.
“I was really struck by the charisma of the lead singer,” concert attendee Reed Sturtevant ’16 said.
He went on to say that it was the best FNR show he has been to in years.
Laura Calderon ’19 said that the boldness was something that she had observed in many of the Pride Week activists.
“[They] were just up there being themselves,” Calderon said. “[They] really made me feel like I should be as fierce and as proud.”
Lizzy Rogers ’16 agreed, saying that it was inspiring for her “to see someone up there who’s just so comfortable.”
“There was a really raw exciting sexuality to every moment of [their] performance,” she said.
Rogers went on to mention that she especially appreciated the band’s song “Jade,” which Blazes summed up as being about “not knowing if you want to be someone or want to [be with] them.”
Blazes describes the lyrics of their songs as “very much queer.” They added that many of their songs address the “confusion of the queer identity and the pleasure of that confusion.”
Although they do not necessarily categorize their performances as a form of activism, Blazes pointed out that “in 2016 when you have a consciously queer message or ethic to your work, it’s inherently political because that’s not the common narrative.”
They also explained that, though their shows are meant to be fun and celebratory, they make sure to bring up important social issues as well.
“The joy of music and the joy of dancing is a way to access people,” Blazes said.
They went on to mention that, within the LGBTQIA community, certain groups “get put to the forefront and get a lot of visibility, and [others] don’t.”
“The murder rate in the black trans community is unacceptable, and we need to be talking about these things even while we’re celebrating,” Blazes said.
In terms of the future of the movement, they believe that the discussion of intersectionality is vital.
“We need to look at the intersections of things,” Blazes said. “Every person needs to examine our own privilege, whatever that privilege is.”
Pride Week activities will continue until May 6.