the lady gaga show. and freedom.
it’s afternoon. july fourth. uh-merica day.
last night the neighborhood boys set off firecrackers and fireworks all night while i cleaned my apartment, caught up on email and read comic books in bed.
there are so many gunshots in my neighbourhood that i just couldn’t shake my panic button every time i heard one, though.
there are lots of comic books and graphic novels coming into my life recently for some odd reason. i figure i better read them.
the sun is blazing and there’s a group of alleycats moaning in chorus outside somewhere and there are probably people doing crack cocaine on my front steps.
it’s nice to be home.
i’ve missed the city.
though….the week up in the mountains was brilliant. i’m going to hit you with a giant state-of-cabaret blog sometime this week, including images from up there.
so…the night before last night, i went to see lady gaga at the boston enormodome.
lots of you followed the adventure on twitter in realtime, but i didn’t go very deep or give you a review of the show.
and i’m not really going to do that here, either. i’m going to talk about something else…something more important, i think.
i was lucky enough to know someone who works on the tour, so i got hooked up with front row seats for the spectacle, and i went, very excited to see what would happen.
and i brought along my good friend kyle cassidy, who happened to be in town that day for a photo shoot (we were shooting the poster images for cabaret..here’s a hiiiint):
kyle is a lady gaga fan.
he was giddy and told me he’d been listening to her records a lot. i was impressed and psyched that i could score him a ticket.
i have a weird relationship with gaga. she cites the dolls as an influence on her myspace page, which i find easy to believe given that she was a teenager when the dolls were playing NYC a lot.
i’m not really a fan of the music (disco dance music doesn’t do it for me, and some of the lyrics drive me nuts), and i’m not even sure i’m a fan of the performer, but i’m definitely a fan of other aspects…the fact that she writes her own tunes, and her off-song message (her songs kind of have a hard-to-read message, but her stance in interviews etc is generally: be a freak, be yourself, gay is good, self-expression is the shit. to which i say: RAH RAH AH AH AH).
i’ve been grappling for months about this quandary…is it better than nothing at all to preach that message from a pop shell, even if it means ridiculous paradoxes and conflicting information?
dunno, always chewing in my head. actually, i have an entire blog written up that i keep not posting about medium vs. message vs lady gaga. really should post it.
i talked to one of the guitarist in her band afterward and he told me that the night before (she played two boston nights) was way better.
so maybe the energy was a little off and tired. i dunno. i also know that boston crowds are not the most playful, usually. my city has a stain of puritanism still dripping from it.
anyway, in short…i didn’t really love the show.
but here’s what i loved: people dressing up.
in my humble opinion, people need to dress up in order for the world to work well.
kyle took this one…..
the vibe outside the concert was a COMMUNITY vibe – these people, at least the ones dressed up, had something very real in common that they were happy to share.
everybody i asked to pose for a picture with me squeeeeeled with glee, and almost none of them knew who i was. they were just happy to be played with, recognized.
i complimented many fucking outfits. there were some amazing ones.
lots of heels.
lots of wigs.
lots of sparkles.
lots of miniskirts and short shorts.
lots of aladdin sane face make-up.
i always wonder if these kids know their bowie.
i really hope they do.
lots of things in hair.
lots of spandex.
LOTS of gay boys.
lots of drag….
as you can see…coke cans in hair were very popular, as were black leotards with fishnets.
this led to lots of A+ ass-watching….which made me & kyle very happy. i took this one.
here’s me at the boston drag legend Fena Barbitall….
(photo from her friend)
there were very few men, and even fewer straight ones, except for kyle. and HIM….
and, of course, lots of nice-looking girls just out looking for a good time.
for the record, not all were dressed – in fact, i’d say there was a 10-25% dressy-uppy-contingent.
here’s a troupe i met at the ATM on the way to the show…
(taken by kyle, living on twitpic)
it reminded me in a very happy way of the old dresden dolls shows.
every night was always an invitation to make up, dress up, glam up, cross-dress, freak out. or….not.
i used to love seeing the dress-to-the-nines gender-bending freaks next to the hipsters in jeans and t-shirts who would never be caught dead dressing up.
but somehow it always worked, as it should. we encouraged people to never be scared not to dress up, so that every night would feel like a liberating party.
this is a really good thing, i thought, as i looked around at all the exciting kidlets.
the world needs this.
so there we were, to see what we would see…
the show itself was a spectacle, with the dozens of costume changes and crazy props you’d expect from gaga, and a corps of decent dancers and a back-up band that did a generally good job at looking sexy while they played along with an orchestra of back-up tracks. she sang a lot of the material live. she had mic be turned UP (not off, as usual) when big dance numbers were over, and she would stand there, panting loudly & authentically. nice touch. people seemed to really be enjoying themselves, which is all i can ask for in this world.
(here is gaga playing a prop shaped like an upright bass with a keytar attached. i took this one.)
i think i’m allergic to club music unless it’s from the 80s.
i might have been way better off getting drunk and dancing on the floor with the masses instead of sitting/standing in my box seat, next to all the other VIPs who were obviously the parents of the dance corps and completely out of their element.
still, i wanted something MORE. i’m not really sure what.
i think the show left me feeling the way the whole gaga machine does: i agree with the message, but the delivery turns me off.
i believe that she’s truly an artist underneath the mask, but the spectacle didn’t move me.
most of all, her in-between show banter pained me. i youtube’d for the part that irked me the most, here’s the same show in stockholm:
i felt a little duped that gaga wasn’t speaking to a higher level – giving her audience a little more credit.
when you go to see an inspiring creative artist…say, i dunno, neil young? leonard cohen?… they don’t stop the show to explain that this is a liberating moment and that their job is to make you free.
they just do it. and in fact, the less they say, the more they speak. they simply do and by doing they transmit the ultimate power.
but lady gaga is a pop artist. this is different. is it different?
i find myself always coming back to the same question…..
would i rather a generation of teenagers grow up listening to THIS, watching THIS, or watching britney spears?
the choice is obvious.
gaga. hands. down.
and then i think….maybe lady gaga can be like a gateway drug to the teenagers of the world…through her they may find a voice, a liberation, a david bowie record.
most importantly, a PERMISSION. i imagine a totally isolated and confused kid in the outskirts of suburban nevada who has never seen life outside of a shopping mall seeing gaga doing her hijinks and thinking:
IF THIS CHICK CAN BE FAMOUS AND ACCEPTED BY THE MAINSTREAM AND DO THIS WEIRD STUFF THEN MAYBE I CAN DO ANYTHING.
this is what the world needs – artists who, no matter what their personal path may be, will inspire other people to reach deeper, try harder, be more authentic. this was the goal of my band, and i didn’t even realize it until we were well on our way and i saw what we were providing people. and we knew their stories because we met them. and they told us.
at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if anyone believes she’s “authentic” or not.
and the music may be disco pop that may not be remembered, but the MESSAGE will resonate through the delivery and possibly ignite other flames. and that will happen NOW, and NOW needs that.
and of course, i’ve got my personal cross to bear.
after much mulling, i’ve come to realize what gaga is to me.
lady gaga represents the pop star that i wanted to be when i was twelve.
the one who was the next madonna and danced and looked like a movie star and was covered in shiny glitter and was on the cover of magazines and basically the human-sized version of one the barbies from my rock star barbie collection (all of whom, i must add, had affairs with each other on my barbie airplane. scandalous).
and so i look at her with a certain degree of “old” envy. the 34-yr old in me isn’t jealous…and i think i really can say that. but the 12 year old in me IS.
i was even less jealous seeing the 30 trucks, 20 tour busses, the strenuous show, no time to play, no room for improv, the impossibility of connecting with or hanging out with her fans (too much, too much, too famous) and the pressure of every minute being a land-grab of her energy and time.
200 on-tour employees. they hire another 70 locals.
all those people need to eat, sleep and poop. millions of dollars are riding on her every move.
i would not want that.
i’ve also spent hours getting into costumes and hair and make-up for photoshoots and it’s FUCKING BORING.
kyle and i came back from the show and spent a while talking in my backyard, drinking out of his bottle of old crow and eating grapes, listening to the salsa music in my hood with occasional fireworks getting set off.
we talked about freedom.
we talked about happiness.
and kyle told the story of how kurt cobain’s death really profoundly affected him.
here was this guy he worshipped, who seemingly had it all, and if HE killed himself and wasn’t happy, what the hell was going on?
he made a re-assessment after that.
i think i got really lucky.
my band grew really slowly, and we never got stratospherically huge or thrown in the spotlight.
i feel famous, but i can walk anywhere i want and not be bothered.
i feel loved, but not smothered.
i feel understood most of the time.
i am happy.
and above all, i’m grateful.
kyle and i toasted to our good fortunes.
we ate more grapes.
i considered my 12 year old self. i imagined what i’d be feeling if i’d just been to my first concert ever and it wasn’t cyndi lauper, wasn’t the cure, but it was 2010 and it was lady gaga.
i think i’d be ECSTATIC.
and i thought about what my life would have been like if i’d gotten my “dream” to be discovered at age 12, or even 21, and given the keys to superstardom.
and i think i’d be MISERABLE, or at least been really crippled on my path to where i’ve wound up.
here’s the thing.
it sometimes kills us to believe this, but you are ALWAYS free to choose a new path and hop off the one you’re on.
your expectations of yourself can change on a daily basis. it’s FINE.
your expectations of YOUR LIFE from when you were 12 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old, they will gnaw and haunt you. no doubt.
every love you left, every love you never chased, every career path you didn’t follow, every instrument you didn’t practice, every time you kept your mouth shut and should have spoken up, every time you said too much.
but none of that exists NOW. it’s gone, over, non-existant.
the same way your parents’ expectations haunt you. and your teachers and the noise of cultural expectations haunt you.
all these voices in your head bicker and argue and obscure the real key to freedom:
your ability to stand still and ask:
who do i want to be
and what do i want to do
you can live in a free country, but you’re not free unless you allow your own fucking self to be free IN THIS MOMENT, here, NOW, and not locked up in the dreams of your past, or the potential regrets of the future.
glitter diva superstar, gutter punk bohemian, banker, baker, astronaut, barista, all one, baby….
the only measure to your success is whether you’re able to look in the mirror and feel authentic in your own fucking eyes.
happy fourth, motherfuckers.
RAH RAH AH AH AH.