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CONCERTS Roselit Bone and Reverse Cowboy; New Pornographers; Charli XCX
by Vern Hester
2019-10-22

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Alhough the chilly winds and the abundance of pumpkin-flavored coffee-creamer ads on television have signaled the end of summer, the year for queer music is nowhere near winding down. This summer turned out to be the gayest musical season yet and—with out sensation Orville Peck playing to a sold-out crowd at Lincoln Hall and Madonna roosting at The Chicago Theater for a residency—there's no end in sight.

Of the shows I was able to catch, Oregon rockers Roselit Bone, fronted by trans vocalist/guitarist Charlotte McCaslin, demolished Reed's Local on Sept. 26 while celebrating the act's new release, Crisis Actor ( on Get Loud Records ). The seven-member band whipped through a heady mix of rowdy Western twang, Ennio Morricone influences and blistering hard rock, with McCaslin's haunting vocals planted on top. Their set was one of the best I have seen all year, though the opener—Reverse Cowboy, fronted by sequined out vocalist Colin Rice—gave Roselit a run for its money. The band thrashed through a set of salty, sloppy rockers like "Break her Off," "Shore Leave" and "Let Me Follow You Down."

Far more restrained was the return of brainy Canadian alternative collective The New Pornographers, who sailed through The Vic Theater on Oct. 2 in support of the band's new In the Morse Code of Brake Lights ( on Concord Records ).

This time, long-term member Neko Case was on hand, to the delight of the audience;; she and front man Carl Newman had a high old time cracking naughty jokes ( something about a used polyester "hot cop" costume for Halloween ) while performing new ( "You'll Need a New Backseat Driver," "Falling down the Stairs of your Smile ) and old favorites ( "Brill Bruisers," "High Ticket Attractions" ). Opener Alty Spaltro with her band, Lady Lamb, set the tone for the evening with her intense, confessional songs from the just-released Even in the Tremor ( on Ba Da Bing Records ).

The queerest show of the month—and maybe the year—featured Charli XCX, with support from Dorian Electra, and Aimie X at the House of Blues on Oct. 12. The large 18-and-older crowd was rowdy and restless from the start, when Electra and her dancers gyrated through a set of new music from her just-released debut album Flamboyant ( available on bandcamp ). Although her set was energetic and at times downright thrilling, I am hoping that this new incarnation of Electra is not an abandonment of her long-form video satires ( "The History of Vibrators," "The History of High Heels" ). Regardless, the very queer young audience ate up songs like "Mr. to You," "Career Boy" and "Man to Man."

Aimie X entered alone onstage next and wowed the audience with her stunning vocals and intense studied approach. Her music managed to straddle goth balladry with club beats, leaving the audience hungry for more.

With a barrage of light and thunder, Charli XCX ripped through "Next Level" and showed exactly what she's been doing in the six years since the release of her last full-length, Sucker ( Asylum Records ). Careening through a set focused on the new Charli ( Asylum/Atlantic Records ) she pretty much became a high speed whirling dervish while offering strong readings of "Cross You Out," "Vroom Vroom" and "Click." As if that were not enough, later in the show local performers Bambi Banks-Coolee, Ms. Toto, Khloe Park and Abhijeet Rane popped up for cameo appearances.

Heads up: Caffeinated dance duo Matt and Kim play The Riviera Theater on Oct. 22 and celebrate the 10th anniversary of their second album, Grand ( on Fader Records ). Out singer/songwriter Crys Matthews plays Uncommon Ground with Heather Mae on Oct. 26 while celebrated queer rapper Roy Kinsey—whose Blackie full length found passionate praise from The Chicago Reader, Windy City Times, NPR and Pitchfork—will be playing a show with Eli Major, DJ Cash Era and Semiratruth at Schubas on Dec. 17. Out vocalist JC Brooks plays The Sleeping Village on Dec. 6. Lastly, for those with a taste for something vintage and electronic, Soft Cell vocalist Marc Almond will be playing Thalia Hall on Oct. 29.


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