"put some confusion in it!" ~james sallis
interview by kathleen mcconnell:
When did you first start dancing?
in '56, age 6. mom trained me to do an elvis that somehow would just crack her up
always walked on my toes - annoying to have it always pointed out
age 10 was banned from canadian athletics for not being canadian while being shtupped by the headmaster and his son.
age 9 to 16, mom banned contact with girls - it's tempting to think her reasoning was that since i was unnaturally pretty it would be career enhancing to turn me gay: she sent me to fox-trot lessons at 14, either to follow the latter scenario or as insurance. as insurance it paid off - i despise ballroom over all other forms. my teacher was bored and terrifying, petite and middle-aged (looking back, probably a firecracker if she only didn't have to work for assholes). other than the elementary waltz she taught me nothing. both the culture and the technology of what she was instructed to teach me were irretrievably moribund (sounds potentially engaging, foxtrot - it was not).
in '65 - i'm 15 - with an instigating friend crashed a student dance at the university of washington: he quite pushed me onto a vast and crowded dance-floor with a comely co-ed. i believe it was the wailers (nw legends, later hardly remembered, deep in the shadow of the sonics) playing.
the next year was the threshold - at a school party i saw a classmate, a french boy (this was in d.c.) named christian, dancing with an unassumingly rhythmical flair and an agonizingly pretty girl. he let me - hypnotically made me - exactly copy his moves and from that night forward i started to be known as a "good" dancer.
i've never become competent in any dance style (including any type of couple dancing, short of a basic very slow-dance - which is really more like love - and a semi-clumsy waltz - which is not to say that i can't make good with two - improv means faking it, right?) quite the implacable enemy of style, in fact (hence the quotes around "good"). definitely a magpie when it comes to influences.
Could you please describe your performances?
i'd have to say: strictly improv. the particular "form" at a given juncture will depend on linked factors: a) the music - if it's a familiar form like latin or bluegrass or african, it will right away trigger recognizably latin or bluegrass or african licks hoovered up at some time or other. if it's unfamiliar, bengali or polka or something, i'll have to reach within (thankyou very much). b) space - sometimes square-footage is way limited or the floor is problematic (carpets or cement) in which case one resorts to stunts and experiments. c) audience - in improv, it is the spectators that motivate the breaking of dance conventions and the confounding of expectations, the receptivity of an audience will largely determine the direction my transgressions take. in san francisco i didn't even bother with the dress, while once in seattle, i had it on by the second number (see altercations). d) props - if i know i'm performing, i'll bring a couple of things. A long-time mainstay was an old black telephone receiver on a 12-foot cord attached at the other end to a silver mesh-ball microphone. Ideal for lip-synch and for swinging too close to things - light-fixtures, band-mates' heads - and for getting seriously tangled up in. i use all available chairs, tables, ladders, tv sets, table lamps, and beer pitchers.
i like blinding speed and numbing slowness. i like to dance alluringly femme, and brutally macho. i especially dance funny, and prefer to surprise - and ok, i suppose, frighten - audiences.
especioally when it's improv, the concrete elements attendant to any performance - audience tone, management tone, stage configuration, lighting, props available - take on critical importance.
like any dancer, from club-goer to prima ballerina to your hard core breakdancer, i seek grace. to be it and to bestow it.
What projects (music or otherwise) have you done or been involved with?
1. in 1966 in washington d.c., attended an art "happening" and ended up dancing with a small man - a good dancer, gentle - who was later identified to me as robert rauschenberg. also in '66 in washington. attended a huge sold-out otis redding show with 5 friends. we were the only 'white' people there, and our 11,000 fellow concert-goers were too electrified to mess with us and we too electrified to be paranoid. everyone was dancing, standing on their seats for the most part.
2. 1967, danced with jimi hendrix' perrenial girlfriend devon wilson (she wore an identical orange jumpsuit to his) for the whole of his set at the imperial ballroom in d.c. for some reason, we were basically the only people dancing.
3. 1968, danced with thousands of african american revelers to a 12-piece funk band at the legendary washington d.c. poor peoples march shanty-town called Resurrection City. without planning it, i'd brought a serrated butter-knife and a huge watermelon, and handed out slices as i danced, and everyone seemed to think it a brilliant and hilarious jape. it had to have helped that there were no cops present, and no other 'white' folks, and that i had really long hair - at the time, silly as it sounds today, something of an indicator of reliability. one thing i learnt this night is to fully appreciate the value of dancing funny.
4. 1968 - there was a vogue in those days in east coast cities of groups of 'street people', mainly african american but almost always a mix, jamming on conga drums in a park or on the street, to while away sweltering summer days or nights. i would often join these groups and dance, and sometimes help draw a crowd (and donations). i went barefoot most of that summer and my wardrobe went unvaried - patched pink levis, a black vest - no shirt, and a cowboy hat. this was in washington, pittsburg, and new york.
5. 1970-1990 i was a full-time parent and divided my time between communal living in the oregon coast range and stretches in eugene, portland, olympia, seattle, and spokane. in the country my dancing was confined to infrequent drum-jams and traveling minstrels. in the cities, if i could get a babysitter i'd go to rock clubs or concert halls and dance alone. i think in 1974, at a legendary club called the g-note in seattle, to a fabled psychedelic country band called lance romance, was the last time i felt it necessary to seek out female dance-partners, a pretty rigid convention, the abrogation of which inevitably carried risks. i made a little deal with myself that if 5 women in a row declined my proposition, i'd dance by myself. thenceforward, except on the rare occasions i had a woman friend present, this continued to be the case. i was routinely threatened, harassed, ejected, assaulted, or intimidated by club management or other patrons, but more frequently befriended by musicians or other dancers. typically, on leaving a club at the end of the last set, i'd get nods of macho complicity from the same mustachioed guys who'd greeted me on my arrival with sneers of macho superiority.
in those 20 years, i danced to/with:
a) chick corea, miles davis, pharoah sanders, mccoy tyner, gato barbieri, john mclaughlin, larry coryell, dave brubeck, mal waldron, charles lloyd with keith jarrett, dexter gordon,
b) janis joplin, the rolling stones (w/ brian jones), the who, vanilla fudge, the grateful dead, the velvet underground, quicksilver, silver apples, lothar & the hand people,
c) james brown, sly and the family stone, aaron neville, mary wells, aretha franklin [for one dollar (!) at the lane county fair, and tell me she didn't heat that drafty cinderblock cow-barn up] , van morrison, boz skaggs (soul period), the marvelettes, james & bobby purify, otis redding,
d) bonnie raitt, john lee hooker, j.geils band, elvin bishop, screamin' jay hawkins, bo diddley, sonny terry & brownie mcghee, edgar winter, furry lewis, lightnin' hopkins, taj mahal, etta james, muddy waters,
e) the wipers, tragic mulatto, joan jett (w/ blackhearts), eliot sharp, d.o.a., iggy pop, fishbone, the clash,
f) utah phillips, the tone dogs, donovan, buffy saint marie, bob dylan, joan armatrading, commander cody, the holy modal rounders, country joe, joan baez, doug kershaw, charlie daniels, jorma kaukonen, the new riders, maria muldaur, the bauls of bengal, and fela.
g) my most memorable forced ejections (purely for the sin of dancing, i.e. supposedly blocking sight-lines) were from elvin bishop, etta james, joan armatrading, and bootsy collins.
6. 1981 a friend, hannah bradshaw, now of minneapolis, a recreational dancer of the very highest caliber, came to me with an exhortation the likes of, fred, you have got to see this man billy k. she then took me to a billy kennedy gig, and she was right, we hit it off immediately, and within a year or two he'd started, to my great alarm, introducing me to the audience at his shows and expecting me to show what i had. i ended up dancing with him regularly for most of 10 years, in the process picking up plenty of licks - many stolen directly from him (a lot of the femme stuff, if it must be known) - and gained a little performing experience. at one point he put together a band - sake wahoo (featuring one of america's premier blues/fusion drummers, carlton jackson) - specifically to showcase some of my more deranged chops.
7. a sea-change in the latter 80's made me transform my habits: 5 times in succession when i went out to dance i ran into aggressive confrontations. no two were similar, except in my somehow prompting rage in perfect strangers by the seemingly innocent act of dancing. the final time, the person showed me a razor-knife and stalked me over an evening. it was clear i was unnecessarily provoking people, and this combined with that heightened vulnerability that obtains with intense performing experiences, made these encounters peculiarly distressing.
i resolved to find a completely different kind of dance outlet, and practically simultaneously found that portland's dancer's workshop was providing a monthly "open-mike" show for dancers called sunday @ 7 (soon to begin to rotate among an assortment portland dance venues for 6-month stretches). over 5 years i was something of an obnoxious mainstay there, perhaps doing a total of 15 or 20 more-or-less solo improvisational pieces. the first one comes back easily: i had some early baroque chamber music (padre soler) on the sound system and a really nice man's suit. i was doing something stately and lyrical when lisa duncan appeared from behind the audience with a ghetto blaster playing loud and raunchy (hendrix' wild thing i think) and came up and beat me to the floor with her fists.
as my performances here evolved, i'd generally try to keep my mind blank until the moment i went on, in order that improvisational impulses be unimpeded by unintentional planning. one day, as the first couple of acts proceeded, i found myself increasingly annoyed by the upstairs tenant, who was treading heavily back and forth, back and forth, across her (?) apartment floor directly above the performance space. when it came to my turn, i positioned myself out on the floor in a random spot and waited for inspiration to strike. by the graces of that great serendipitous goddess (?) who so often intervenes in performances, the upstairs tenant suddenly took off stomping from directly above where i was standing. what could i do but follow? for the next 5-10 minutes, she (?) beautifully obliged by stopping, starting, and vigorously tromping back and forth, zig-zagging about her flat, accomplishing incomprehensible errands while i followed her (?) every move directly below.
i must say, it, so to speak, brought down the house. many many laughs, especially when my puppeteer came to a very abrupt halt, leaving me precariously teetering, and after a pregnant and suspenseful pause, took violently off again, leaving me leaping to catch up.
8. 1990 i was recruited by ben ellis and tres shannon to facilitate a dance class/performance troupe for their eclectic all-ages club the x-ray cafe, as part of their project to diversify their venue's activities (which included a drum jam, a quilting bee, and a women-only night). over the next year or so, the "wacko dance unit" developed a set of structured improvisations at weekly rehearsals that resulted in about 15 performances, mostly either at sunday @ 7 or in conjunction with rock shows, including some out-of-town gigs with the x-ray's travelling punk vaudeville show. as an example of the sort of pieces we mounted, in one, called "heckling", to some generally subdued musical accompaniment, one of us would appear at the front of the stage and facing the audience, launch into a solo improvisation. after a few moments, a second dancer would appear behind the first and broadly parody the moves of the first, who would then shortly move off stage and the second dancer would move forward, segueing into their own set of moves which a third dancer would then appear from behind to mock, the cycle continuing until the first dancer reappeared. all of our pieces aimed to be short, crisp, and comedic.
9. 1992 i was recruited to dance the part of "cupid" at the valentines day maiden performance of emo-core punk trio hazel. the chemistry proved irresistable and i continued on as a regular member of the band for a couple of hundred shows and some national and international touring. we quit touring and recording in '97, but have continued to do a few shows a year since then.
10. in addition to these phases of my dance trajectory have been a few side-paths, starting with early childhood judo training at the seattle dojo: a) short stints in classes and workshops: kathak (chitrim das), afro-cuban (ruby burns), capoeira (mestre almiro), butoh (seattle woman?), contact improv (carolyn stuart). b) occasional moments in night-clubs when encounters with other dancers have become performance events, including with ken aizawa at pine street and several times with my grown daughter (once, memorably, with the tone dogs). c) impromptu performances on stage or on video with a wide assortment of rock bands. d) 'taught' improvisation workshops. e) produced dance anthology events. f) oddities (eg. opening for kiken chen)
photo by brady smith
ya wanna piece a me?
excerpts from a letter to james bush, author of the encyclopedia of northwest music:
if you ever do another edition, i hope you would include a piece on the bands and musicians who have been crucial to the development of NW music on account of their live performance work. many, if not most, of the greatest and most influential musicians hereabouts have never managed major studio time.
as a dancer, i am particularly sensitive to this fact.
hendrix, whom you include, probably never played more than 5 shows in the northwest, and to my knowledge never performed with any northwest musicians. billy kennedy, who is nowhere mentioned in your book, has probably done 3000 shows, and performed with upwards of 200 musicians hereabouts, and has arguably been as influential as anyone but kurt or jimi.
but he's made no albums. [this letter written in '99. in 2001 he finally released a cd, called compendium]
i've been a fanatical dancer and club-goer since my first fake i.d. in '64, and my first Wailers show at the UW that year. living mostly in portland since '67 i've always made extended visits to family in seattle and indulged in the scene there almost as much as portland.
the premier early '70s seattle rock band has entirely disappeared from the official record. no mention at all in clark humphrey's ostensibly inclusive history. probably because it was a 'country' band. but that was the very compellingly original thing about Lance Romance. it wasn't hippy-dippy faux-counter-cultural faggot-ass country like those boys with the huge record-contracts, this was stone-cold razor-riffing psychedelic shit-storm git-down blow-you-away music. they would pack the g-note in ballard (not a small club) and tear the place down. their singer (i think his name was JD) was a cabdriver, o.d.ed and died around '74. years later i saw charlie daniels' band in spokane and swore the guy had by some nefarious and disgusting rite managed to steal JD's shit. (i can't emphasize enough how much i ordinarily disliked country & western 'music' at the time. in the 60's i did short-time in a southern klan jailhouse - 6 am to 10 pm commercial country for the cruel edification of the lifer soul brothers, sorry, that's is a completely other story)
in my book, the great seattle live bands of the 80's were Red Dress, Prudence Dredge, and Fred. It's kind of coincidental, but all these bands that never recorded shit, but consistently blew away audiences, each had a strong comical element. Lance had not just your regular country yee-haw humor, but major hunks of mothers-of-invention/butthole-surfers deranged acid-head killer-irony. the latter three always managed to pack their sets with harmonic oddities, quirky dance moves, and arch lyrical twists.
in the early 70's portland had 3 fabulous endlessly-gigging non-pareil salsa bands: Felicidades, Upepo, and Ela (accent on the a), and an incomparable women's jazz/rock/folk band, Baba Yaga, and they all really tied down the scene here until punk hit. in the late 70's, two stunning funk bands Shock and Cool'r were the total mainstays, utterly shaming the fratboy bar-bands that mostly dominated the club scene. (though one of those, which you mention briefly, Sleazy Pieces, got quite transcendental quite regularly due to resident insane genius Earl Benson - who recently surfaced and now plays kelly's once a week) these two totally laid the groundwork for the emergence of dan reed's solid, if slightly paler, unit. Shock, especially early on when they had two singers, melvin, mean gruff baritone, and bruce (i think), exquisite tenor/falsetto, was world class.
there was one great funk band, Flirt, and one great women's punk band, the Cunts, here in the 80's. both, for a time, blew anything similar, not that there was anything similar, away.
one perennial portland mainstay perhaps should have made your book, since they did make several seminal recordings, the Holy Modal Rounders. they never remained too long, though, and i assume you filed them under transients, like mal waldron and leroi vinegar, mere sojourners in our rainy region.
before the dharma bums, there was Slack. I saw them open for Fishbone when the latter were peaking. They rose to the moment immaculately.
Hitting Birth and Big Daddy Meat Straw. both acquired tastes. like heroin is an acquired taste. the northwest has never had spectacles like these two, but their spawn is legion. the dandy warhols are a mere residue marking their passing.
(and oh yeah, can't forget eugene. for me, the utter pinnacle of eugene bands was in the 80's: the out-of-control caveman throwback freakoids Mambo Sox, and the coven of seriously jamming women who serendipitously met up by all working at the same convenience store: The Clerks. Not possible not to dance to either of these bands.)
which brings us back to Billy K:
Bill, like Earl Benson before him, is mystical godfather of northwest music. If Jesse Bernstein filled that role for every conceivable genre of performance in seattle, Kennedy has filled that role across every genre of music (ok, not classical) in portland. he has assembled or catalyzed perhaps 30 or 40 different ensembles over the years (he was briefly a street musician in seattle in the 70's), including the very long-lived and ubiquitous Ed and the Boats and the Belmont Street Quar-Quin-Sex-Sept-Octet and the outrageous quintessential jazz/funk supergroup Le Bon, and, for that matter, Hazel. He is the impresario behind the 'east side sound' here and may one day be recognized as the Jimi Hendrix of improvised lyrics.
i don't think it's posible to underestimate the influence of live music - oh well, i've crawled this far out on my limb. one more inch: here's how twisted my viewpoint is, how biased a dancer can be - you might remember Ben Ellis and Tres Shannon and their x-ray cafe on west burnside? if anyone 'launched' northwest indie-rock onto the global stage, it was them. the idiots at subpop had nothing to do with it.
grizzled old straight goes homo-a-go-go
how fabulous of a time did we have?
wednesday night 6:30 jody calls, says team dresch is practising in a half hour (a half hour) out at girls' rock camp, across the slough almost at the columbia river, nondescript off-white warehouse, down a long hallway and through 2 doors, maybe 40 people, low stage, low ceiling, carpet - basically it's a small office. marci's kit back in the right corner, melissa off to the left with a couple of big toms, kaia, donna, and jody standing in a row at the front. kaia's hair is tall and short and white-blond, and guess what - she is a demon. all 3 are monster (monster guitar heroes - tearing the place down song after song. jesus christ.
ok. schmooze just a little, i can't go up to olympia for the festival tomorrow because, well, i did get to see them tonight, and i don't really have gas money, and i hate being a passenger, and besides it will be wall-to-wall homos and they'll think some old straight guy is wierd - i mean, not wierd enough. (yeah right, ferd)
even though jody might get the band to ask me to dance a song.
ok, thursday the mail doesn't arrive til late, like 5, but it's got my land-payment check in it - early. but i don't think anything of it til it hits me - team dresch! olympia!
so - a 2-hour drive - and about 9 p.m., around back by the capitol theater stage door, here's jody! here's tara jane oneil!
team dresch doesn't play til saturday.
ok. change of plan. i guess i drive back tonight and fuck it, right? well, let's not decide. let's follow tara jane (she's been employing me to dance in her kick-ass bands this summer) and steve to the gay bar around the corner to have some disco.
i wander into the crowd on the dance floor where who should immediately shanghai me into their ambiance but my long lost sacred goth buddies john and heather. they're heading for a trade show in seattle tomorrow and i can stay at their house.
and tonight, dance with them to this band that has now appeared on the big stage next to the disco floor - it's veronica lipgloss and the evil eyes! a san francisco band with 4 erotic dancers - way ragged and out-of-control and great. kali and jehosephat - wait! that is to say john and heather - saw them tuesday night at homo-a-go-go (i'm just finding out that this thing is going on for 6 days), but say that they're noticeably more insane tonight, which doesn't strike me as very impressive because it would clearly not be difficult to be LESS INSANE than this band. the lead guitar is sitting in some kind of cardboard throne with her bandaged leg elevated. after a few songs she switches to saxophone. the singer is a scary beautiful skeletal shrieking powerhouse.
friday i see augustina and hector - excuse me - heather and john, off in their silver chariot - er, yellow toyota camper, and opt to blow off jody's fashion show, and go hobnob with avant-garde theater director reuben yancey in his little wooded canyon, a serene sylvan fairyland disturbed only by the deep rumbling explosions emanating from the surround-sound soundtrack of the hellboy dvd on his big-screen tv.
at the prospect of returning to downtown olywa, crystal's decrepit old falcon decides to throw a little fit - the driver's door won't shut, the tail-lights go out, and the fan-belt starts screaming like a (gay) banshee and won't stop. but, ah - who'll notice in the middle of the night? the cops? naaaah.
in front of the capitol theater, it's a mob filling the street - looks like it's blocked off for the entire week - so time to lean up against the front and take in the raucous homo hijinks. right at my feet is a circle of about 7 kneeling guys and erin scarum, playing a serious game of craps. oh. it's seven kneeling gals and erin scarum. gals? gals? no, not the word. i need another word. ok, i was right the first time - seven kneeling guys - you know - fedoras, suspenders, boots - it's just, just - oh crap - you know what i mean. it's dawning on me that the name of this festival is a little misleading - actual men-born-of-women gay guys are a distinct minority. from here on, i'm basically thinking "lesbo-a-go-go".
i'm scanning the crowd for somebody with the credentials to get me into the show. word is that the band about to play is sensational. there's a very very cute girl in a hazel tee-shirt, and it's the black panther one, so i better go up and try and tell her the sat cong story, but each time i approach, she starts performing oral surgery on another very cute girl, so i veer away.
i head over to jake's, the bar where i ran into hycinthia and romualdo last night, to see if there's anyone to latch onto and anyhow get a little warm-up in for tomorrow. the 300 lesbians are apparently back standing in front of the capitol theater tonight, because this place is now only 3/4 filled (as opposed to the 7/4 of last night) with rather sedate gay men. i get some hard looks from some of the b & d boys when i hop onto the stage and tighten the shoelaces, but nobody makes a move to bind or discipline me, so i try out a few licks. you can't know how nice it is to have an entire stage.
ok, back around the corner, and here comes the hazel shirt, so i ask her if she knows the story, and she very charmingly invites me to enlighten her.
besides being a lyricist and songwriter and guitar-slinger of genius, pete is not too shabby a graphic artist and designed most of hazel's early shirts and stickers. one day he finds an old faded patch of a snarling black panther on a shirt in a thrift shop, and offers it for our next shirt design, only replacing the words "sat cong" (with a dot over the 'a') with the word hazel. we like it, we send it out, but i copy down the replaced words out of curiosity and bring them along on our next visit to the superlative vietnam pearl cafe. as we pay the bill, this always marvellous young man, surely the son of the owners, looks at what i've written down and looks right back at me with the funniest wide grin, and doesn't say anything. i ask again, and with a delighted and slightly feral flourish, he goes, "kill viet cong".
i'm gratified to observe her small chill of enjoyment to be sharing in the appropriation of an icon of the viet holocaust. wearing it on her breast.
alright, alright, it's time, so i pay the damn $10 and go in and get a seat about halfway down, and out comes beth ditto, or, as the program calls her, "southern belle hell bitch beth ditto" and her band, the gossip. she's a small woman, well-fleshed, a short helmet of hair and a very tight dress and she breaks into a hard-ass blues number like she's etta james or something. between songs she mentions she's coming off the flu and hasn't slept for 20 hours (i suppose driving or riding shotgun in a van). still, she's knocking herself out, for a loop even, channelling joplin and jimmy witherspoon and people like that to get her through the fatigue, i suppose, because it's pretty apparent that were she fresh and feelin it, beth here would not need to be channelling anybody because the woman has, pardon the archaism, a god-given GIFT.
i take home the program of events and instead of getting lulled to sleep read it cover to cover - 66 pages - in gathering astonishment and remorse.
1. tuesday i missed the latino, homothug, jewish and lesbo rap superstars and donna and kristina's raging punk band davies vs. dresch.
2. wednesday i missed leslie mah (tribe 8), neil gust (heatmiser), secret cock, dynasty handbag (both of which had to be sensational according to the proven theory that bands with fantastic names always are, well, fantastic), the lesbo palestinian monologist, and, headlining, parvenu cult legend king cobra. fuck me!
3. thursday i missed MY OWN BAND, tara jane oneil, who assumed i was coming up, AND mirah (who i missed in february), AND the indigo girls, AND the fucking butchies, and let's throw in latina slam champion meliza banales.
4. friday i missed nomy, who is my hero, lesbians on ecstacy (from montreal, the world capital of over-the-top dance units the last couple of decades), the brooklyn punk tsunami the dead betties, another fuckload of spoken word geniuses, including the sister spit dude cooper lee bombadier, and a deeply deranged consortium of dj's and mc's.
oh well. i got to see the gossip.
the rest of the program guide is a tapestry of hoots and naughty shocks:
1. the cover has 34 recognizable caricatures of famous queers in pink and black, and three i couldn't get, even with the help of the tiny helpful list - harry haye (mattachine society and radical faeries founder), mark bingham (hero of flight 93), and julianna parr (the artist - and designer of this entire book) - i googled em on cesaro and hemophelia's computer. there was one more, unidentified - a young medusa smoking a cigarette. julianna's girlfriend, if I had to guess.
2. the endcovers: perfectly salacious ads for sex toys.
3. the table of contents has page numbers but the pages don't have page numbers but this is entirely in line with its being a co-operative project and the fact that this thing reads like a damn novel anyway.
4. nice acknowledgements page. besides a couple of dozen personal heroes, my favorite honoree: amanda reckonwith.
4. a beautiful confessional memoir of the festival's planning by its impressario, ed varga, employing a moving metaphor between coming out as gay, as transsexual, as a performer, as a boss/ringleader, and as a person.
5. a great little guide to olympia, including make-out spots and self-defense tips, and then there are the glorious -
6. staff bios. there are 28 of them, all on the same pattern. here is a mixture of my favorites from different people:
Job title - Holder of the beaver dam
Sign - a Goat who refuses to give milk
Weirdest fear - Face washing attacks
Favorite concert - Rambling Jack Eliot and Peaches at the same show
Famous person I want to have dinner with - Queequeg from "Moby Dick"
Favorite magazine - American Cake Decorating
Gayest thing about me - my vagina
the most fun thing about the staff bios is assembling the clues to each person's gender identity. not a few put one in mind of julie moos' famous photographic portraits of junior high best friends/worst enemies - YOU CAN NOT TELL.
7. the workshop schedule. 4 a day over 4 days, on: letterpress, zionism, bike mechanics, singing, disabilities, screenprinting, creative resistance, safe sex, queercore music, drumming, racism, writing for the spoken word, queer people of color, body size as gender and performance issues, creative motivation, and a H.A.G.G. feedback workshop.
8. guides to affiliated art shows and the craft bazaar, elaborate intros to 50 short films from 4 curators, and previews to 3 featured documentaries, one on the trans lead singer venus; one on the brazilian lady punks dominatrix on tour with the haggard, the director of this film and my personal hero, emily kingan's, portland hardcore band; and one on robert eads, a good ol' boy male-to-female transsexual and his relationship with f-to-m tranny lola cola. venus of mars, bending the equator, and southern comfort.
9. a "homoscope" (you know - aries, taurus - but i know what you were thinking)
10. previews of the all-star spoken word open mic (starring rebecca brown and the cliterati's ami mattison), live karaoke with king cobra (!), sunday's giant picnic with lesbo superstar phranc, and the festival's crowning climax (!!) - a dionysian massed gay wedding (!!!)
11. a long not-very-pomo homo promo for the indigo girls, and a short interview with the jody and kaia of team dresch. sample answers:
Age, Sign, Hometown, Status - Jody: 34, Capricorn, nope, crusty and creamy (jody!!)
Our favorite books - Kaia: Codependent no more
Jody: Knots and how to tie them
Bands we wish we could have been in - Jody: On bass with Coltrane
Kaia: Cheap Trick
5 items we'd want on a desert island - Jody: god, the devil, a knife, Nina, an old Gibson J-45
One thing people don't know about us - Kaia: I wear short hose
What we want to be doing a year from now - Jody: changing diapers in my studio
Kaia: searching for baby sea turtles
What we're looking for - Jody: peas
12. quite a few great ads. one or two will give you a boner.
ok, sorry for the long digression, even though i've never been sorry for digressing in my entire LIFE. saturday morning i call up jody and ask if the dreschies want me to do a song with them, but someone isn't comfortable with the prospect, so i ask about little brother al, whom i knew when he was a whippersnapper and whom i hold in deep, deep regard (having toured repeatedly with jode, i have a smidgen of an inkling of what it might have been like to grow up under her, er - what's the word? hah - aegis.
call al on his boyfriend's cell and before i even get into my threats he has invited me to join his ensemble (allen svenadaitor and the amazing fruit experts) for their finale.
i basically piss away the day - n.y.t. and eggs at the ribeye (an old haunt up near the now-closed but dearly remembered viet pool hall) and surfing the net for the likes of mark bingham and harry hay (not "haye"), end up going to meet sky meyers (playwright and founder, with my beloved ex barbara, of oly's long-time performance venue, midnight sun) at her extraordinarily cute semi-rural cottage to see her new paintings, but she's gone for a haircut and left me a book to read instead.
full spectrum disorder is stan goff's super fierce indictment of u.s. military travesties from vietnam to haiti to colombia to iraq, from the point of view of a special forces combat soldier and eyewitness. it is the most serious and eye-opening expose of our government ever and that's saying something. he makes gore and noam and molly and michael all look like wussies.
anyhow, sky shows up and shows me her delicious and delicate paintings, then i tootle on down to see michelle tea.
i'm wandering down the theater aisle in the middle of imani henry's sensuous rap when i hear a pssst, and here's jody pointing at some empty seats in the row behind her. as my eyes adjust i begin to note who she's sitting with - >only< the very acme of alt pulchritude, to wit, and from left to right -
1. lucy - the erotic "bear" in the alicia cohen pomo prose-poem opera Northwest Inhabitation Log (opposite moi, as the fat bogart)
2. nina - actress, screenwriter, femme fatale, and the only videographer ever to capture the elusive essence of hazel
3. daphna - girls rock camp dynamo and the greatest set of pipes in this entire august milieu
4. her imperial highness
5. cynthia star - hermetic sculptor of drunken elephants and acclaimed painter of homo copulating dogs
6. denk - seeress, chunkstress, logger, new bad thing
7. naomi - taker of lunacy to new levels, when voted cutest visibly bristled
i turn, and sitting next to me is:
8. alicia mcdaid - the painter. the videographer
now to pull myself together and try to focus on the stage, bare except for imani henry, a beautiful and sweet and soft-spoken and rivetingly intense african american spoken word artist in daring black slacks and tank top, and he's quietly describing how he is a lesbian. more than persuasive in his naked sincerity and meticulous reasoning, he's seamlessly born-male black homo by his persona, his "lesbianism" i'm assuming to be a matter of thoroughgoing sympathy, but jody informs me he's f-to-m. he gets a fine ovation. program says to go to www.geocities.com/imani_henry/
there's a break, everyone gets up and starts to leave, so it's time to hunt up allen and ask him what the hell i'm going to do. i circle around everywhere, to the extent of popping over to jake's for a looksee and a brief warmup - but no allen. maybe he's backstage, but i'd better not miss michelle tea, so back in i go and I'VE JUST MISSED MICHELLE TEA.
and allen is up next now, so it's around to the stage door with me, get my stamp, and here's al with his crew of fruit experts, ready to go. he does a sweet little set of his out ballads, the crowning one his first, in which he pretends he's at home, taking a shower, singing to himself - actually, to his shower and how it rains down so gently and sensually upon him, the entendres multiply, to the audience' delight, and when he breaks - and i mean breaks - into his orgasmic falsetto, the theater is his. for his last song, "the worm", i'm there, on a chair, in my polyester floral number and back-to-front black wig, all sexy coy, waving around my deliciously fat butt, and capping the finale with a graceful sumo-butterfly flit across the boards.
backstage, the fruit experts thank me. so there, heterophobes!
quick down the alley to king solomon's reef for a crappy tuna melt and back to the center of the cyclone for my reason to be here at all, finally the one act i DO NOT MISS.
the glories of this set are impermeable to my dilletantish lit skills, but here's a couple of comments and a vignette or two.
first, this was no reunion show. the years gone by since the team dresch heyday have been a time of seasoning, the gathering of authority, and refinement of chops on the part of each of these musicians.
and boy was i glad they nixed my sitting (?) in - a) i'd have missed seeing the performance of a lifetime. b) having even one fleeting boy up there would have adulterated the extreme ecstatic lesbo bliss of the moment, would have distracted from the already sensory overload of 5 superstars at the top of their form. c) i think i'd have misjudged what to do. in retrospect, nothing but perfect stillness - maybe a black kimono - would have enhanced this set - the usual berzerk frenzy only redundant.
from the capitol's great balcony (a supremely precious rarity now the multiplexes have condemned to the bulldozer or grotesque architectural amputation the single most sublime childhood oases of everyone who grew up in america in the last century) i could see everything.
the best moments -
1. Every time they trade guitars, which is almost every song
2. The amazing amazing crowd: 7 thousand (or so) lesbians in ecstacy. When Melissa comes around front at one point, and starts >conducting< the rhythmic sway of the 300-girl moshpit, the whole right side gets carried away and collapses into a gigantic orgiastic tumbleweed - crowd insanely howling
3. Denk comes out and sings, well, screams, lead on "Freewheel" - like this outfit really needs >another< superstar
4. Donna's guitar solo, >while she does the backstroke over the crowd<
5. On "The Council", about 60 lesbos (and one or two honorary ones) leap onto the stage and emerge from the wings to mosh with the band, totally engulfing them, caressing and embracing their heroes, pulling off shirts, deliriously gyrating in stratospheric punk euphoria
6. After the last encore, the 5 musicians disengage their instruments, stroll upstage, and join hands - what's this? a curtain call at a rock show? As if on signal, they rush forward and take a wild dive into the mass, surfing the adoring throng...
out front it's a mob. no way am i ready to get in the damned car, yet i feel just outsider enough - and fulfilled enough (guess i got what i came up here for) - not to need the schmooze, so i weave my way across the street and lean my delicious butt up against somebody's volvo and just take in the scene. after a moment i'm rather boldly approached by a woman i don't recognize. she is charming and beautiful and her gentle chatting brings me back more or less to earth. a stranger, but she comes across as an old friend. lisa from asheville.
when she takes her leave, i'm ready to slip away, way happy.
postscript - in the nyt today, susan sachs reports on the return of the olympics after 1600 years to its original site in olympia (!). "Historians now describe the early Olympics as part religious pilgrimage and part bacchanal, a five-day celebration of individual prowess that drew tens of thousands..." except for the numbers, the description applies here. with one small deviation - the sacred tradition dictating that any woman discovered at the games be thrown off a high cliff. the church fathers banned the original olympics around 400 a.d., it having run every four years since 800 b.c. - a date gratifyingly concurrent with that to which gyno-centric historians assign the fall of the great matriarchies.
tara jane oneil shows
Sent: Saturday, June 19, 2004
played my first tara j.o. show last night at the dunes, a new little joint 2 blocks down from here: small friendly crowd, very dark, very late. her old friend - my old acquaintance - tom, playing cream-era-claptonesque guitar threads, extendedly jamming with tara's echoplex-style self duets, basically one long (45 minute) gradually gathering song, with sara lund getting behind the drum kit about 2/3rds of the way in and building to a respectably loud and frenzied crescendo. i was very very very slow throughout, until the last 10 minutes or so, largely in back of them, sometimes on the drum stool til lund arrived.
the high points for me were:
1. after 5 minutes of standing motionless on the stool, dropping the black kimono to reveal the white kimono
2. after 20 minutes of breathing a farcical amount of cigarette smoke - tres euro-style club, i guess - i bummed a filter cigarette off tom (who was smoking while he played), got it lit and clenched in my teeth and went over to the side where the one spotlight was shining down on nothing, and smoked it no-hands to the music, the spot beautifully illuminating the massive churning cloud.
3. afterwards, more hot women came up and complimented me than IN MY ENTIRE CAREER IN HAZEL. and a couple of cute guys, too.
next up, nocturnal - nice wide wood stage - i have already selected a duvet to wear...
thought you'd like to know
Sent: Friday, July 02, 2004
so then the following friday, nocturnal, a year-old hipster cocktail venue where excalibur comics used to be.
musically, the same basic concept as last time: tjo jamming with her boomerang; after 10 minutes up comes her electric bass-player, after another 10 minutes, sara lund up on the drums. a minute after she began, i started emerging very slowly from behind the heavy black curtain at the side, wearing a rather attractive KING-SIZE DUVET. the thing was huge, white on one side, all mauve and pink flowery on the other. oh yeah - inside the duvet with me was my 6-foot CONQUISTADOR SWORD, so i was able to extend said duvet basically 12 feet in the air. i could not see shit though, so it was a good thing i was moving pretty slow and not swinging the damn sword according to the standard manual. after a while, sword emerges from duvet, and i half-stumble off the stage and fall over several audience members and manage to accidently slash a large hole in the stage-curtain on my fumbling way backstage.
the 2nd half of the set was fairly pedestrian - i guess - stately strolls across the stage in the white kimono (showing plenty of thigh) and doing a slow-motion somersault over a small bar-stool. you know the drill.
then, in july at the meow meow, on the tail end of a 3-day local pop festival. we got going around midnight, after a succinct (beknopt) and artful set by jeremy wilson's straight-ahead punk band - which got us kind of settled down.
tara started out singing one of her resonant and mournful (droefgeestig) songs, while i reclined at the back, exhibiting leg out of the white - with red peonies (pioens) - kimono.
with tara's fair kristina on child's retro xylophone thing - magically tinkling melody interweaving tara's dreamy lines, they go into their extended (uitgebreid) faux-japanese jam, and from behind the faux-leopard-spot hanging backdrop we start making it move, hooked on a prong of a iron-toothed garden rake (hark) we'd brought on the whim (kuur), and generate a rolling wave, increasingly (met aanwas) convulsive (krampachtig) - ripples to breakers to tsunami-force.
at one point, the rake gets in front of the curtain while we'm still concealed, and it eerily grts itself suspended from the rafters (plafond spars) - we let it go and it floats there, stretching the moment.
after a while, sara lund climbs up and takes the drum kit, motoring gradually up, and after another while, kristina departs. we're cavorting (ravotten) - mostly very very very slowly - around with the rake.
once, the white kimono falls away, revealing the black kimono.
once, we slid into kristina's chair lately vacated, where remained a live mic 3 inches above our ahem crotch. presciently (met voorweten), she'd left the xylophone sticks, tipped with perfect little yellow superballs, compelling us by its sheer juxtaposition to play a brisk and staccato tattoo between penis (not in our crappy dutch dictionary - it has "wentletrap" and "warfinger" but not "was") and the staccato face of the mic.
tara had painted deep white circles around our eyes, and thanks to that - and also surely to the zeitgeist evoked (wekken) by the resurrection (opstanding) of sara's epic bike sculpture - as we drifted about the stage the very recurring motif was of the great ponderous (zwaarwichtig) seabird - sleeves langorously (mit wellustig vermoeienis) flapping.
and surely out of the gaze of the by turns taciturn (stilzwijgend) and incandescent (in de hoogste mate gloeiend) katja, torrential (schielijk en omvangrijk) vulcan mind-meld cross-fertilizing (kruis-bevruchten) artists' phantasma (in de hoogste mate veranderend droombeeld) rose a brimming fullness of emotion that drove the thing and made it bloom.
6/18/04 the dunes geoff & elizabeth, the naysayer
6/25 nocturnal daphna kohn, the naysayer
7/10 the meowmeow (pdxpop) (gold), jeremy wilson
9/3 holocene (gold), sarah dougher, mirah
9/16 disjecta (tar & feathers), jackie o motherfucker, apeshape
9/23 berbati's (gold), electrolane, the ex
3/3/05 newspace (critter show)
3/2 showbox (seattle) (gold), slint
4/2 doug fir michael hurley, ida
6/17 disjecta (on burnside) coast starlight (matt mccormick)
8/5 loveland (pdxpop) (4 roses), jackie o motherfucker
9/2 holocene samara lubelski, world (honey & adam), portland vampires
9/4 vanessa's gazebo (w/ theo angell)
[same date, shadows of michael hurley]
10/2 the dunes (the bastard brawl band), spice tomb, blood on the wall
4/6/06 holocene (w/ geoff soule)
[same date - valet (honey owens)]
august (?) disjecta (w/ nora, themba, kristina) PK
9/5 voodoo donut (kristina videotapes) PK
9/14 holocene (w/ theo, kristina) ilyas ahmed, theo, lovers
11/3 hotel utah (sf) sir richard bishop
11/4 needles & pens (sf) (artists juliana bright & jen smith)
2/16/07 holocene yacht & the blow
6/16 someday lounge mbilly, michael hurley, jana hunter
6/25 aladdin (w/ sara lund & ambient percussion) tortoise
[opalescent-yellow plastic security bracelet comes off 9/10, 77 days]
7/22 holocene (w/ theo & ambient p) golden bears, strangers die every day, lloyd & michael
8/18 voleur atrium (w/ ilyas, adrian orange) rob wal-mart, valet, rexroad's poet friend daniel, tom greenwood
[doug fir - w/ sean croghan, chris robley, craig heineke, davis, jason - lennon cover night - norfolk & western, ben barnett, etc.]
9/2 holocene (w/ sara lund & ambient p) ilyas, evolutionary jass, cexfucx,, damo suzuki w/ valet & yellow swans
9/15 towne lounge (w/ ilyas) snowdrift, samara lubelski & josh on moog)
10/4 holocene night of a thousand madonnas (w/ mirah, alicia, jane, lena, steffi) sexton blake, online romance, gay deceivers,
world court,, cj & the dolls, do n dudes
10/25 sloan's (w/ chris sutton) tara & jenny hoyston & cristina files, the newbloods
1/5/08 audio cinema (w/ john, geoff, ron & ambients - children of the revolution festival) yellow swans, fleshtone, panther, etc.
1/11 podkrepa hall (plazm release - the back room)
[3/2 holocene - tara indisposed, david raffin sweet caterwauls in stead, w/ john guitar & eric drums], evolutionary jass band, wooly mammoth, cexfux, rush-n-disco, linda austin]
5/15 rotture (w/ a crew, including ilyas, danny, john, ron) dark yoga, ilyas, worms, aaron montaigne, shaky hands - no war USO #1 benefit
6/26 holocene (w/ jana - cat tyc umbrella benefit) janet pants w/ tara & ron, rush n disco, punk dougher, sad horse, sarah winchester
9/15 doug fir (w/ danny, jean cook & am-tam) ida
10/19 430 sw 10th (w/ melanie - on cher's believe - & geoff & am-tam) sad horse, evolutionary jass band
9/2/10 IPRC (w/ hoyston, files, & ?)
8/18/12 dicky dahl's (w/ lisa on drums)
[37 shows w/ tara, 9 at holocene, 11 in september. by year: 6 8 6 9 6 0 1 0 1]
[6/30/09 bow & sparrow (l.a.) - w/ fuckin A]
[7/4 silverlake yard barbecue - w/ fuckin A]
[7/29 holocene dancefloor - w/ martha inbar, julia butler, james cosper, cynthia chiementi, keith ? ]
[7/31 liberty hall - w/ northern swords - judy, the lovers, silver interior, the haggard]
[8/20 plan B - w/ northern swords - aranya]
[9/20 ground kontrol - w/ northern swords - mendozza (awesome b.c. metal band, prompting radio to ask soundman nate who originated the death-metal voice: celtic frost and death]
[11/10 laurelthirst - w/ billy, dan, bingo & tim - asked by mgmt to vacate stage - just like old times!]
[11/13 le gong gelato - w/ dead air fresheners - derek a. johnson, the passengers]
[2/19/10 berbati's - w/ northern swords - slough feg, witch mountain, dark black]
[3/20 cathedral park - w/ dead air fresheners - mitch]
[4/3 le gong gelato - w/ dead air fresheners - mangled bohemians, frontal lobe development (d. menche), derek a. johnson]
[4/9 bob's java jive - w/ dead air fresheners - l.a. lungs, dilithium pistol]
[11/21 variable #2 - solo boombox radio improv - jody darby, smile wolf, john fentriss, lana & kevin]
[1/23/2011 the josephine (seattle) - w/ ants of god - parae, my posse don't do homework]
[8/24 legong gelato - w/ meghan mcnealy - jeffrey helwig]
[3/3/2013 slabtown - w/ voices - sad horse]
[3/10 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, john, paul, denk)]
[3/24 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, denk, john, kenneth)]
[3/31 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, denk, john, paul)]
[4/7 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, denk)]
[4/18 the record room - w/ voices - chastity belt]
[4/21 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, denk)]
[4/28 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, denk, john, paul)]
[5/5 slabtown - w/ grard style orchestra (geoff, denk, ?guitar?)]
[5/11 backspace - w/ voices - cockeye, busy scissors, kitten forever, amenta avioto]
8/?/06) - moe's birthday
8/? - disjecta tara w/ nora & themba & ?
8/? - disjecta w/ fuck me usa (iris, benny, alex)
9/5 voodoo donut w/ tara w - kristina videotaping
1/7/07 - the tube w/ the duchesses - ?
1/12 - kelly's olympian w/ the duchesses - league of the tempest
"no seed sown in the viewer's heart - this traceless art" ~ nureyev