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Chappell Roan and the Importance of Themed Concerts

Attending a Chappell Roan concert seems to require an elaborate outfit, but why? Themed concerts add a layer of fun and camp to a normal show.

Chappell Roan wears a wedding dress in an industrial set. Light shines behind her as she holds a microphone. Behind her are two guitarists.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYm4VnkJ4AE

To anyone driving past a Chappell Roan concert, the mass of people dressed in blue, tan, and seashell bras likely seems out of the ordinary. Clown makeup, feather boas, cowboy boots, and miniskirts the length of a belt may not be the standard concert outfit. But to fans of rising star Chappell Roan and her music, this is theme-dressing for her Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess American tour.

@dealsniffers

Chappell Roan May 19, 2024 “Mermaid theme” show in St Petersburg, Florida. THE OUTFITS! Sure, there’s the MET Gala, but have you ever seen the creativity and beauty at a Chappel Roan show? I captured 48 minutes worth of video of the line at last night’s Chappell Roan show at Jannus Live in St Petersburg. Feast your eyes on these outfits. It’s broken up into 5 videos. This is 4of 5. (And my apologies if the audio is jacked. 🙈) 🫶🧜‍♀️🧜‍♂️🦄🌈 #chappelroan #midwestprincesstour #stpetersburg #hottogo #fashion #dressup #concert #lgbtq #mermaid

♬ HOT TO GO! – Chappell Roan

Reflecting on her experience at the show, college student Sarah Gallogly noted that “People were dressed in Chappell-themed outfits and [donned themselves in] pride flags.”

Aislin Manzella, another concert attendee, explained with a smile: “Everyone was dressed up. We camped out early and saw so many people.”

Chappell Roan in her Karma music video. She wears bright red underwear and a bra with tassels attached.
As an independent artist, Chappell Roan does not have a massive budget for clothes. She thrifts and upcycles many of her outfits. Credit: Youtube/ChappellRoan

Who is Chappell Roan? (Your favorite artist’s favorite artist.)

Popstar Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, better known by her stage name, Chappell Roan, is taking the world by storm after the release of her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.

Using personal experiences from her upbringing in Missouri, the album combines 80s synth and Y2K pop to create an upbeat, yet raw collection of queer stories. Sarah describes Roan’s music as “glitter gel pen pop.” 

Chappell Roan performs in front of a heart-shaped prop. She is wearing a corset top with a Rococo-inspired petticoat.
Chappell Roan made her late-night debut singing “Red Wine Supernova” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Credit: Youtube/TheLateShowWithStephenColbert

Roan began her career singing YouTube covers, but her popularity soared when she opened for Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts tour.

Now on her solo tour, Chappell Roan is drawing inspiration from drag queens and queer performers for her stage presence. Viewers can see this in her dramatic motions and facial expressions, as well as her elaborate costumes and makeup. Her stage name is also comparable to a drag name. All of these elements coalesce to create the persona of Chappell Roan.

Chappell Roan Concert Themes

When it comes to fan participation, Roan has clearly taken notes from Taylor Swift’s Eras tour and Beyonce’s Renaissance tour, turning her concerts into costume parties. Her fans dress up to demonstrate their appreciation and love for the artist, and Chappell Roan has taken it one step further by setting specific themes for each show.

Song titles and lyrics provide the inspiration for Chappell Roan’s themes. Some examples are:

  • Pink Pony Club (pink cowgirl)
  • Midwest Princess (camouflage and pink)
  • My Kink is Karma (black and red)
  • Kaleidoscope (rainbow colors)
  • Mermaid (aqua, shimmer, and pearls)

Sarah Gallogly declared, “When you go to a Chappell concert, very few people… will not be dressed on theme.”

Why Tour Themes?

In an interview with NYLON, Chappell Roan said, “I’m big on crowd participation…My whole thing is world-building and throwing a party…And everyone loves a themed party!”

Her love of crowd participation can be seen through her song “HOT TO GO,” which features a simple dance that is easy to learn and compact enough to be done while surrounded by people. But the benefits of themed concerts or costume party concerts extend beyond crowd participation.

Creating Concert Excitement and Buildup

Some say that anticipation is better than actuality. Whether true or not, the act of assembling a themed outfit encapsulates the joy of the show and the connection to Chappell Roan. Fans like Aislin scroll Instagram and TikTok, looking for their city’s theme and scouring their wardrobes and thrift stores for clothing to match. 

“I was so excited about the theme. I found out about it while scrolling TikTok and I was eagerly waiting for her to post the theme for [my] show,” Aislin said.

Fashion-minded fans may create completely new garments to wear to the concerts or adorn existing pieces. This artistic combination of crafting and Chappell Roan makes the audience feel like they have something in common with the pop star. 

@angelinaking_

@chappell roan can put on a hot like papa john show like no other ‼️‼️‼️ popstars are back baby #chappellroan #midwestprincess #midwestprincesstour #brisbane #ootd #getreadywithme #grtdressedwithme

♬ Naked In Manhattan – Chappell Roan

Fans have made videos documenting the design process behind their concert outfits. Others have made entire lookbooks based on the various themes. This works well for Chappell Roan, as fans are advertising her concerts for her, but it also helps the audience build a community together.

Community and Safe Spaces

Positive messages flood the comment sections of lookbooks and outfit reveals. Users rely on each other for advice and answers about how to make their outfit as ‘slay’ as possible, fostering connections.

At the concerts, being surrounded by people who dress like you, love like you, and listen to the same artist as you provides a sense of liberation and unity.

Chappell Roan sits on her knees in a teal sequin dress. She is in the foreground of a themed underwater cave set.
Chappell Roan concerts have a large LGBT attendance. In songs like “Casual,” Roan is open about the intensity of sapphic relationships. Credit: Youtube/ChappellRoan

When asked about other people at the concert, Aislin shared that, “Everyone was super kind. A lot of people made stuff…There was this girl behind us who made little crochet things and was handing them out to people in line.”

Sarah also described the community at the concert: “People were sharing glitter and rhinestones, and handing out stickers, it was really beautiful.”

@killsokerr

outfit i’d wear to a 🪩💕Pink Pony Club🐴💖 themed Chappell Roan Concert @chappell roan #chappellroantour #chappellroanconcert #pinkponyclub #concertoutfit

♬ suono originale – POP VISION

Roan has plainly stated that she wants to create a safe space for queer people. She even hires extra security in areas where queerness is less accepted. She also invites local drag queens to open the performances. Roan appears to have been successful, even on an audience level.

Aislin revealed, “In the middle of the show when my friend needed a moment because [concerts, crowds, and noise are overwhelming], this girl offered her water and was like ‘Are you okay?’”

Sarah added, “It’s kind of corny, but it was really beautiful to see everyone expressing themselves where they knew they’d be safe.”

Chappell Roan, wearing pale foundation with massive blue eyeshadow, sings in front of a messy desk.
Chappell Roan performed acoustic versions of her songs for an NPR Tiny Desk concert. Her teeth had intentional lipstick stains and her massive wig sported cigarettes for the aesthetic. Credit: Youtube/NPR

Camp

The idea of camp is something exaggerated, theatrical, or almost ugly, with the intention of humor. Camp isn’t necessarily done intentionally: it is about expressing yourself boldly and authentically. This has long been associated with gay culture.

“It’s just like playing with gender,” Sarah told me. “People [at the show were] able to dress outside the confines of their gender… Fashion is a major part of the queer community.”

Chappell Roan embraces this aspect of queer culture and history by dressing theatrically for all of her shows. For instance, at the GovBall, she donned a Lady Liberty costume. Through her shows, Chappell Roan is embracing LGBT history, while forging her own path of over-the-top outfits and performances. And by having her fans dress up, she is encouraging her audience to do the same. 

Connection with the Artist

Themed concerts are a great way for artists and fans to establish a (parasocial) relationship with one another. Not only do fans follow the themes of the show, but Chappell Roan does as well. For a “My Kink is Karma” theme, Roan often wears a pleated red leather miniskirt and black studded belt. This means fans are matching her in their own eccentric red and black outfits. 

With their similar attire and makeup, fans are able to feel empowered, adored, and close to Roan. We can discuss community as much as we like, but themed concerts are a truly brilliant PR play.

Chappell Roan holds a rabbit in her Red Wine Supernova music video.
In the music video for “Red Wine Supernova,” magic is an allegory for queerness, with Chappell’s neighbor hammering a sign that says “God Hates Magic.” Credit: Youtube/ChappellRoan.

Good luck, babe!

Chappell Roan concerts have sparked a rebirth of themed concerts, with Roan presenting fashion as an essential part of her performance. She has likewise made a powerful effort to involve her fans in the style of her shows. 

At the end of our conversation, Aislin said, “The show gives you an opportunity for expression. It’s kind of like the Rocky Horror Picture Show in that way.” Upon reflection, I think the Rocky Horror Picture Show is an excellent reference. Like Chappell Roan, it was created for queer people and became a cult classic.

Roan is bringing back pop music with her fun persona, excellent stage presence, and amazing fashion. And she is supporting a community while she does it.

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Written By

Lydia Rosenstock is a writer and college student based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is studying history and typically writes about fashion, the arts, and femininity.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sarah Larkin

    June 19, 2024 at 9:36 pm

    Makes me want to go to her concerts!

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