"The weirdest, most emotional party you've ever been to," is how Nashville-based singer, songwriter and producer Joy Oladokun described her first-ever North American headline tour via Instagram. For those who have been living under a rock or if you've found yourself in a musical rut, Joy Oladokun's 2020 release in defense of my own happiness (the beginnings) is an intimate diary of the life Nigerian-American queer woman who unapologetically delivers stories that are heavy, thought-provoking, gut-wrenching and hopeful. The album, which was one of Billboard's Top 10 Best LGBTQ Albums of 2020, features songs that paint the picture of growing up as a black girl in a small-town Arizona, moving to Los Angeles to write and make music, finding her voice and coming out, and dealing with the invisible battles we face as human beings. From the empowering anthem "unwelcoming" to the honest and sobering acoustic ballad "too high," Joy leaves nothing off the table which is breath of fresh air in a society that expects women to keep quiet and be on their best behavior.
"When you listen to me, I want you to feel like you've taken an emotional shower. I want you to be changed when you hear me, and not because I'm special, but because I make music with the intention to change myself."
With six remaining dates on her tour, I was fortunate to capture her Pittsburgh debut at Thunderbird Café and Music Hall, with support from Bre Kennedy, who was a beautiful, down-to-earth songbird with an old soul. Listening to her set was like having a really good conversation with someone you just met and you already know you're going to be besties. She opened the night with the single "Whirlwind," which she dedicated to her grandma who was very excited to hear the single on an episode of Grey's Anatomy, followed by "Jealous of Birds" and "Intuition," which both hit so close to home for me. Bre puts lyrics to how many of us feel inside and for that I'm so grateful to have found her.
You know the saying "Your vibe attracts your tribe"? Well, I'm going to apply it to the crowd who showed up for Joy. It was so comforting to feel like every person in the room was there to have a good time and no one was worried about what anyone else was doing. As someone who is highly sensitive as well as living with anxiety, it's so easy for me to shut down in public spaces and get self-conscious. But last night? Nah, I felt accepted as the person I am which is something I've been chasing for the last 20 years. I love that the music Joy writes and produces is so empowering and honest because it creates that safe space for us freaks to congregate without feeling like we're offending someone. Which, it couldn't have been more appropriate for Joy to open her set with "If You Got a Problem" and "Keeping the Light On," both two sides of a story that we all can relate to - the former about standing by your partner in the bad times, the latter is an anthem and reminder of our own inner strength.
All images captured by Mollie Crowe on May 7th 2022.