And So I Stayed In, With My Tin Soldiers – A Giant Dog and Finding A Safe Space

I have a friend named Tessa. Her name isn’t actually Tessa, but she doesn’t know I’m writing this, and I sorta don’t want her to be pissed at me because she’s a little intimidating. There’s no reason for me to be intimidated, she’s never been anything but perfectly wonderful. She just carries herself so confidently and powerfully it’s tough to be anything but immediately humbled.

She commands whatever room she’s in. She’s impossible to ignore; equal parts charismatic and regal. Her bone structure is perfect and her sentence structure even better. One look can send you scrambling through the recesses of your mind for any minor sin you may have committed. Didn’t use a coaster for your drink? She somehow knows, man, and while she’ll never overtly call you out, you’d better shape up and stop disappointing her.

Tessa lead the charge to the front of the stage while the rest of the crowd (including me…) wallflowered during the opener, Crushed Out. Crushed Out is a two-piece surf rock outfit that oozed cool. Frankie Sunswept and Moselle Spiller matched their impeccable style with a bluesy, electric and accessible substance that few can actually carry. They presented like members of a 1950’s street gang who would torment James Dean, but eventually realize they had a heart of gold and help in the end. The coolest of the cool and incredible musicians and performers, to boot.

I think everyone at a show kinda wants to be at the front. Maybe they don’t want to be rude. Maybe they don’t want to lead the charge. Maybe they don’t want to be the only one standing. Tessa didn’t care. We marched to the front, her in the lead and four or five rallying behind. More and more joined us and by the time A Giant Dog took the stage, it was a party.

A Giant Dog is one of the best live bands in the world, at the moment. It’s not just the guitars and rhythm section combining in a thunderous classic rock meets punk vibe, because the music itself is loud, fast and bone shaking to be must hear on it’s own. It’s also not in the lyrics, which bounce back and forth between juvenile hijinx, to very real sentiment and disillusion with the world around and a need to just be free.

The real show comes from the stellar songs and near perfect musicianship mixed with the performances from the two leads, Andrew Cashen and Sabrina Ellis. They are charismatic and playful. They’re confident with a hint of nervousness that comes across less as performers and more as two people realizing this is their time to just let go. Nothing they do feels manufactured or rehearsed. They move, dance, climb and spin and with each step it feels like a release of the shackles of our demure modern life.

There’s been a lot of talk about safe spaces lately, like it’s somehow derogatory to want to be someplace you won’t be attacked or judged. Like it’s a bad thing to feel comfortable and safe and free to be yourself.

Safe spaces are rad. The more often you’re comfortable in your own skin, the more open and free you become everywhere. The more open and free, without fear of being judged or bothered, the happier people are. It’s nice to have a space where the performers are so free, it’s almost contagious. It also really makes things stand out when someone violates that safety.

Tessa stood at the front of the stage. I stood slightly behind her and to her right. To her left was a dude standing by himself. He was heavier set with slicked back hair and thin facial hair; somewhere in between a beard and five o’clock shadow. He kept sneaking glances at her as she moved and sang along. I’m a bit over protective by nature, so with each glance at her I glanced at him.

At one point, she bent down to put something in her purse and he leaned over her. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get a better look or what, but it was a deliberate action. She stood up, and they clanged heads, the back of her head striking his cheekbone. He saw it coming too as he winced before contact, but didn’t move out of the way. Startled and annoyed, Tessa, turned to the guy, but I slid in between. He smiled and prepared to talk but I turned my shoulder so it was inches from his mouth. It was one of the most sociopathic attempts to get a girl to talk to you I had ever seen. An almost sitcom plot of douchebaggery. A blatant attempt at a meet cute, only she was not Zoey Deschanel and he was not Joe Gordon-Levitt.

It’s why safe spaces are important. No one wants to be harassed. No one wants games. No one wants to bash their skull on a boy who was too chicken to just say hi or too dumb to know when to not bother someone. People want to be left alone. They don’t want worry or fear. This goes quadruple for women. Leave them alone.

A Giant Dog is proof that openness and freedom can be achieved; that comfort and movement should be applauded. Their joy, performing ability and talent makes it clear that’s what we should all strive for.

Really though, it’s not just A Giant Dog, even if they happen to be very good at this, it’s what all shows should be. They should be a place where we are gathered for the same thing: to enjoy music and be free. Breaking that trust is gross and stupid.

My advice: don’t be gross, don’t harass and don’t blacken your own eye on a pretty woman’s cranium because you’re too dense to get those first two things through your now bruised skull.

Also, go see A Giant Dog and Crushed Out because they’re rad.