SXSW Music: GayBiGayGay
GayBiGayGay MC Rebecca Havemeyer (of Celluloid Handbag fame) best encapsulated Austin's queer spirit when she noted its inclusivity. She mentioned that there's no segregated bars, because members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans community exist together. This was quite evident during GayBiGayGay on Saturday, which created an inviting space for queers of nearly every stripe of the rainbow (as well as straight allies who knew where the party was at). It was also a consortium for the coolest haircuts in the city. I'm firmly of the belief that the more radical your politics, the better your hair to better encase your brilliant thoughts about how Lady Gaga misses the whole point about what being queer really means. I was not disappointed.
Attendees were definitely in the presence of local legends. Camp Camp founder Silky Shoemaker took to the stage as part of Poor Richard, who gave an intimate performance that included a beautiful reworking of Christeene's "Tears From My Pussy." Following a rousing set from hard-rocking mainstays Butch County, I was especially excited to see the Tuna Helpers, a local band who were active when I started college but have been on hiatus for some time. I first heard their warped take on children's music during my tenure at KVRX and was excited to see them back on stage together. If you aren't familiar, imagine Ariel from The Little Mermaid singing Sapphic lullabies to Ursula instead of pining after Prince Eric. Unfortunately due to a late start time, their set was abbreviated. However, I hope this appearance will lead to future gigs. Beth Ditto gave them a shoutout when Gossip was touring to support Music For Men, so I know I'm not alone.
Xylos and the Redwood Plan put on decent sets. I confess I wasn't exactly feeling it, but there's no denying both bands got a fevered reaction from the crowd. Then, Big Freedia made a much-touted appearance and it was, to borrow from one of her songs, as "azz everywhere" situation. While I don't want to segregate audiences by identity politics, I do think Freedia was far more in the element at this show than when she opened for Kool Keith. A successful performance is as much about an audience responding to the music as it is about as artist delivering it. We gave as good as we got. Katey Red also made an appearance and I was excited to finally witness Red's star power in person. My lower back and legs definitely felt the effects of it the next morning and I couldn't be happier.
The night ended for me with Christeene. I know I'm not alone in being fascinated by Christeene and Havemeyer sharing Paul Soileau's body. A mutual friend noted that Christeene's costume was in Havemeyer's purse, which was especially rare as the two figures are usually never in the same place. Christeene has garnered controversy for charges of racial minstrelsy and being a negative role model for the queer community. Speaking for myself, I have little use for strictly positive representations of marginalized communities and would rather see ambassadors create flawed, complex art. The two things about Christeene that resonate with me are the failed attempt at drag that gestures toward the constructedness and artiface of the form and the anger that comes out of Soileau's move to Austin from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. There's an ugliness to Christeene that we often don't associate with queer performers, particularly who work within dance music. That ugliness takes on a political edge, and as you know, I love dance music with an agenda. Plus, the production on her songs is pretty excellent and none of the current crop of cisgender female pop stars command a stage like Christeene. It's my understanding that this year might be a big one for her. I'm glad my SXSW experience ended with me witnessing her in her element, making sure Austin maintains its queer identity one sweaty body at a time.
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