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Hanging Out With Mal Blum  

(source: Mal Blum’s Official Website, http://www.malblum.com/)

“Mal Blum writes often self-referential, first-person narratives, sets them to music containing elements from anti-folk, punk or folk genres and tours nationally, usually alone in a little car, but sometimes with a band or another songwriter for company.” says the about page of Mal Blum’s official website. Chatham’s own Queer Straight Alliance got to hang out with them for a night, and it was as great as you could imagine.

Blum identifies as a non-binary transgender person and currently goes by they/them pronouns. A bit before the fall semester started, Blum contacted our Queer Straight Alliance president, Kylie Fletcher, to ask if they could perform at Chatham, and of course the QSA said yes. Since I am currently vice president of the QSA, I was able to help coordinate the event as well.  

Mal Blum (right), Kylie Fletcher (middle), and I (left), just casually hanging out in Chatham’s Carriage House, our concert venue for the night.

The night of the concert was October 8th, as we really wanted them to be here during LGBTQIA+ History Month. However, this date was during long weekend, when many students had already fled campus to visit those they loved back at home. This ensured that the concert was quite intimate. Blum brought their electric guitar and hooked it up to an amp, but since it was a smaller show, they sat on the end of the stage and didn’t use a microphone, which was a combination I had never experienced before at a concert. Because they were on the stage, they engaged in banter with everyone in the audience.

During some of the banter, Blum informed us that Bruce Springsteen has written a lot of gender dysphoria anthems, even if he doesn’t know it. Blum often likes to view songs in different ways than they were originally intended, sometimes to remove possible misogyny or to queer the lyrics. After they shared this information with us, they played “Dancing in the Dark” to further their point. If you can’t see how this song would be an emotional anthem about gender dysphoria, imagine it without saxophones, as Blum advised us to.

Though the entire night was wonderful, the most amazing moments from the night were when Blum played new songs for us that they had just written. One of the songs they had literally written in their hotel room the night before, and we were the first people to ever hear it other than their past hotel room’s walls. We were able to experience something that is rare outside of recording studios or the writing sessions of bands.  

Blum will be working on their newest album soon, so maybe some of the new songs we heard will end up on the record, in some form or another.

Jessica Keller is a senior biochemistry major at Chatham University minoring in psychology and music. She is a culture writer for The Chatham Post. This summer, she started as a columnist for Queer PGH. Her poetry and prose have been featured in multiple editions of Chatham's Minor Bird literary magazine.
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