I have never felt so honored to be one out of fourteen hundred people in attendance at Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectation tour at the Danforth Music Hall the night of June 3, 2018. Kiyoko, in between songs, stood there in almost shock and told us how her first time playing in Canada, she only performed for one hundred and fifty people. Then it grew to six hundred the second time. Now, at her Expectations Tour, fourteen hundred people sold out her show to watch a Lesbian performer and singer be unapologetically herself in front of hundreds.
Before Kiyoko shared with us her growing reception in regards to her shows, my experience at this concert was something I had never felt or had been apart of from any other concerts I have attended. Arriving outside of the Danforth Music Hall, there was this visual representation in all of those waiting to get into the venue. The line wrapped around the block and if not every single person in that line, perhaps, four out of five people had or was wearing in some how, a pride flag. I was one of those four. I had never felt so at home and so represented of myself and those around me as I did on that public street. Onlookers watched as we wrapped around block after block, pride flags proudly displayed with a sense of community that Hayley Kiyoko makes us feel is so important. The representations of gay love in her music and music videos makes all of us fans of her proud to identify as whatever we may please.
During the concert itself, Kiyoko never held back any feeling or emotion or even personal stories and comments. One of the biggest responses during the line-up was her song, Girls Like Girls which debuted on YouTube on June 24, 2015. It felt as if every single person in that venue was belting the song out, never holding back the raw and powerful emotion and message that that song harbors for all individuals coming to terms and acceptance with their sexuality. For me, Girls Like Girls was a comfort song when I was still on the fence with coming out to family and friends. The song itself helped me build strength and courage and a sense of myself that I was worth being who I am and that, there should not be any need to hold back my true self. Needless to say, that song belted out by yours truly, was the most emotional moments of the night for me.
Although Girls Like Girls exceeded my expectations (ha, ha!), Hayley took a couple of minutes to get personal with us. She came onto the stage and started with, “I’m going through something personal right now and I was to know if all of you feel this too.” She opened up about that feeling when something good happens to you and you feel bad or you feel unworthy of feeling happy. You start to question if you deserve happiness, how long that happiness will last and, if it is fair that you should feel happy when so many others do not. She asked us that and then from there, told us that yes, you do deserve to feel happiness. Life is hard and living is hard but if you can feel even a miniscule amount of happiness, you deserve it. We all need to stop self-sabotaging ourselves, as she put it, and hold onto whatever little piece of happiness we experience or feel.
Without a doubt, the American-born, half-Canadian (Hayley’s mother is from Montreal), made all those in attendance feel a sense of togetherness, of belonging. A sense of pride in being unapologetically you and someone who should take happiness seriously. Not only was this concert everything I could have hoped it would be from one of my favorite artists, but I left with life lessons from someone else who has gone through the same path of learning to love themselves and not being afraid to show themselves to the world in the most raw and open sense.