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Former lead ska vocalist to perform again

For the first time since the ska band Paranoia Dance Party! dissolved in November 2011, former lead singer Madison Turner will once again take stage.

But for Turner, who will perform at the Skatepark of Tampas Transitions Art Gallery on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., the stage performance may be her last.

I did that thing, she said. I was fun for awhile.

Though Turner said she no longer sees herself pursuing a career in music, years ago no thought other than that would have crossed her mind.

Around the age of 14, she began writing lyrics and attending emo, hardcore and ska concerts.

I just wanted to do that, she said. I wanted to tour and release records. It was the energy, and it was like an escape from life at the same time. It was almost like a fantasy world where everything was awesome and loud.

At 14, the world of music offered a very different reality from the one she lived in.

Born biologically male, Turner said she first heard of what it meant to be transgender during her early high school years. While she wasnt fully sure at the time if she wanted to transition something she began at the age of 23 she could point back at memories as early as her elementary school days in which she identified as female.

(Music) was really an escape, she said. It was very important and consumed my life to some extent. At that age, I thought I was going to be in a band forever. I thought Id be one of those 40 or 45-year-olds that are still touring, but, yeah, I guess I didnt know what it all entailed at the time.

It took Turner about 10 years to figure out what it entailed.

At 14, she started a ska band called The Gameshow, which practiced out of her moms garage. The bands biggest fan, Turner said, was her mom, and the band never took off.

Turner formed a new band in 2007, Paranoia Dance Party!, taking with her the bassist from The Gameshow.

The band practiced for six months before it began touring, traveling together for months at a time, meeting people from cities across the country. The band released two EPs in their four years of existence, and had loyal fans who would attend their concerts on tour.

But after four years in the band, tensions grew, Turner said.

It was kind of the breaking point, as far as trying to be in a full-time band, she said. Its entirely time consuming. It costs tons of money, and you never see that money. Everyone starts to get on each others nerves, and nobody really likes each other anymore, but youre trapped in a van with them for a month or so at a time.

The last summer tour, she said, was the ultimate test of whether the band would continue.

We may have been thinking it somewhat, beforehand, but I think before that tour, we were kind of like This will be make or break, she said. Were going to do this and it will be amazing. And then we went and did it.

But the final tour was significant for Turner in other ways.

A week before she came out on Facebook to all her friends as transgender, she told her bandmates at one of their practices while they were touring.

I kind of came out saying Im going to try to cross-dress and stuff, she said. Thats kind of all I said, but I knew and didnt at the same time how far I was going to take it. As soon as I started, I was like, Well of course, Im going to transition.

Woody Bond, PDP!s drummer, who booked Thursdays show and will be playing with Turner at Transitions Art Gallery and has known Turner since he was 15, said he remembers the band members being taken a bit by surprise.

We were all pretty much like, Uhhh….what?, he said. It really just came out of nowhere. I didnt really assume how she felt. And all of us were kind of surprised, but then we were like, Oh. Whatever.

Turner said the band was fairly supportive.

At first they were a little shocked, but then they were like, Alright, thats cool, she said. Lets go practice. We dont give a s—. Do whatever you want. One of them was like This should be interesting.

Turner continued to perform in male attire until the last show of the tour, when she was able to dress as herself.

The way I looked at the band, was like the whole thing was like a performance, and I was just an actor just doing this thing, she said. Its not something I would normally do anyway. Its a whole different face I put on for performing. It just felt like that was an act.

Bond said since Turner came out, hes found himself speaking out more about LGBT rights.

I definitely stick up for friends who are gay, bi or trans a lot more than I used to do before she came out, because I never had that (presence) in my life, he said.

Bond said he was surprised he convinced Turner to perform Thursday, when The Long Johns, Ink and Sweat, Waxed Curbs and The Mud Flappers will also be performing.

She probably wont do this ever again or for a long time, unless she had a big change of heart, she said.

Occasionally, Turner posts covers of songs to her YouTube video blog series, which ranges in content from music to updates on her transition to giggling fits with her girlfriend.

Mostly its for fun, because I like to perform in some way because I like attention, I guess, she said. I think to be a lead singer in a band, you have to have some sort of an ego. The point is to add to the visibility of transgender people who arent supermodels or sex workers. And theres nothing wrong with supermodels or sex workers, but it seems like transgender people get stereotyped.

While she is unsure of her future plans, she hopes to expand her video blogs.

I dont even necessarily want to get pigeonholed into transgender stuff, she said. Its a part of me, but I think sometimes its hard for a transgender person to publicly do something, whether youre a musician or anything else… Its similar to Jon Stewart. If he had used his real name, Leibowitz, would he have made it to where he made it today? Its too Jewish for mainstream media. If something can still be too Jewish for mainstream media, then somebody transgender is a bit far off. And if Im Jewish and transgender, thats just a whole other thing.

But for now, Turner has put aside music.

Now I barely even write anymore, she said. I cant say for the future, but at this specific moment I just dont have much inspiration, and I think its because when youre down and youre more miserable, songs come a lot easier than when youre happy. I just dont have so much to write about right now. Its good. Im just having fun being myself for now, which is nice.