On Wednesday, a friend posted on social media that he had an extra ticket to go see singer/songwriter/trans icon/punk rocker Laura Jane Grace in the next town over, and did anyone want to take him up on it? My first reaction was, “Oh wow! I would love to see her!” Followed by, “Damn, I have to work, like always.” (I work till 9:30pm – not conducive to having much of an evening social life.) The more I thought about it though, the more I was like, “Well wait! I have all kinds of time I could use. Why don’t I just be freaking spontaneous for once and do this thing?”
I’m so glad I did! The show was the following night, and it was beyond incredible, on many levels.
One of the levels: Today, serendipitously, marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Against Me!’s debut album, Reinventing Axl Rose. From reading Laura Jane Grace’s, memoir (Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout), this was not Against Me!’s first release, but I’m not sure how you would find the earlier stuff, mostly dubbed cassette tapes and a poorly recorded 12″ EP. There are two more well known early EPs: they contain some of the earlier versions of songs that found their way onto this first LP… So back to Reinventing Axl Rose: This album had a huge impact on me. The brother of the person I was seeing at the time (2003), handed me a CD copy he had burned, along with a handwritten note of the tracklisting. In general, his taste in music was super obscure, but not quite what I was into, so I was a little dubious. But damn, listen to this record! – It’s one of the most solid, versatile punk albums of all time. It has everything: anarcho-inspired lyrics, syncopated dance beats, both electric and acoustic guitars mixed with rough around the edges production, anthemic sing-alongs, growling and grimy vocals, and it even ends with a lullaby (“8 Full Hours of Sleep”). All eleven songs are so incredibly solid. And it was recorded over 2 days, for $800, which makes it all the more impressive. This album reminds me of being 21, mostly alone, trying to muster the energy to do anything. It reminds me of the guy who gave me the CD, and all the times he picked me up in his lilac colored Chevy Prizm to go grocery shopping together, and then maybe even also make dinner together and watch a movie, barely having much to say to each other, but just enjoying the music.
Laura Jane Grace came out as trans in 2012, and she continued on in Against Me! but also struck out on her own, playing acoustic shows. Since the pandemic, I’ve wandered into a handful of local shows, but this was the first big intentional show I’ve been to in the roughly 2 years. What a joyous return! There were so many queer and trans kids there, right up front and center, singing along to every lyric, even to the songs that are now 20 years old, possibly older than they were (I know from the X’s on their hands, when they threw their hands above their head, clapping along, or throwing a fist up into the air, that they were underage. My heart soared.) Older queer and trans people were there too, and punks, of course. She played 4 songs from that first album:
“Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”
“Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious…”
“Reinventing Axl Rose”
“Baby, I’m an Anarchist!”
On stage, she was magical: riffing in between songs, flashing her intensely crazy grin, sharing anecdotes from her life. She covered “Androgynous,” by The Replacements, a song I don’t actually like (I might get some hate comments for this, but I think Paul Westerberg is way overrated), but I liked when she did it; from her, it’s coming straight from her heart.
She had three new songs, one which involved a quick costume adjustment: she asked someone up front to hold her guitar, went offstage for a second, and came back with a shapeless black Adidas hoodie. She declared it her “dysphoria hoodie,” saying she’s had it for so long; she used to use it to hide her body. Said you don’t have to be trans to have a dysphoria hoodie; having body issues isn’t exclusively a trans thing, of course, but most trans people can probably relate so hard. She put it on, with the hood up, took the guitar back, and launched into this story-within-a-song. I’m not generally a lyrics oriented person, but with her, I want to know it all!
Back in October, I was asked to be a part of a group performance art piece, an interpretation of John Cage’s Variations III. We were given a sheet of transparent plastic with 42 circles on it. Our task was to cut out each circle, take a 11 X 8.5 inch sheet of paper, drop the circles onto the white paper, clear any circles that landed outside of the paper and also any circle that wasn’t overlapping with another circle. Then we took a photo of our “circle configuration.” Mine looked like this:
We were then supposed to distill this pattern into a “score” that would span 2 hours (including 5 minute breaks for every “event.” According to the directions, “Starting with any circle, observe the number of circles which overlap it. Make an action or actions having the corresponding number of interpenetrating variables (1+n). This done, move on to any one of the overlapping circles, again observing the number of interpenetrations, performing a suitable action or actions, and so on. Some or all of one’s obligation may be performed through ambient circumstances (environmental changes) by simply noticing or responding to them. Though no means are given for the measurement of time or space … or the specific interpretation of circles, such measurement and determination means are not necessarily excluded from the ‘interpenetrating variables.’ Some factors though not all of a given interpenetration or succession of several may be planned in advance, but leave room for the use of unforseen eventualities. Any other activities are going on at the same time.”
So, in less dense terms, 24 performers were given a space of roughly 4 feet by 6 feet, all in one big room. And we could do any activity we chose, for a length of two hours, off and on, as was guided by our circle permutation. So, basically, I had 9 circles which meant 9 events, and I tried to have each overlap “dictate” how each of the 9 events was structured. The performance was on December 1st.
I decided mine would be about doing drag. There was really nothing else that made sense. Drag has been the only form of performance art I’ve done, and I was excited to, in a way, deconstruct and leave up to chance, the way it played out.
I brought an alarm clock radio with a tape player, 100 cassettes tapes all in a display case, 9 wigs & hats, 4 skirts, 2 pants, one dress, a bunch of shirts and coats and belts and cumberbunds, 4 shoes & boots, a makeup bag, 4 “microphones,” a mirror, a blow dryer, and a hair buzzer. I think I was the performer with the most “stuff,” and over the course of 2 hours, I proceeded to make a mess of all of it, within my space. This was reminiscent of any time I would do drag. After a show, my room would be a disaster of dress-up options.
So, for each of the 9 events, I threw “circles,” onto the ground (including cds, tokens, bracelets, and mason jar rings). I then pretended to have these circle formations dictate what I wore and what tape I played. In a vague sense. It all did work out in the end – I had 9 different outfits and 9 different songs, all chosen at random. Some of those included REM – Drive, XTC – Summer’s Cauldron, Tears for Fears – Shout, and Kate Bush – Jig of Life. I didn’t know these songs by heart, so I just pretended to lip-synch. Due to the cacophony in the room though, I was the only one who could hear the clock radio anyway – I had to hold it right next to my ear!
Other peoples’ actions included baking things, bicycling, playing instruments, creating play-dough art, playing video games, reading aloud, dancing, and much more! Observers just walked among us. It was unclear whether they were supposed to engage with us or not. One guy did come up to me and ask if he could talk to me. I said, “Sure.” He said he thought earlier I had silver lipstick on and now I don’t, so what happened? I said, “Oh, that lipstick was so old it didn’t go on right. It was all clumpy. So during one of my breaks, I went to the bathroom to take it off.” “Was that part of what was supposed to happen?” “No!” And we both laughed. He asked more questions about why did you do this, why not this?
Afterward I talked to a handful of acquaintances – it felt good to be social. That guy came back up to me and said, “You know, when you put on the lipstick, you really had me convinced.” “Convinced of what? That it looked bad?” “No, that you were a woman.” “Oh, whoa, OK, so, I’m a little bit of both. As is all this stuff.” I gestured to all my clothes and junk, still strewn about. My two friends I was talking to backed me up, which felt awesome.
I think ultimately, I was going for that response, for people to be confused about what genders I was playing out or not playing out. So even though his forwardness made me uncomfortable in the moment, it was an important element, or “takeaway,” from the night.
Content note: This post might not make a whole lot of sense unless you really like 70’s and 80’s music and/or gender. And writing and the English language…
In my city, there are two chain-type places to go to get an average oil change within about a half-hour wait. One also sells it’s brand of oil (nationwide? internationally? not sure). The other is more of a gas station / car wash place.
For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them:
LV – the oil specific place
SD – the gas station
I almost always go to SD because my parents give me coupons for free oil changes there, every xmas. And also because there is one on my way to / from work. About 3 years ago, I started trying LV a couple of times, but I concluded that it was too expensive, and I switched back.
I was overdue for an oil change, but I didn’t want to go to the SD in the suburb where I work, cuz I don’t really want to be seen out and about, while I am out of work for medical reasons. So I went to one in a further away suburb. I had been there once before, and it was kind of anxiety provoking (in my head, at the time).
Why? Because the style was Drive Thru, as opposed to giving the mechanic your keys and sitting in a waiting room. “Drive Thru” is one of my longest lasting fears, almost bordering on a phobia before I reigned it in a few years ago. This included parking garages, anything with a “gate,” car washes, etc.
Anyway, I made it through no problem, but I was noticing all these little “masculine touches” / masculine underlying communications, body language, etc. Stuff that’s barely worth paying attention to. Stuff I generally am not around because normally I’d be sitting in a waiting room. An example would be a giant truck in line honking, just because he(?) wanted to get an attendant to come over ahead of time for some reason. (As opposed to reading signs to find out the information). These are all assumptions, of course, but I’m just saying I was in tune to things in a different way than I normally would have been. And I was the opposite of anxious.
While waiting in my car, I was listening to a mix CD that a friend gave me in our early 20’s. Before he hardly knew me. And now he’s one of my longest-lasting, solid friends here locally.
While hypo-manic currently, I’ve been spending most of my time at home organizing and cleaning and catagorize-ing things. One thing I uncovered was this mix CD, which he had titled, “A DRUM IS A THING IS A DRUM,” (all caps.) which, for me, is reminiscent of Wire’s album (one of my favorite albums ever,) “A BELL IS A CUP UNTIL IT IS STRUCK” (all caps.) The song that stood out the most, from the others was:
T-Rex – Jeepster. So GLAM / FLAMING / FLAMBOYANT!
When the CD ended, I could overhear what was playing in the garage / mechanic dock. It was:
Elton John – Benny and the Jets. SO GAY!
Anyway, I got the oil change and then went to this place that used to be called The Stereo Shop. It’s now called something like, “Digital audiophile visual environments.” I wanted to go there because there was a used cd / record store in the back of this high end Hi Fi Sound Equipment store. When I got there, I asked the guy at the front about the cd store, and he said it wasn’t there anymore. It had moved. I asked if he could write it down for me, and he did. I don’t think any music was playing in there, or if it was, I didn’t pick up on it.
Back in my car, I was listening to a station that claims it is the only station that matters (that’s their “tag line.”) A song came on that is unusual for their roster, and also happens to be a song I sing along with / almost know by heart. That would be:
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs SO GLAM!
I got to the new location, and realized they didn’t open for another 45 minutes. So I went down the road to another record store. When I walked in, what happened to be playing?
THE CARS – MOVING IN STEREO!!! In my book, it doesn’t get any more classic / fabulous than that.
I was really just browsing, not looking for anything in particular. A bunch of stuff popped out to me as “must have’s.” I got a handful of 7-inches, and a couple of records.
I’d recently started thinking I need to upgrade a few records, if I come across copies in better condition, because I am a DJ (That’s a Bowie song!), and it sucks to play crappy sounding vinyl.
Five days prior, I’d told a friend that I probably need a new copy of Culture Club’s “Colour by Numbers.” Me ‘n this record have a loooooong history together. It doesn’t get any more basic than that. Sure enough, at this record store, they had two options!!! Either:
An original, still factory sealed, for $9.99, or
An original, still with the plastic plus promo stickers saying “Grammy Nominee,” and “All New Songs!” (and then it listed 4 song titles. This one was $10 even.
I went with the one with bonus stickers!
(PS – $10 is pretty much the most I’m willing to spend on a record, and it better be pristine and/or hard to find!)
Another exciting find was:
PETE SHELLEY* – HOMOSAPIEN* (Elongated Dancepartydubmix) !!!
Anyway, back to the story: So I bought this stuff and went back to the music store I had really wanted to check out. It was small and quiet (I think he was playing music, but I have no recollection of anything playing!) and there were just a couple of older dudes coming in and out, with special requests and just to shoot the breeze. I was only there for about an hour, but I left with a HUGE HAUL. I spent more on records and cds than I ever have before (meaning within one store at one time.) Almost everything I found was $5 or under, and it was an extreme pick-through type situation. Meaning, don’t go looking for anything in particular, just start looking at everything!
I had a nice conversation with the owner while he rung things up (in a way so as not to distract him, haha, he was super methodical with his calculator and his mechanical receipt machine.) I told him he’s got lots of great obscure stuff, and I might be back within 6 months or a year or whatever. He asked me if I live here or am passing through. I said I went to his old store with my mom a lot and he then seemed to maybe remember me. I said I do live here, I’m a DJ, I like 80’s music, etc. It took him a long time to ring everything individually, so I started browsing to pass more time. Found 3 more cds to buy, and then, as a last minute thing, the “DAVID BOWIE” category within the records popped out. There were two records in there:
DIAMOND DOGS* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $15.98 and
LET’S DANCE* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $9.98
I bought Diamond Dogs because that more or less completes my Bowie On Vinyl collection (no new pressings or record store day garbage, haha.) I left Let’s Dance behind because I already have it, but, hey everybody,
LET’S DANCE, everybody, DIAMOND DOGS and BENNY AND THE JETS included! We’re all HOMOSAPIENS, we’re all JEEPSTERs, MOVING IN STEREO, sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll…
*All Capital Letters
This is, by far, the longest post I’ve ever written.
Does the song “Bye Bye Love” by The Cars have 3 F-Bombs in it? Also, are they saying, “It’s OMG Style.”???
Pete Shelley was the lead singer of original English punk-rockers, The Buzzcocks.
Another exciting find was TWO copies (one for me, one for my friend) of a pink marbled vinyl original 7″ EP by The Stranglers from 1977, one of our fave bands! They were $4.00 each. (Hugs Work!)
I’m listening to The Cars S/T debut while I write this.
If you haven’t yet, check out the music video for “Hello Again.” It’s prob on youtube or some shit.
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, named Evan Westfal. He said, “Thanks for sharing your blog with the world,” and he directed me to his website where you can stream his music. He recently put out a new EP, called “Gay Pirates.” He says, “I was hearing a lot of love songs, but none of those love songs had any queer representation. I wanted a narrative that spoke to my identity as a gay man. So that is how gay pirates came to be. I describe the EP as a series of lamentations and exaltation of a very gay love.”
You can check it out here: Evan Westfal
The music is fun and catchy; the lyrics are full of stuff like coy promises and sweet deceits, treasure chests and booty, tight shirts, resiliency, and a “raging sea of hormones.” My favorite is probably the title track.
I asked him a couple of questions, because he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and because I was really curious what it’s like to live in Edmonton. He said,
If I had to explain Alberta to an American, I would say that, culturally, it’s the Texas of Canada. Politically Alberta is fairly conservative, and it’s also a Province that is rich in oil. A lot of our citizens are tradespeople that work on oil rigs. As for my city, Edmonton itself is a really cool city. A river valley runs through the centre of the city, it’s rich in wildlife and flora. The city has a fantastic pride centre, and lots of other queer organizations. To answer your questions regarding weather and topography, Edmonton is really cold in the winters, and really hot in the summers. You are correct, the surrounding areas are prairies.
The pride festival is really cool. Edmonton had it’s first parade in the 1990’s, and it was very small, and most of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. Flash forward to the millennium, and things have changed quite a bit. In the last few years our city hall has raised a pride flag, the Edmonton public school board was a marshall for the parade, and the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton raised the pride flag. Each year over 30’000 people attend the parade. This year the pride festival’s theme is “one pride many voices.” The festival says they’re taking strides to become more inclusive. I think this is a great approach, as pride could definitely stand to be more intersectional and welcoming.
I asked what his musical background was, and also what instruments he plays / does he collaborate? He said,
My background with music begins with my schooling. I am a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, it’s a musical theatre program in Victoria, British Columbia. I think you’ll notice some heavy influences of musical theatre in my songwriting. I then decided to focus on commercial contemporary music, I achieved that through matriculating at MacEwan University. As a musician I’ve had the opportunity to sing backing vocals for Josh Groban, to play for the opening ceremony for the Edmonton Pride Festival, I’ve performed with Opera Nuova (an Edmonton based opera company), and I’ve produced and performed in many cabarets. Right now I’m working on a music video for my song “Gay Pirates,” it should be out in a month or two. As for instrumentation, I play the piano and sing. On my track Gay Pirates, I wrote all the song, but I had some great musician’s record with me. I have to send a thank you to my drummer Julissa Bayer, guitar player Andrew Brostrom, and Bassist David Pollock.
He also mentioned that he volunteers with an outreach program called fYerfly, so I asked him to elaborate on that too:
fYrefly is a great program. The name is an initialism that stands for: fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah! You might notice the Y is capitalized, that’s because youth are the most important part. fYrefly originated as a summer leadership camp for LGBTTQ2SIA+ youth between the ages of 14-24. I attended the program as a teen, and it changed my life. For the first time in my life I got to be surrounded by people like me, I got to share a sense of camaraderie, and I got to feel pure acceptance. I loved the experience so much that I spent over a decade volunteering for fYrefly. Every year it’s a treat to see the difference the camp makes for youth.
I’m just going to repeat that acronym: “fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah!” Haha, I love that! Evan will be performing for the opening ceremony of the Edmonton Pride Festival, coming up on June 10th. If you’re able to get up there – I just looked it up, and for me, it’s 34 hours away, by car! It’s up there!
Also, related, here’s one of the first posts I ever wrote – an experience I had at a wedding:
Effeminate Pirate Orders Fruity Drink on Party Boat
First off, happy Trans Day of Visibility to you!
It’s been a long time since I’ve done any sort of performing. I felt compelled to do something for a DJ’s birthday bash at a bar, because I thought it’d be low key and fun. And because I had a good idea. And because this is a group of acquaintances I’d like to get to know better. And also I had been asked about a month ago by someone in this group, and I declined at the time, but it got me thinking.
So this was last night – it consisted of 2 DJs, one other performer and then me, and an MC kind of trying to get people to play ridiculous games for a little while, and then another DJ.
My plan was to get the birthday gal situated in a chair, have a birthday song play as I come out with so many layers on (including a motorcycle helmet with a party hat on top) that she has no idea who it is, pass out birthday hats and those tootle things, get people involved in a chaotic way, and then for this song, “Strip” to play, by Adam Ant, and just start taking off all the coats and other clothes I’m wearing. Not to the point where I’m down to underwear or less, haha, please! My “base layer” was a vest, bow tie, pirate pants, and socks. Plus full on Adam Ant make-up, which was one of the best parts about it!
My drag name is Adam Andro-matic. It’s derived from Adam Ant, but, after all this time, I had never once portrayed him! Not sure why! One of the first CDs I bought with my own money, as a youth, from Media Play, was the best of Adam Ant. I know almost all those hits and non-hits by heart. As I planned out this performance, I really embraced it / him. “Strip” is such a ridiculous song. The video is even more so, I just learned! But it’s also just purely joyous, which is something I’d never gotten from it, in the past.
Last night, also, was just purely joyous. I didn’t have any pre-performance jitters or anxieties. Generally, my anxieties around performing manifest themselves by being too much of a perfectionist and obsessively timing things out. This time, not at all! I just went in there, hung out, got ready, did my thing, and then stayed in costume for the rest of the night, talking to people I’d never talked to before, getting trapped into dancing with some drunk people who seemed to really want to dance with me, etc. The birthday gal really really loved the striptease / lap-dance, and so did her boyfriend! She hugged me a bunch of times and kissed my cheek. This may have been the most fun I’ve ever had, during a night I was performing. All the stress was out of the equation. So was the extreme elation / relief when it was over, but I’ll take the straight up fun over all that intensity!
The MC introduced me as Adam Andromeda. Haha. I’ll have to think on that!
Oh, and also, later in the night, I was dancing to a favorite song – “Revenge” by Ministry, when a woman I’d never seen before came up to me. She said, “Will you come with me for a minute?” I followed her without hesitation, and she presented her boyfriend to me. I knew this guy! I’m not great with faces, but I narrowed it down to it being 2 possible people… We shook hands. He said, “Do you know me?” I said, “You work at [the food co-op].” He shook his head, no. “You work at [school],” I said next, and he affirmed that. I see him almost every day, at the YMCA after school program where I work. His girlfriend asked me, “Is he good with the kids? Do the kids love him?” I just nodded slowly, because the answer is, “No,” from what I can observe, but she seemed to want to hear good things, haha. He said he was buying me a drink. I was pretty much done drinking by then, but I thought it’d be nicer to accept. I said, sure, a PBR. A couple of minutes later, he handed me TWO PBRs. I shook my head and kept saying, “no, just one!” But he kinda forced them, nicely, at me. I took them both, drank half of one of them, and put them up on a piano, for safe-keeping. Really the only reason I would waste beer – so that I can get home safely!
Also, I saw my neighbor on the dance floor. This tiny, older woman who is ALWAYS out at clubs and bars, dancing and not drinking. She just seems so mild mannered!
I stayed out till closing time. Things had gotten really chaotic on the dance floor. It was interesting to observe, dip my toes into… When I got home I got ready to take a shower / get all the make-up off my face. I noticed I had a kiss mark, from the birthday gal, on my cheek. Haha.
I’ve been busting out some of my oldest t-shirts this summer; some of them I haven’t even looked at in years – I have them stored in a box. Others I see, but don’t touch, every day – they are on a hanger, on the wall, like fine art. After having top surgery earlier this summer, I have been getting to know my collection again. And, it includes some really old gems, including band t-shirts from the 1980s.
Like this one:
This was taken 10 years ago, as part of a drag photo shoot. It was most likely the last time I wore the shirt. I can wear it again, now, if I want! Although, maybe I better keep it in nice condition – I found the same shirt, in a muscle-t style, selling online for $71.82. And my other The Police t-shirt (not pictured) is selling for $134.23.
I got this shirt for $5. There is this amazing local record store that has tons of gems, but it’s really hard to locate anything. The store is a mess, but in the 1990s, it was even worse. There was literally a mountain of t-shirts, starting from on the floor in a space that may have been about 8ft by 8ft – it was sectioned off by railings, like a bull pen. You would walk onto shirts and just start digging. I found this, plus these shirts, and more (another The Police, Echo and the Bunnymen, David Bowie…):
They were all $5. In the early 2000s, I went back to uncover more treasures, and I was horrified to find that they were all organized neatly on racks and hangers, alphabetically. And none were under $20. Suddenly. And I would have probably bought more at that price, but it looked like it had been picked through extensively. I couldn’t find any I’d actually want to wear or display. Bummer. I guess the influence of online selling had swept in, and cleaned up this mess. For the worse. Still, I am glad I was able to get a piece of it while it lasted.
P.S. The Honeydrippers were a band from 1981-1985, formed by Led Zeppelin lead singer, Robert Plant. It was kind of a part of that resurgence of 50s style music, in the 80s. Other memebers included Jimmy Paige, Jeff Beck, Paul Shaffer, Brian Setzer, and a bunch of others. They only recorded one EP.
This post is part of a series. Here are the previous ones:
I’ve had the ability to hear my voice played back to me a whole lot, lately. For the past 4 months, I’ve been doing a weekly radio show, and this going to be ongoing for a long time. At first, I didn’t want to listen to the recordings at all. Then for a while, I was scrutinizing every little sound: I keep inhaling too sharply, I keep enunciating strangely, it’s not masculine enough (that’s a big one) etc. … By now, I’ve started to accept my “radio voice” for what it is, but I’m still thinking of ways to improve at the same time.
Last week, my spouse and I worked together to produce a “Special Gay Edition” of my regular show, and we both talked together, which was really fun. We used the word “gay” instead of “queer” or “LGBTQ+” because of the era: I normally play music from the late 70s and 80s (punk, post punk, new wave, goth, weird stuff), so we put together a set list from that time period and researched the musicians. Here’s the result! (Edited slightly for anonymity.)
Here’s the playlist:
Culture Club – Miss Me Blind
Fred Schneider and the Shake Society – Monster
Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse (live)Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Cherry Bomb
Husker Du – Find Me
Wayne County and the Electric Chairs – Thunder
Wendy and Lisa – Waterfall
Sinead O’Connor – I Want Your (Hands on Me)
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette
Tom Robinson Band – Glad to be Gay
And just a quick note about blogging: for the first time since I started this blog, I’m finding myself way behind on reading others’ blogs – like about a week behind. It doesn’t feel like I can catch up at this point, and I’m not sure if this lag is ongoing or just a blip. Either way, I’m still around and I still want to know what’s going on with everyone! I’m just finding myself more immersed in music, which is proving to be really time consuming! Ultimately, it’s enjoyable – I had been going through a very long lull where music didn’t seem important to me anymore. I’m glad music matters.
My spouse and I are coming off of a four-day weekend, and as part of that, we traveled and saw an awesome “rockumentary,” directed by Madsen Minax. He was there in person, answering questions after the film.
Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Musical Performance was made between 2006 and 2009, in a really impressive way: the director was in a band called Actor Slash Model, and as his band toured, they reached out to other bands with trans-members to play their shows with. They’d play the show, crash for the night, and then wake up super early to interview that band and get other footage of them playing, and then move on to the next city/band. Sounds exhausting!
They filmed in various formats – video, DV video, 16mm, and super 8 (plus including footage from the bands, which was probably in lots of different formats as well, which gave it a pretty rough, incongruous feel, but that’s an aesthetic choice that kind of worked for this film. It felt pretty informal and dated, which the director seemed very much aware of – like it’s a snapshot of a time in trans-representation in music/media, and things have been changing a lot, even just in the last 5 years. Almost everyone included, I had never heard of. Here’s a list of those included:
Anderson Toone, currently from SF, has a long history in music, going back to forming a post-punk band in the early 80s called The Bloods, who opened for The Clash, Gang of Four, The Slits, The Go-Gos, Au Pairs, Adam Ant, The Lounge Lizards, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders,The Fall, REM, DNA, Lydia Lunch, Bush Tetras, ESG, Allen Ginsberg, Nona Hendryx, The Treacherous Three. First time I’ve heard of them – sounds like the kind of band I need to track down for my radio show!
Lipstick Conspiracy from SF – “Glitter, sneers, and ridiculously high heels are abundant, as are raging keyboard riffs and catchy lyrics.” – San Francisco Weekly. It was kind of hard to tell if they are currently active.
Katastrophe – a hip hop artist from SF. He’s pretty famous, so maybe I don’t need to say a whole lot about him. One great thing from the film – he got his start, before transition, doing slam poetry. He went to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival with the Sister Spit Tour sometime in the late 90s / early 2000s. He went to check out Camp Trans, and was blown away – from that moment, he started identifying as a transman and never looked back. He also co-founded Original Plumbing in Oct. 2009.
Trannysaurus Sex, also from SF. Could not find much on this band (the link is to a song from the film, on YouTube). Definitely seems like they are not currently active.
Basic Fix from Portland, OR. Couldn’t find much on this band either, but the lead singer/drag performer is still making music (electro/pop/R&B) under his name, Kelly Moe. He starred in The Gossip’s music video “Listen Up” in 2006.
Ryder Richardson from Seattle – Not much on him either. He currently has a personal Facebook profile as opposed to a musician/band page. Looks like he is teaching carpentry to kids. 🙂 Any other info connecting him to music was through info about Riot Acts.
Tough Tough Skin from Minneapolis – Again, couldn’t find much current info about this punk/homocore band, but there are quite few videos from live shows on YouTube. Here is one of them.
Venus DeMars also from Minneapolis. Founded in 1994, Venus DeMars and All the Pretty Horses (glam rock band) is still going strong, having recently toured with Against Me!
Adhamh Roland is a singer/songwriter currently living in MA. A lot has changed for him since the film, and he appears to be very much still active. In the film, he was living in St. Louis and talking a lot about not wanting to medically transition because he was worried about what T would do to his singing voice. (This was a HUGE topic in the film). Looks like he decided to take the leap; seems to be working out for him.
Ryka Aoki De La Cruz is a LA based writer, performer, and professor (at Antioch and Santa Monica College). She is super active in the trans-community. Among a huge resume of accomplishments, she has been honored by the California State Senate for for her “extraordinary commitment to free speech and artistic expression, as well as the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.”
Jessica Xavier is from the Washington D.C. area and is an accomplished activist first and foremost. She came out as trans in 1989, and fronted a band called Me Neither, wrote a song about Stonewall. This link is a super dated website from 2004, but it’s got a lot of biographic information…
The Shondes were formed in 2006, right as this film was being made. Since then, looks like their music has been blowing up – their website (link) is super active – full of photos, tour information, press, tweets, etc. This is another band that recently toured with Against Me! (amongst a bunch of other well-known bands. They’re from Brooklyn.
Novice Theory (Geo Wyeth), also from Brooklyn, is a multidisciplinary musician/performance artist. Looks like you can hear his music / see his videos / see interviews on all kinds of sites (spotify, amazon, bandcamp, etc.) but in terms of image or professional website, all I could really find was his tumblr. Still, check this guy out! He is awesome!
The Degenerettes are a punk trio from Baltimore. Looks like their website was last updated in 2011… I saw them in my hometown, probably in 2008? Super entertaining! I have a friend who used to work with the lead singer at a video store in Baltimore!
Systyr Act are from Boston. The link is to their facebook page – looks like it was last updated in 2013. They’re a jokey/party type band, posing as nuns.
The Cliks are huge. They’re from Toronto. If you haven’t heard of them, check them out!
Coyote Grace is a roots/acoustic threesome from Sonoma County, CA. They have a lot of output as a band, and as each member, individually as well.
Whew! That was a lengthy rundown of some trans/gender variant people in music from the mid/late 2000s. Some have disbanded, some have taken off. Who is out there now? Please comment with info about current bands!
This is a 2 fer 1 blog post! Join me for these two ongoing series. The point at which these topics collide is: Kurt Cobain. No, Kurt Cobain was not a drag king, but he was a janitor. And when I started doing drag, one of my earliest ideas was to portray him as a janitor, singing / screaming into a dust-mop handle like it’s a microphone. (And also using the handle as a pole vault to propel myself off of the stage, super dramatic-like.)
I went back to his journals in order to glean some details from his janitorial career. He dropped out of high school 2 weeks before graduation, turned right back around, and worked as a janitor at his old school. He also later worked at Polynesian Condominium Hotel Resort, and for Lemons Janitorial.
On page 43 of his journals, he drew up a mock flyer for a janitorial business he apparently was dreaming up with Chris Novoselic (bass player) called Pine Tree Janitorial Service: Basic Commercial Maintenance. He claims, “We purposely limit our number of commercial offices in order to personally clean while taking our time. We guarantee $50.00 lower rates than your present janitorial service. You see, other services usually have too many buildings assigned to the individual’s route. So in turn they end up running thru buildings trying for time. But at Pine Tree ——” The page ends there and so does the thought process. His band was really starting to take off anyway by then, haha. Most of the journals are devoted to band-related thoughts (and thoughts about drugs, guilt, politics, fame, etc.), not janitorial dreams.
On page 160, he’s starting to plan out the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He wrote out a list:
1. mercedes benz and a few old cars
2. access to an abandoned mall, main floor and one jewelry shop.
3. lots of fake jewelry
4. School Auditorium (Gym)
5. A cast of hundreds. 1 custodian, students.
6. 6 black cheerleader outfits with Anarchy A’s on chest”
Not sure what became of the old cars (gold mercedes benz?), mall scene, and fake jewelry, but the gymnasium scene, cheerleaders, and custodian ideas did come to fruition.
The cheerleaders are wearing black uniforms with anarchy symbols on them. The custodian plays a much more prominent role in the video than he would at an actual school. He is rocking out with his mop handle – in multiple cut-away shots. Great music video moments!
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my performances doing Nirvana songs, as a janitor. But I remember some details! The two songs I did (at two separate times) were “Aneurysm” and “Sliver.” My hair, at the time was bleached blonde, and I pulled it in front of my face in stringy clumps. I wore work boots, navy blue Dickies pants with a lot of keys hanging off the belt loop, a light blue work shirt – not tucked in- with epaulets, and a thermal shirt underneath that. I brought a dust mop to dust mop the stage / use as microphone stand and pole vault. Once off the stage, I continued dust mopping all throughout the audience. I don’t know whether anyone got into these performances or knew what I was doing, but it felt pretty cathartic.
Just like Kurt Cobain, I worked at my old high school – er, technically it was my middle school, but it is now a high school (although unlike Kurt, I managed to graduate first, and to also graduate from college before returning). It was weird. Maybe I’ll write about it more in depth at a later date. I also have rocked out with mops many many times, just like the janitor in the video (often, I’d be narrowing down drag songs, listening to my mp3 player and lip synching into the mirror in the bathrooms). I’m actually currently doing this while at work! I have a Halloween drag show coming up and I’m trying to decide between Bauhaus, Skinny Puppy, Swans, and a few others.
I’d like to think that Kurt Cobain wrote some of what’s in his journals while he was working as a janitor. Although I don’t write in a journal, I do have a little notebook on my cart where I write out lists and jot down thoughts about music, mostly. I also often utilize the time to think about stuff I might write about here, on this blog.
If you’re interested in what else I’ve written for these series so far, here they are:
Thank you to tsoi hawk and rimonim for including me in the Liebster Awards. This award uses a chain-mail technique in order to connect more writers together and create an opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Many of us write continuously, sometimes constantly about one or two topics, and we never really get a sense of who the author is!
I was stalling for a while about this post, because while I love the spirit of this award, I do not love the pressure and obligation to follow the rules and not break the chain! I am a notorious chain breaker. You wanted to send me a recipe/list of books/favorite quote/etc. and a list of 6 more people to forward my own recipe/books/quotes/etc. on to? Bad choice; those people never saw anything about it! But I figured, why not try this one, even if I don’t follow everything we’re supposed to do.
So, here’s a modified version, I guess.
Some blogs I’ve really been enjoying lately:
And a favorite blog, that, sadly, appears to now be an archive:
If I linked to your blog, and you wanna follow all the rules, click here for more info about the Liebster Award. If you don’t wanna do it at all, that’s OK too.
Some random facts about me:
– I know all of Tom Petty’s greatest hits by heart. This is not indicative of my musical tastes. I just had the cassette tape growing up. (I do still love it.)
– What’s on my iPod right now: albums by Bauhaus, Daft Punk, DJ Shadow, Maps, RJD2, Skinny Puppy, Sleigh Bells, The Roots, Wolf Parade. This is slightly more indicative of my musical tastes. I listen to my iPod every single work-day, for probably 4-6 hours.
– I’m going to hear back in a couple of weeks whether my proposal for a radio show will be accepted. I’ll most likely be a radio DJ starting this fall!
– One of my favorite pastimes is brewing kombucha.
It is a delicious, healthy alternative to soda. It is awesome! You can buy it in stores, but it is $$$. You can make it at home for super super cheap. It’s basically just black tea (or any tea, but black is best) and processed, white sugar. Plus the weird flesh-colored disk called a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). You have to acquire one of those.
– We have a pet dwarf rabbit named Grey Bunny. She is 12 years old!
That’s about all I got for right now.