Le Butcherettes came out onstage last night dressed in red — a nod to the crimson cover of their latest album, A Raw Youth. And while Chris Common kept perfect time on drums and Riko Rodríguez-López commanded his bass, Le Butcherettes shows are always all about Teri Gender-Bender. The band’s singer, songwriter, and sole original member (she started the group in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2007) was dressed like a post-apocalyptic Almodóvar heroine, half covered in puffy tulle. She wore her hair long to maximize the drama as she headbanged over her keyboard and guitar.
It didn’t take long for Gender-Bender to get drenched in sweat — the small room at Rough Trade was far too hot — but she never lost her audience, some of whom whipped up a frenzied pit at her feet. A few songs in, she took a palm to her lips and smeared her red lipstick across her face. Between songs, she opened her mouth wide and deepened her voice to speak in Spanish, at one point mentioning a black gun wielded on the street. A cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” came as a shock to the crowd, but Gender-Bender made it hard and she made it her own.
Onstage, Gender-Bender employs feminine trappings — dress, tights, kitten heels — to explore the grotesque. Last night, she did everything in her power to break down that prettiness, but she did it with honesty instead of winking self-awareness. She was a giddy girl with the air of a demon, her eyes rolling back into her head repeatedly while she played “Your Weakness Gives Me Life,” “Demon Stuck in Your Eye,” and “Henry Don’t Got Love.”
As I watched her walk this tightrope, I found myself wondering why she isn’t one of the most famous women in the world. She should be plastered on the walls of teenagers’ bedrooms, a model of what happens when a contemporary poet/rock star sees no bounds — she’s post-music, post-gender, even post-language at times. She’s charismatic enough to get Iggy Pop to sing with her in Spanish (“La Uva” off A Raw Youth, the song that closed last night’s show) and have Shirley Manson guest on her album (“Shame, You’re All I’ve Got” off 2014’s Cry Is for the Flies).
Gender-Bender is a formidable force on all her albums, but it’s live that we get the full effect of her revolutionary aims. She deserves a bigger stage, and I’m sure anyone who saw her last night left the show feeling exactly the same way.
For more glimpses of Teri Gender-Bender’s formidable stage presence, check out Jason Speakman’s full slideshow of Le Butcherettes here.