Thursday, 20 July 2017

'Are You Ten Years Ago?': Tegan and Sara's The Con at Ten

Are You Ten Years Ago?

This is fittingly the name of one of the tracks on Tegan and Sara’s The Con. This coming Monday marks ten years since its release. A lot has happened in ten years. Tegan and Sara have released three more studio albums, each to critical acclaim as they are slowly edging their way into the world of the mainstream, touring with pop stars, and leading the way for musicians in the LGBTQI movement. Their uniqueness while working within traditional pop music confines is what sets them apart.
Ten years ago at the age of 23, I was largely happy, but in retrospect it was because I didn’t know any better. I was still living with my parents, doing well at my local university, I knew what I wanted, and how I was going to get it. Again, in retrospect, this was all incredibly naïve. Though the challenges of my disability meant that I faced adversity every single day, I assumed other things would run on the path I had smoothly laid out. I would dominate university, I would dominate the ALP, I would dominate my doubters who had constantly underestimated me.

When The Con came out I was in the last six months of my honours degree in political science. As anyone who has completed honours will tell you, the last six months are a complete grind. You are just wishing it will all be over as soon as is humanly possible. So I needed an incentive to push myself, and keep going until the end. In August I found one. My friend and I would follow Tegan and Sara around Australia as they toured in support of The Con that December, when the honours was all done; first Melbourne, and then Sydney, before returning to home to Brisbane. That tour would mark the first time I would see Tegan and Sara live.

When we got off the plane in Melbourne, my power chair would not work. Some of the cords connecting to the battery had been destroyed by the luggage handlers. It was after 5pm, and I was distraught. I frantically searched through the phone book to see if a repair shop was still open, and at last gasp I was in luck. There was a shop that had agreed to stay open, half an hour away from the airport. We jumped in the taxi, while I hoped for a miracle. On the way, my phone rang. It was my Honours Supervisor.

HS: ‘How’s your day been?’
Me: ‘Pretty shitty. I flew to Melbourne, and my chair got destroyed on the way.’
HS:' I have your Honours results, but maybe I shouldn’t tell you?
Me: 'Uh oh. Tell me anyway, The day can’t get much worse.'
HS: ‘You got First Class Honours! One of highest marks I’ve ever seen!’

Understandably, this is a moment I will never forget. For the next 24 hours, the feeling of utter joy was unparalleled, so much so when I attended the Melbourne concert the next night, the feeling was overwhelming. Tegan began to sing Dark Come Soon, and I began to sob uncontrollably. The peak of my twenties had arrived, and would continue for the next five days. In Sydney, I was in the front row, singing along, Tegan saw me throughout the show, and smiled back at me every time. Those are the moments I will hold in my heart forever.

For these reasons The Con remains the seminal album in my life. It tells the story of my twenties. Because the album is essentially a rollercoaster of emotion, it emulates those highs that I felt, but also mirrors the dreadful period of my life that came after. As my parents will tell you, the only thing I could really listen to in those barren months was Tegan and Sara. More specifically, the lyrics to Call it Off would be ringing in my ears.

I even wondered in my lowest moments whether those lyrics would define me for the rest of my life, it certainly seemed likely at the time.  Then two years later, I moved out into independent accommodation on my own, a goal that seemed truly unattainable until it actually happened. When my parents left my new apartment, I knew what I had to do.

I opened my computer and I put on The Con, at maximum volume, as I have ever since.

Most people don’t understand why I absolutely adore Tegan and Sara. People have a tendency to describe them as a series of buzz words Twin Sisters. Lesbians. Canadians. Feminists. Even those who don’t, fail to understand my depth of feeling. 

They are my Beatles. Or my Nirvana. My Michael Jackson. My U2. My Coldplay. My Adele. I’m not the only person who sees and feels their influence. That will never change; not now that I’m content, not when I’m married (In the sun?), not when I’m old, and not when I die. The Con represents the key points of my life when things changed, for the better, and then for the worse. It has been the soundtrack of my life for the last decade.

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