Taking up the flank for old-school queer rock we have Tim Cain and Boy's Entrance, and the new Tunnelvision on iTunes. Cain has been rocking the queer message since 1991, and with gay life going through so many extreme changes since then, the first question would be "Does he have anything new to offer 'modern' audiences and would those audiences want to hear what he has to say?" The answer is a resounding "yes" to both questionsand then some.
Tunnelvision is Cain's magnum opus, and somewhere in its 17 songs is a concept album and love story. Truth be told, I fell hard for the sound of the recording with its non-retro, sassy glam-punk edge and a certain throw-it-on-the-floor sloppiness. The new CD sounds incredibly fresh and passionate while reminding me of a voice from 30 years ago ( Mott the Hoople comes to mind ) and a salaciousness that feels vintage but with a harder edge. ( A starting point would be Paul McCartney's "Venus and Mars Rock Show." ) Somehow, Cain has turned the trick of making a modern recording that sounds like the '70s, rocks like the '90s and has an immediacy for 2016.
Never one to hide who he is ( back in the day, Cain was singing punk songs about Harry Hay ), the CD kicks off with "Mr. Sissy" and "Rock and Roll Swisher," upfront statements that don't fiddle around with who or where the protagonist is coming from. The real surprises are the unexpected little gems sandwiched between the rockers. "( I Know I ) Can't have You" is adorned with gentle chiming guitars and the nuanced treatment Cain gives it makes it jarringly beautiful and elegiac. "Kissed Me in the Rain" is almost as lovely with a measured haunted reading that makes it more than a ballad. Here's hoping that Cain will get to Chicago soon for a live take on Tunnelvision.
As if things couldn't get any queerer, The Seth Bogart Show rolled through Seven on Halsted on Sept. 24 for a raging pansexual happening. Packed with an all star cast of queer performers ( Not Twins, Imp, Bon Bon ), this gig felt like The Cher Show on amyl nitrate. It was a low-budget extravaganza with more ( boy ) leg, tacky glamor, in-your-face vulgarity and tinsel, along with a big sloppy helping of sordid wit.
The show really belonged to Bogart and local artist Dorian Electra, who both couch satire in low comedy and use short-form video as a connecting medium. That they think visually ( conveying more in those videos than words can suggest ) but use the medium in different ways is what makes them so charming.
Electra has created a body of musical/video work that is grounded in history, feminist thought and queer liberation but despite the panache and humor in her craft there is a strong current of self-empowerment. "Clitopia," "The History of the Vibrator," "Cash Money," and "The Dark History of High Heels" may send up and fetishize those objects but they also make stinging points on sex, the female body, and consumerism. The funny part is how all that deep theory and thought come wrapped in a delightful pop art wrapper with Electra skipping through the videos like a twelve year old on a jolly romp.
Bogart does not aim his satire with such a narrow focus, forcing the viewer to look closely through his cotton candy-coated world ( think of Pee Wee's Playhouse on cheap acid ) and on his new CD, Seth Bogart ( Burger Records ), he takes low-key kitsch to a new level. He is a classically handsome man, but he dolls himself up like the soldier from The Nutcracker Ballet: rosy lips and cheeks, pressed-down hair, a deadpan expression that delivers his punchlines and a complexion reminiscent of sandalwood.
Naturally, it's a put-on and the videos for "Plastic" and "Club With Me" make him look like a cartoon character. It's too easy to dismiss him as a Day-glo joker once you hear the witty, delicious and hilariously cheap-sounding "Sunday Boy" and "Hollywood Squares." If those songs are pop at its finest, "Lubed" and "Forgotten Fantasy"the videos and songsgo in unexpected places.
"Lubed" features an unrecognizable nearly nude Bogart frolicking poolside with an army of equally naked "friends" and, though there is plenty of skin and friction on display, the video plays as naughty and innocent rather then sexual or vulgar. "Forgotten Fantazy" is Bogart reaching for art and the themes of S&M, duality and high-class glamor make the video slightly disturbing, scary, and unreal.
With the promo videos and the new album, this show promised to be off the chartsand it certainly was. Imp, dressed as a huge hand, delivered an engaging love song to her Uber driver while Max Goldstein of Yoko and the Oh No's ripped through "Love U" with brisk charm and attitude. Electra, dressed in Edwardian ruffles and waistcoat, did a mini set that ( after having her G-spot assaulted with a couple of vibrators ) ended with her being possessed by the spirit of Bono for an over-the-top vamp through U2's "Vertigo." Bogart got onstage and tumbled through his set, which had him smashing guitars, face-hugging a particular member of the packed house ( clearly said member wanted to be face-hugged ) and changing costumes a lot. The whole show was really too much for one night and left me wondering why Chicago does not get this kind of madness on a regular basis.