A Beautiful Mind
“It is rare to be amongst such collective beauty,” gushed slightly delirious host Winona Ryder Thursday at Index Magazine‘s Night With JT LeRoy and Friends, a tribute to the 23-year-old gay “It boy” ‘s literary and celebrity status (Winona called him “the beautiful JT,” while Garbage’s Shirley Manson wryly designated JT “our little genius”). Manson, Debbie Harry, Vanessa Carlton, Rosario Dawson, and Tatum O’Neal, among others, read from LeRoy’s eccentric lot-lizard confessional Sarah (soon to be a film by Secretary‘s Steven Shainberg) and short story collection The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (soon to be a film by Asia Argento, for whom JT has apparently fathered a child). Most offered testimony to LeRoy’s power—Carlton (a proxy for her boyfriend, Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins) confessed her sweetie had “exploited” the work of LeRoy in order to court her. Ryder declared that his writing has a “beautiful effect . . . it doesn’t exist in our language.” The famously shy JT himself, with enormous blond hair, huge sunglasses, and a purple-and-black outfit (including some sort of neo-bustle), made but one teensy appearance, introducing “his” band Thistle (he writes the lyrics).
After their enthusiastic set of wistful, vocally powered pop, Thistle (whose two performing members raise their five-year-old son, Thor, with “co-dad” JT, in San Francisco) received a standing ovation from their babysitter. Guitarist Astor wore a “raccoon penis bone” necklace (JT sells these Sarah talismans on his Web site: “sexual amulets, used from Texas to Appalachia to enhance sexual luck”). Singer Speedie, a lovely redhead affecting a strong British accent, charmingly bantered between their five songs, one of which—unremarkable except for a predictably dramatic chorus entreating, “Know thyself, because I cannot be yours”—was written for Thistle by Billy Corgan. But while Madonna blurbs the band on www.jtleroy.com as “very cool and angry sounding,” Thistle didn’t sound angry. Excepting the effervescent last and best number, the music was somber and reflective—an appropriate soundtrack for this benefit for the McAuley psychiatric treatment program. As Ryder quipped, “We all may need their services.” —Hillary Chute
Mexican radio banned Molotov, and no record store would touch its politically vicious and raunchy debut album—¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas?—six years ago. Topping the charts only months later effectively made the genre-hopping funk-rap-metal quartet a successor to the aging Clash-styled punkers Tijuana No! Members of that border-town group would goose-step, the lead singer wearing a mask of former California governor Pete Wilson as he sang “Gringos Klu Klux Klanes,” protesting Wilson’s anti-immigration policies. So when this Mexico City group dedicated its most controversial and misunderstood song, “Puto,” to Bush and “his boss” last Monday at Irving Plaza, it came as no surprise that most fans cheered a notch louder. The three Chilangos and a gringo tag-teamed on vocals and played musical chairs on drums and guitars, hurling verbal grenades at the Mexican government as well as anyone who’d get in the way of a party or a lay. Fratty lyrics about culinary sex (laying it on thick with “Here Comes the Mayo,” from Y Tu Mamá También) mixed it up with Bolshevik dogma (“Everyone in the pit, flip off those in the V.I.P. area,” the band instructed fans before “Gimme tha Power”). Purposeful irony doesn’t escape them, either. Performing “Frijolero (Beaner),” a languid, Old West-inspired polka-cumbia off their recent third release, Dance and Dense Denso, Randy Ebright (the son of an ex-DEA agent) used his best American drawl to spit curses at “beaners on the wrong side of the goddamn river,” while in Spanish, Tito Fuentes, Mickey Huidobro, and Paco Ayala responded in chorus, “Don’t call me a frijolero, pinche gringo.” Then, turning the mosh-ready political rally into a macho-flavored sex talk show, the group pulled girls onto the stage as props for their testosterone-laden “Changüich a la Chichona” rap about big-breasted women as snack food, followed by the reggae-metal “Rastaman-dita” (from Apocalypshit), with its images of desirable papayas and mangos. Lascivious food for thought hasn’t been this good since the Tibetan Freedom Festivals. —Enrique Lavin
With war, snowstorms, smoking bans, fare increases, and crippling budget cuts, this New York City April was cruel indeed. Thankfully, momentary relief was provided on Saturday when Ben Gibbard—indie’s own J. Alfred Prufrock, unable to eat a peach without passive-aggressively dithering and/or using an SAT word—paid a visit to the Bowery Ballroom with his electropop ensemble, the Postal Service. The group—a collaboration between the Death Cab for Cutie frontguy Gibbard and Cali IDM wizard Jimmy Tamborello (a/k/a DNTEL)—recently dropped Give Up (Sub Pop), a fluttering, flirting debut. The pairing is perfect—in their day jobs, Gibbard’s brainy songcraft occasionally shudders under the weight of his thesaurus, and Tamborello’s circuitous, circuited compositions often paste when they should be cutting. Here, Gibbard brings the power pop and Tamborello brings the PowerBook, together singing (and typing) out beautifully skittery songs for the heart, head, and hard drive.
“Should we be dancing?” asked a prim, Teach for America type in front of me. The worthy question went unanswered as Gibbard switched from guitar to drums, sweating and swooning for a crowd used to bobbing with its neck, not its ass. Then again, so is he: In “Clark Gable,” Gibbard sang a song about making a movie about kissing a girl, and in the majestic “Brand New Colony” he cried “Everything will change” in the sadly self-aware manner of an overeducated dreamer. But whenever the hetero-male moping got too pomo, the spotlight switched to honorary postwoman Jenny Lewis, the sullenly sexy singer-songwriter of Rilo Kiley. On “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Lewis danced about architecture, duetting on what’s possibly the world’s first post-emo song. As He moans about marriage and lost love, She smartly interrupts, supplying charts and graphs about why she ditched him. It’s disco/not disco, love/not love, kiss/kiss-off. The encore was an irony-deficient glitchcore rendition of Phil Collins’s “Against All Odds.” “Take a look at me now,” Gibbard sighed, while behind him Tamborello surfed Nerve.com, Googled “true romance,” and downloaded another surprisingly wholehearted dose of heartbreak.—Andy Greenwald
“Do Not Talk to Typists,” reads one of the “Rules of Conduct” posted behind the Typing Explosion during one of their regular performances. But during their cabaret show at the Bowery Poetry Club last Monday, the normally silent Seattle poetry-performance art trio talked to us. Typically, Sarah Paul Ocampo (short, brunette, severe), Rachel Kessler (tall, strawberry blond, disdainful), and Sierra Nelson (medium, blond, alert) write poems for a dollar apiece in assembly-line format, titles chosen by the eventual recipients, finishing each other’s stanzas to a cacophony of whistles, bells, and bicycle horns. That night, though, the Typists turned the ritual into a self-referential, often very funny series of sketches. Entering to an old Sergio Mendes record crackling on a portable record player, the trio sported blue jumpsuits, which they removed to reveal their usual secretary uniforms underneath. Soon after, they took their typists’-union break—a staple of their regular act, every 35 minutes on the nose—onstage. “I think it’s going OK,” Ocampo nervously noted to her worried-looking colleagues.
They also interpreted poems they’d written at the request of three audience members. I was one of the volunteers; the title I chose, naturally, was “The Sound of the City.” (Best line: “You know you’re really cooking when the fire alarm wails.”) Each Typist took turns reciting it—Kessler in normal voice, Nelson in a mock-Scandinavian accent, Ocampo singing—from what she could make of the other two’s whisperings in her ears, one forward, one backward, effectively turning the poem into Dada. “Can I streets? Can I slush? Canaries like twitter,” went one fractured phrase, proving that the Typing Explosion’s poetic process, like any assembly line, is adaptable for production of just about anything. —Michaelangelo Matos
Dennis Anderson and Lois Kahlert met 28 years ago, moved into a converted attic in Bensonhurst, and have lived there ever since. Universally known simply as “Dennis and Lois,” they’ve become fixtures of rock shows in New York and beyond: the jolly, grandparental superfans who’ve sold T-shirts on tour with the Ramones, the Mekons, Oasis, and others. (Happy Mondays named a song after them.) Now both 55, they’ve collected around 10,000 albums, as well as countless books, toys, and rock ‘n’ roll artifacts. Unfortunately, they never acquired a lease for their apartment; the people they’d been renting it from put the house up for sale a few months ago, and early this month Dennis and Lois were served a 30-day eviction notice. “There’s no possible way we can get out in 30 days. We’re not 20 years old anymore,” Kahlert says. “I don’t mind moving—we’ve outlived that apartment—but we can’t find anything at this moment.”
Kahlert and Anderson made an unsuccessful offer to buy the house themselves. Now they’re looking to buy one of their own in Bensonhurst or Bay Ridge: “We don’t have any money, but we can get a mortgage, and we figure the payments are what we’re going to pay in rent. And then we’ll stay there until we die.” In the meantime, they’re thinking of ways to raise funds—maybe a T-shirt, maybe a benefit CD with songs by bands they’ve toured with. “We don’t have our rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle anymore,” Kahlert says. “What money we have, we’re not spending on tickets. We haven’t been out for ages. We sit at home with the TV now.” —Douglas Wolk
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 22, 2003