Queer In the Headlights 2017 PrideFest Party will host the debut of Eyebeams, a band fronted by Denver underground music staple Suzi Allegra. Though the act sports a psychedelic shoegaze sound reminiscent of Allegra's time in the psych-pop band Fingers of the Sun, the punk influence from Allegra's youth is apparent in her new outfit.
Until the past year, Allegra, a gifted and prolific songwriter, had taken a break from crafting her own material. After Fingers of the Sun folded around 2014, she joined the sonically adventurous indie-rock band Quantum Creep in 2015 as a bass player and vocalist, and she remains in that role today.
Among her most recent bands over the past ten years, few would guess at Allegra's sexuality or gender identity, because her lyrics have always centered around poignant experiences and emotions without addressing the specifics of her identity.
"I admire people who really sing specifically about queer politics and being queer in an obvious way, but I've never quite been able to pull that off in a way that seems genuine, and that I'm saying something in the way that I would want,” says Allegra.
“I don't think a lot of people realize that I'm queer, even among some people that have known me for a while,” says Allegra. “I also don't know that there's a specific queer music scene [in Denver]. But there are definitely bands with queer members in Denver, and that's what I think is cool about this show highlighting some of those bands. There's always been a little bit about being queer in my songs, and I'm always writing songs about crushes on people and some of those being crushes on girls. I write a lot of songs about identity and themes related to that that come into my lyrics. But it isn't always in an obvious way.”
As a kid, Allegra recognized that she had intense desires for other girls but didn't know how to frame and articulate those feelings until she was a teenager. At thirteen, she came out to a friend as bisexual, but didn't come out to her parents until she was in high school, when she announced that she was a lesbian. Fortunately, her parents were open-minded people who accepted their daughter for who she was.
“My mom said she always thought that might be the case,” says Allegra, who has since dated men and genderqueer people and now identifies as queer..
Sexuality isn't the only identity issue Allegra has wrestled with. “I can remember back to fifth grade having ideas about gender, and I'm still trying to figure that out in terms of my relationship to gender and what mine is,” she says. “It's still something I think about a lot.”
Fortunately, when Allegra was coming of age, she became a musician and a multi-instrumentalist who played bass, guitar and drums. She enjoyed the rock band Sleater-Kinney, the riot grrrl movement and queercore artists like Team Dresch, the Third Sex and the Butchies. Her first band, Catatonic Lydia, even opened for the Butchies at Tulagi in Boulder in 2001. From the mid-’90s to the end of the decade, films like All Over Me, But I'm a Cheerleader, Foxfire, High Art, Half-Cocked and Bound showcased women she could identify with in various ways, and this, along with the music, helped Allegra to find her way as a person.
With Catatonic Lydia, Allegra had found like-minded women who shared her musical interests and outlook on feminism, which has been key to most of her songwriting.
Throughout the 2000s, Allegra was a member of Supply Boy, a pop band with real chops courtesy not only of Allegra, but also guitarist and singer Sarah Lucey and drummer Brian Kaufman. Allegra and Lucey's queerness and intellectual curiosity fueled Supply Boy, as its lyrics smartly examined social issues, the nature of identity and relationships without abstracting their sexuality.
Allegra went on to influence her later bands and the all-female indie-rock groups My Sister Outlaw and Girls Walk By, the indie pop act the Pseudo Dates, the experimental rock outfit Fissure Mystic and Fingers of the Sun, to name a few.
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She points out that the terms "queer" and "female-fronted" are not musical genres, which the diversity of the Queer in the Headlights lineup proves.
“There are people in the bands on the bill that are gender-variant,” notes Allegra. “I think it's cool because it's not necessarily all bands that everybody thinks of as a queer band, but nevertheless they have queer or trans members that are part of our music community here. It's a good way to bring everybody together, especially during Pride weekend.”
Queer In the Headlights 2017 Pridefest Party, with Eyebeams, Teacup Gorilla, Great American House Fire, Flower Crown Me a Queen, Chromadrift, Gone Full Heathen, Space in Time and Lisa Matthews, 2 p.m. Sunday, June 18, Larimer Lounge, 303-291-1007, $5-10, 16 and over.