By Portia Leigh
Los Angeles rock band Life Down Here opened the 2011 Lady Killer tour's West Hollywood show at the Roxy on September 3rd. "It was my first time opening on a gay & lesbian tour, but it definitely won't be my last," said Life Down Here singer, 19-year old Michelle Blanchard. "Sharing a stage with Vanity Theft, Hunter Valentine and Sick of Sarah was an absolute honor and I hope to play with them again."
Playing a short, fun set that definitely got the crowd pumped, the pop-punk quartet brought the kind of energy audiences beg for from an opening act. “For me it's cool because I'm a guitar player and a singer so everyone gets to see me taking the leads rather than just listening to the album on its own," said Blanchard.
Delivering a combination of fierce vocals and ripping guitar riffs Blanchard is a multi-talented musician who writes all of the band's lyrics. "All of my songs are written about my life - anything from relationships and just being who you are, to mental institutions and suicide."
As an openly gay artist, Blanchard's unapologetic attitude in terms of her sexual preference is empowering, especially for those passing through adolescence. "As it is for any other kid, growing up isn't easy, you get picked on for your hair, the way you talk, the way you dress-- now imagine getting made fun of for all of that and then being gay on top of it," said Blanchard. "I was lucky to have a lot of accepting friends, but it's pretty interesting being one of a handful of lesbians in your school."
Inspired by the door-opening work of Melissa Etheridge, Blanchard admires Etheridge's ability to blur the lines of demarcation on sexuality and in turn create something listeners from all walks of life can connect with. "Melissa Etheridge is definitely one of my idols. The music she writes is usually about a failed relationship or a new interest- but whether you're straight or gay she does it in a way that is relatable for everyone; and, that's what I love most about her," said Blanchard. "Being gay is something to be proud of if you are, it doesn't mean that you are different than anyone else."
Creating the feel-good vibes one expects from punk predecessors like the Bouncing Souls, Life Down Here’s lyrical content is intertwined with a myriad of intensity. One song in particular, "Calling Out," came to life after several devastating suicide cases occurred within Blanchard's group of friends while attending high school in Las Vegas. "I chose to write about it because everyone goes through a rough time and it's not an alien thing to have suicidal feelings-- the "what if I commit suicide, would people care?" said Blanchard. “And yes we care, we care deeply! So that song to me, is directed toward anyone who's having a rough time-- I want to let listeners know it’s okay to feel pain, it's okay to feel sadness it's natural, but everything's going to be fine and you'll make it through in the end."
The turnout was large for such an early show, and it became clear as the catchy chorus-lines seemed to flow freely from the crowd's lips in sync with the band, that the group was in part responsible. For a young artist, Life Down Here’s recent participation on the Lady Killer tour has helped Blanchard develop a better idea of what she wants in terms of her future in music. "I strive to be as good of performers as they are" said Blanchard humbly. "Opening for them made me realize that I should definitely start opening for other gay rock acts because that's exactly the scene I want and need to be in."