Thursday, July 20, 2006

Peaches Rocks the Shocker in Lawrence

I've seen Peaches in concert twice before, in Memphis in October 2003, and in Austin in 2004. She is out on tour again, promoting the new release Impeach My Bush. For the first time, she's touring with a band; its members are JD Samson (Le Tigre) on keyboards, Samantha Maloney (Hole, Courtney Love Band, Motley Crue, Eagles of Death Metal) on drums, and Radio Sloan (The Need, Courtney Love Band) on guitar. I caught her in Lawrence, Kansas, at the Granada Theatre, on July 16, on what I think was the second date of the tour.

Peaches started the show appearing onstage alone, performing "Tent in Your Pants" (from Impeach) wearing a silver outfit that reminded me of what Nona Hendryx used to wear in the early 90s: leather, metallic, space-age shoulders. The song is hilarious, a great way to start. One of the great lines: “Hurts so good I got a soregasm.” The band appeared on stage, also dressed in those N. Hendryx-style outfits, for "Fuck or Kill" (from Impeach). (JD managed to look very macho, unlike his/her nerdy look when I saw him/her performing with Le Tigre last August.) Drummer Samantha looked terrific, her blonde hair blowing in the wind of the fan, her drums on a raised pedestal. Radio Sloan looked pretty butch too. Favorite lines from the song: "Let's face it, we all want tush. If I'm wrong, impeach my bush." A few times, Peaches let silence stand in for the "my," yielding: Impeach...Bush. The Lawrence crowd cheered. Next up, "Hit It Hard" (Impeach), followed by "Hot Rod" from The Teaches of Peaches: "You like it when we play hardcore/the panty war/then you get pussy galore."

Then, the outrageous "Two Guys (For Every Girl)" from Impeach, where Peaches performed the amazing task of getting a mostly hetero crowd (yes, there were some boys in dresses and some drag queens) to cheer for a song with the lyrics:
I wanna see you boys get down with each other
I wanna see you do your lil nasty brother
Just one thing i can't compromise
I wanna see you work it guy on guy

Next up, "Rock the Shocker" (Impeach) which featured six or so female dancers onstage, dressed, and moving, like strippers. Peaches demonstrated with her hands how to "rock the shocker": "thumbs up, fingers out, pull back" and got the audience to participate. Now everyone knows how to perform digital sex ("Stop relyin' on your dick").

"Rock Show" ("You came to see a rock show, a big gigantic cock show") from Teaches of Peaches is next, a song that highlights Peaches' rockstar qualities. She plays a V-neck guitar; as the song ends, she licks the crotch of the v-neck. Next, "Do Ya" off of Impeach, another pure rock song. Peaches plays guitar again, even performing a short, dissonant guitar solo. The very nasty "Downtown" (Impeach) follows, a song featuring a very sweetly sung chorus: "Cause I wanna take you down town/Show you my thing, show you my thing" and more lowdown verses: "You keep on pinin' for me to go dinin'/ I had me a meal and that keep me belly from whinin'." Two female dancers are onstage for this one, using boa umbrellas to reveal and conceal themselves, going "downtown" on each other behind the boas. Eventually, they strip down to reveal star pasties. (Can't believe this for a "rock" show!)

The famous "Lovertits" follows (from Teaches). By now Peaches is wearing a metallic burgundy bikini, and she gets on a bike and rides around on stage. This references the Super 8 "Lovertits" video she made, which is up on her website. (Go first to "photos+videos" and then to Super 8. The vid is uproarious, featuring two women riding around on oldschool bikes, stroking the chrome.) At the end of the song, Peaches stops the bike and puts her feet up on the handlebars, spread wide, mimicking the female position on the gynecologist's stirrups. (Thanks to my compadre Lissa for spotting that.) "Lovertits" is followed by the anthemic "Shake Yr Dix," (from Fatherfucker). Peaches' faithful tool, the Roland MC 909, is rolled out for her to play (almost all the sounds on Teaches and Fatherfucker are produced by the Roland). Six female dancers fill up the stage, and there is some serious titty shaking (especially from the girls with the pasties.) Meanwhile, guitarist Radio Sloan is at work with a hand pump, and then an enormous dick balloon appears, and is erected behind the drums. (This seems to substitute for the lack of males on stage shaking their dix.) Next up is "AA XXX" ("Only double A but I'm feelin' triple X") from Fatherfucker, with Peaches again playing the Roland. She's on the Roland again for "Slippery Dick" ("it's just a fish in the Atlantic") which features the hilarious lyrics "Can you cut the custard to clear the mustard?" During the song, the big balloon dick falls down. Efforts are made to revive it, and then two male roadies appear with a big stretcher, to clear it off. (Reminding us that the dick is mostly NOT hard, NOT omnipotent. The real material dick is no phallus.) Peaches then pushes the Roland, and it moves offstage, like a robot.

Back then to some more hardcore rock'n'roll with "Give'er" from Impeach. Next, "Boys Wanna Be Her" (Impeach), with both Peaches and Radio Sloan playing hard-driving guitar. "The boys wanna be her, the girls wanna be her": genderfuck. (And this is true: boys do wanna be Peaches.) For "You Love It" (Impeach), Peaches changes into a black bikini and puts on her patented black-and pink cape with the letters "XXX," and it's time for "You Love It," another rock number. ("I scream and pull my own hair/I turn into Linda Blair...You love it when I'm mad.") Finally, what is arguably Peaches' most famous song, "Fuck the Pain Away" from Teaches (which shows up, among other places, in the film Lost in Translation). I still wish I understood what a "Chrissy behind" is--who's the Chrissy? "What else is in the teaches of Peaches? Like sex on the beaches." On this, and I think all of her "old" numbers that she performed, Peaches fools around a bit with the lyrics, delivering the words with a slightly different emphasis and intonation, making the song new.

The group goes off the stage but comes back for an encore after prolonged applause. Peaches does "Hanky Code," a song that is not on Impeach, but available on the "Downtown" EP. (I downloaded it from itunes.) "Hanky Code" refers to the "code" of wearing hankies, whose position on the body and whose colors indicate particular preferences for sexual acts. Lots of girls came out on stage, shaking it, and wearing hankies in various positions and colors. A tall drag queen came out and simulated various acts with the girls, based on the preferences indicated by the hanky. This was a raucous, crazy number, very campy and burlesque. Next, "I U She" from Fatherfucker, Peaches' anthem to kinky bisexuality. "I don't have to make the choice, I like girls and I like boys...Whips, crops, canes, whatever, come on, baby let's go/Cuffs, chains, shorts or leather, come on, baby let's go." Appropriately, at this point Peaches and her band are wearing matching outfits with black denim jackets, and we learn from what is written on the backs of the jackets that the band is named: Peaches and the Herms. (Peaches got the notion of herm, a combination of her and him, from JD Samson. I guess JD Samson may have got it from the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling.) Third song of the encore set is "Get It" from Impeach, with Peaches back again on the Roland. "We got givin' and gettin', that's all that we've got": about sex as exchange rather than domination/subordination. Last song of the night is the kick-ass anthem "Rock 'n' Roll" (Fatherfucker). It's pure, celebratory rock'n'roll, with Peaches screaming "rock'n'roll" over and over and over. Again, the stage is filled with girls, some of them stripped down to the pasties. (By now, we are clear that they are there not just for the male spectator but for the female as well.)

The first two times I saw Peaches it was just her onstage (accompanied on 2 or 3 numbers by dancers), just her, larger than life, with all the presence and swagger and charisma of any famous rockstar. In the course of those shows where she was solo, she occupied and channeled numerous sex/gender positions, performing lots of costume changes. At one moment she was a blonde-wigged bimbo churning on a guitar like a cock-rock god, another moment she was channeling Elvis, in go-go boots, then she was in bondage, then she was shaking her tits and then shaking her microphone dick. Her music is its own, sui generis genre, a combination of classic rock, electro and hip-hop (but this description is inadequate). (3-4 years ago she was often classified as "electroclash," a label she correctly rejects.)

The solo shows were amazing spectacles, high energy, anarchic, with Peaches scrambling all over the stage, hanging from the rafters, climbing up the stacks of amps, jumping on the pool table, stomping on the bar in her high-heeled white boots. They were like queer performance art. With a band, it's a bit different. Peaches is of course the center of the show, but there's more going on onstage (the band, obviously, the props, all the dancers.) It's as amazing and as powerful a performance as the solo ones, but more like a queer burlesque rock'n'roll show (thanks LIssa!) now than performance art. Peaches does fewer costume changes and when she does, she gets the help of her roadies (perhaps it's the above-the-knee boots that she keeps on that cause her to need the assistance). She's not channeling so many different sex/gender positions. Instead, the songs do that, with all their props and the lyrics themselves, running from going "Downtown" and "Rocking the Shocker" (activities that both male and female spectators can practice at home) to the reversal of the male fantasy of sex with two girls who also do each other (on "Two Guys [For Every Girl]") to the celebration of dick ("Tent in Your Pants") and the dick's good-humored deflation ("Slippery Dick") to equal-access exhibitionism ("Shake Yr Dix") to hard-core cock-rock appropriated and performed by chicks (except JD Samson doesn't look like no chick, deliberately). It's an entirely queer show, queer not in the sense of a synonym for GLBT, not in the sense of identity. Rather queer as a set of actions that problematize and destabilize straight notions of gender and sex and sexualities. It's a queer notion that, unusually, is very inclusive of hetero males. In fact, the whole Peaches project is very much aimed at them. As she has recently stated, "her real mission is to help those with the most perceived power in society: straight men. 'They're the only ones in society who haven't had a liberation movement...I want to tell them something really revolutionary," she says. "It's okay to be vulnerable.'" She manages to do this, successfully I think, by using humor. Adolescent humor. Whenever I listen to her, and especially in concert, when I'm paying special attention to the lyrics, I find myself constantly chuckling. For instance, on "Two Guys (For Every Girl," where she's talking about two guys doing it, and says, "He's covered in marmalade," or on "I'm the Kinda Bitch": "my labia majora soft as angora." Peaches is never a male-bashing queer feminist, she's instead always working to entice, seduce the male, always with jokes and kindness. There may be whips and chains and leather but it's all a game. Even when it's boy on boy, as in "Two Guys," it's all in fun:
I'll slink in when you boys are in a french knot
We play a game its like your gonna get caught
That's the time you're gonna get so damn hot
You wanna see my pussy pop pop pop

Even if that scenario doesn't entice you, it's bound to make you laugh.

The band was great. I was particularly impressed with JD Samson, who looked so tough and was so good at producing those electronic old-school basslines, and great on backing vocals. Samantha Maloney looked fabulous on her drum platform, like the epitome of the rock'n'roll drummer. I particularly liked it when she came to the front to play 80's vintage electronic drums. Radio Sloan on guitar and occasional electronic keyboard was great too, and especially lent the rock'n'roll numbers an edge. Performing with the band, Peaches' show was a bit more rock'n'roll focused than in Memphis or Austin. This reflects the album, which also features more singing than the previous two Peaches releases.

The dancers, a provocative and fun part of the show, were all from Lawrence, as I discovered when I met a couple of them after the show. I would never have guessed it, their performances all seemed so rehearsed and yet fresh and spontaneous to me.

Opening acts were SSION (from Kansas City), who were fun, very theatrical, queerish punk, although I thought the quality of the music did not quite match up to the level of the theater. Next up were Eagles of Death Metal, who are on the tour with Peaches. They are a very fun and energetic metal band, but I don't care for metal, at least their sort. In their defense, two members of the band make guest appearances on Impeach My Bush.

Unfortunately, cameras and VCRs were banned, so I only got to take a couple shots when I managed to find Peaches in the alley after the show. (But cellphone cameras were ok. This is the only time I've ever wished I owned one.) You can get a sense of what the show looked like from these photos here and here. If you go to flickr and search for the tag Peaches, there are now lots of photos--but not of Lawrence. Do not miss this, whatever you do, if it's anywhere near your area. (My only regret: Peaches did not perform "Back It Up, Boys," her song about "pegging.")

(Addendum: Katherine [see comments] claims that "Chrissy behind" is Chrissy Be-Hynde, standing for Chrissy Hynde of The Pretenders. Sounds plausible to me. Thanks, Katherine!)

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Katherine said...

I just saw Peaches the other day, but we had no dancers! I think that made the show far more sedate than I expected. But anyhow, to explain the Chrissy reference... it's "Chrissy be-Hynde," as in Chrissy Hynde from The Pretenders. (And one of the women in the Lovertits video is Feist, AKA Bitch Lap Lap and Peaches old roommate.)

Dave said...

damn. sounds like the lawrence show was much hotter than boston's. the boston show started at 6.30pm and the club website didn't even advertise it. the venue was great, though, and everyone was dancing and screaming.