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BETTY at City Winery
“Music makes life better,” Elizabeth Ziff tells City Paper about the slow return of live shows. She makes up one-third of the queer indie band BETTY—best known to a generation of queer women for their “talking, laughing, loving, breathing, fighting, f**king, crying, drinking, riding, winning, losing, cheating, kissing, thinking, dreaming,” lyrics that opened nearly every episode of The L Word. But there’s more to BETTY than The L Word. Fronted by Alyson Palmer and sisters Elizabeth and Amy Ziff, BETTY formed in D.C. 35 years ago. Though they relocated to New York in 1989, the sisters describe the city as near and dear to their hearts. “It’s our formative years,” says Amy. “When we first started playing in D.C., our friends were dying from AIDS and nobody knew what was happening, nobody could talk about it. Certainly the government wasn’t talking about it.” That’s when BETTY began to understand what Amy describes as a musician’s commitment to community. “We have to be on the front lines to take people away from what’s happening, and to inform them, and also to be able to get out there and sing.” Elizabeth adds, “We’ve always been a part of that march on, laugh, have sex, and do fun things [ethos] because you have to.” Elizabeth can’t help but compare current politics—targeting abortion rights, trans student athlete bans, a global pandemic—with AIDS decimating the queer community under the Reagan administration in the ’80s. Back then, performing live with their friend, acclaimed D.C. poet Essex Hemphill, Elizabeth says, “made us not feel crazy.” Once again, Elizabeth and Amy believe the need for music, community, laughter, and a safe place to escape is needed. And that’s exactly what they promise to deliver at BETTY’s holiday show at City Winery on Dec. 5. Aside from new music, Elizabeth promises entertainment, while Amy guarantees humor: “It’s always been important. There’s a lot of humor in our shows—and I’ve never been happier than when I make somebody laugh on stage.” Betty’s Holly Jollypocalypse starts at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 at City Winery, 1350 Okie St. NE. citywinery.com. $30–$45.