Elevate Difference


Tegan and Sara (10/9/2008)

It must be nice to be in a band with your twin sister. Shared skinny jeans, skinny genes, and hipster hair products make costuming a breeze, and a sound-alike bandmate eliminates the technical hassle of overdubbing vocals. Plus, you know the other person so well that you can make fun of them on stage, as Canadian duo Tegan and Sara demonstrated at Chicago’s Riveria Theatre. “I forgot what a shithole this place is,” my 'plus one', better known as Grace Yip from Grace the Spot, lovingly remarked upon our arrival.

This is Burlesque

To go to a burlesque show is to indulge in somewhat of a lost form of entertainment. It’s as much about the experience as it is about the actual show. Sure, a line of beautiful women can strut around on stage in their skivvies, but if the nostalgia factor isn’t there, then it’s just another striptease.

Margaret Cho’s Beautiful Tour

Margaret Cho’s Beautiful Tour, which began in February 2008, is still scheduled to visit a number of lucky locations throughout the United States. As usual, Cho’s brand of feminist, LGBTQ, activist, and politicized humor was hilarious, raunchy, and thought-provoking. Unlike so much of the comedy gracing television screens lately, Cho continues to infuse her comedy with cutting edge analysis of race, gender, body image, and sexuality.

Decibelle (9/23 - 9/27/2008)

To quickly describe my feelings regarding Decibelle (formerly known as Estrojam), allow me to offer this scenario. Imagine a child describing FAO Schwartz, moments after she's visited the toy store for the first time: "There's so much to do! There's so much to see! I danced and laughed and cried! I met great people! It was the most fun I've had all summer!" I've been sitting in my laptop's glare for days, wondering how to articulate these gushing sentiments more eloquently before I finally realized that the festival doesn't deserve a dry critique.

The Marvelous Wonderettes (9/13/2008)

When The Marvelous Wonderettes, a crinolined quartet of powerhouse girl singers, line up friskily behind their mics and belt out the opener, “Mr. Sandman,” with such flawless harmony and contagious glee, you instantly know you’ve been transported to pop musical heaven. Suddenly ‘50s nostalgia feels fresh and fun again. The recently opened Off-Broadway show is set in 1958 at the Springfield High Senior Prom, and then later fast-forwards to the 1968 reunion.

F Yeah Fest (8/30 - 8/31/2008)

When Allen Ginsberg referenced “angel headed hipsters” in his lovely and infamous poem “Howl,” I swear he was magically looking into the future and describing attendees of the fifth annual F Yeah Fest. As a native Angeleno I grew up listening to punk rock and going to shows, but as an adult I’m finding it increasingly hard to brave the hordes of fashionably dressed, snarky music fans that attend the kinds of events I am unfortunately drawn to.

Queer Queens of Qomedy (08/01/2008)

Lesbians, like feminists, have no sense of humor. Or so we’ve been told… repeatedly. Poppy Champlin and her troupe of hilarious women-loving-women are busting that stereotype wide open. In various venues across the United States, the Queer Queens of Qomedy are met with crowds of queer fans and a hail of riotous laughter. I joined in on the gayety this past Friday night at the historic Birchmere music hall in Alexandria, Virginia, and I must say I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

The Clean House 7/10 - 8/17/2008

Sarah Ruhl's play The Clean House opens with Mathilde, a Brazilian housekeeper, telling a long and very funny joke - in Portuguese. I don't understand Portuguese, and I doubt very few of my fellow audience members in Austin, TX did, either. Luckily, Mathilde's self-induced laughter, gestures, and a summary translation projected for the audience onto a screen make it easy to get the gist. The joke is dirty, and it's hilarious. Mathilde goes on to tell the story of her parents: They were in love, and they made each other laugh.

Katie Sawicki (5/22/2008)

Seeing Katie Sawicki live is, quite simply, wonderful. I am currently listening to her album, and as she honestly tells her own stories, I am inspired to write a narrative as a review. I went to see Katie Sawicki at The Living Room in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito: An Exhibition of His Work (5/8 - 6/29/2008)

"One day I encountered the line in the Great Parinirvana Sutra that reads, ‘One who gives priority to making Buddha images and stupas, and takes great joy in doing so, will thereupon be born in the Land Immovable (the realm of resolute determination)’" - Shinjo Ito Shinjo Ito (1906-1989) is one of Japan’s great modern Buddhist artists, although he thought of himself as primarily a religious man.

I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda (4/13/2008)

I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda is an amazing two-person play set in London, England in the modern day. It chronicles one Rwandan refugee’s struggle to write about what happened to her in 1994, and the Englishman who helps her. While living in England, Juliette (Susan Hayward) meets an aging poet, Simon (Joseph J. Menino), who works at the refugee center part-time. She comes to him for help in getting her book about the Rwandan genocide published.

Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference 2008: Frontiers of Feminism at Home and Abroad (4/3-4/5/08)

Since its first meeting in Atlanta in 1977, the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association (SEWSA) has consistently been the most active of the regional organizations of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and has served academics, activists, community leaders, and students as a source of professional inspiration, mutual support, a network of shared information and experience, and a connection to the emergence of global feminism.

Cheryl Ann Webster: Beautiful Women Project (3/20/2008)

When I initially heard about the Beautiful Women Project, I was engaged by the apparently simple nature of its message. I thought of the work as conveying many feminist interpretations of the relationship between feminine constructions of body image and media. On speaking to the artist and viewing the collection, I was struck at the memories it brought up for me.

Bjork (9/17/2007)

There’s no denying that after all of these years Bjork’s fans still think she’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. I attended her live performance at The Fox Theatre last night, and I left with the overwhelming feeling that despite chatter about the music industry going down the toilet, there are still certain performers who are impacting their audience and deeply defying the present state of things.

24th Annual Hillside Music Festival (7/27-7/29/2007)

You have to love a folk festival that offers sweatshop-free clothing; gives away free, safe, non-bottled water; serves an ethnically diverse array of foods with many vegan options on reusable dinnerware; and uses a printing company powered by 100% green electricity to print concert programs. Currently in its 24th year, the Hillside Music Festival at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area in Ontario, Canada hosts performers of folk, gospel and many other traditional forms of music on four stages over three days, as well as more popular folk, rock and pop music options.

Live Earth (7/7/2007)

Live Earth, Al Gore’s spectacular series of concerts for the environment Earth, has been a magnet for mainstream media cynics, who point to amplifiers, lights and garbage as evidence that the whole thing was one big festival of hypocrisy. But for a member of the throng at Giants Stadium, at least, the atmosphere felt as political and optimistic as any show in memory.

Cafe Eterno

Airline travel is always uncomfortable for me; practically the minute I'm off the plane, regardless of how long (or short) the flight, I go hunting for espresso. When my husband and I visited London in April, I wandered the local coffee shops near our Covent Garden hotel in search of an iced mocha. No one, short of Starbucks (and I didn't want to go there), seemed to know what I wanted. Was it a milkshake?

Live at Club Europa (4/12/2007)

You're not fooling me, Panthers. Despite your new, more marketable album The Trick, I know you're still the kind of absurdist intellectual revolutionaries who want to think things over and then go fuck them up--just with a little more focus on style this time round. Front man Jayson Green's voice, more a hybrid of punk-50s, screamo-wail than a grating hardcore rasp, packs a whopping punch into a single verse.

Sister Spit: The Next Generation (4/18/2007)

Some of you may have heard about the original Sister Spit tours in the mid- and late-1990’s. The tours were organized punk-rock band-style: a shoddy van with nights spent sleeping on floors of anarchist collectives and punk houses, but instead of music these tattoo-clad queer folks delivered words from their newly published books.

Amy Ray and Friends: Benefit for NOA’s Battered Women’s Shelter (3/2/2007)

It was a packed crowd for two shows at the listening room on Dahlonega’s town square for two great shows to raise and awareness for an important social problem. An evening with Amy Ray, who was named the 13th most influential lesbian by AfterEllen.com for her solo albums that do not shy away from controversial topics such as the Christian right, homophobia and violence against gays raised money for the local battered women’s shelter in town.

Sarah Bettens: Live at Eddie's Attic (2/23/2007)

With her lean, blonde good looks, Sarah Bettens looks like a rock star, sings like a cabaret singer and has a warm glow about her. The former lead singer with the band K’s Choice has garnered a whole new set of fans as a solo artist. The tall, tattooed Sarah reminds some of her pal Amy Ray. Her latest release and her first as a solo artist, Scream, is also Bettens’ first album since moving into a relationship with a woman (Bettens was married to the tour manager of K's Choice).

Ladyfest South (January 25-28, 2007)

Ladyfest South is always a blast because it is back to back lady talent for a good cause. Ladyfest South 2007 happened over four nights at four venues in Atlanta and featured over fifty music and spoken word acts. This year’s beneficiaries are The Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls and The Fund for Southern Communities. Thursday January 25, 2007 - Eyedrum Art Space Phat Man Dee from PA is amazing and fun to see. She sports interesting costumes and sings cabaret camp and pop.

Throws Like a Girl Rocks! (2/8-2/24/2007)

The Austin Rude Mechanicals (or Rude Mechs) presented its fourth “Throws Like a Girl” (TLAG) series this year from February 8-24 at the Austin Off Center. Originally produced in conjunction with the University of Texas Theater and Dance Department, Rude Mechs has made the TLAG series a fixture in Austin’s theater scene since 2000.

The Sex Workers' Art Show (3/1/2007)

The Sex Workers' Art Show performed its last show of the season to a full crowd at Chicago's Abbey Pub on March 1, 2007. The performances I experienced were gorgeous, funny, embarrassing, heart-breaking, hopeful, offensive and affirming. And all in a good way. The burlesque teacher who performed at least 12,000 table dances to work her way through college and grad school taught a woman from the audience to perform a striptease and twirl her tassles. Amber Dawn, the retired prostitute, read another of her short stories based on her experiences.

k-os: Live at the 9:30 Club (2/21/2007)

If hip-hop is now comparable to a staid night of champagne swilling, high profiling, platinum-plated debauchery, then k-os is as refreshing as the hazy Sunday morning brunch spread invitingly along an island shore. Following in the tracks laid by former underground artists, Talib Kweli and Common, k-os is a creative contained energy wielding a socially conscious, reggae splashed mandate. On February 21st, Washington D.C. welcomed the Canadian MC, born Kevin Brereton, to the hub of alternative music.

Monotonix, Unfortunately, Lives Up to its Name

Monotonix is a trio from Tel Aviv with the kind of cult power that attracts an audience that wants to be wowed more than transformed. Their music mimics the basics of power-vocaled American heavy metal – Black Sabbath Lite. It is not that these musicians are not skilled, nor is it that singer Ami Shalev does not have a strong enough voice (though it most certainly falls short of Gene Simmons or even good ole Ozzy) so much as that the stylized music can neither be taken seriously nor as a joke.

Sticky Fingers: Queers Running the Stage Art Gamut (2/17/2007)

Sticky Fingers featured a medley of performances ranging from spoken word poetry to electro-rock by queer artists from across the eastern seaboard. Held at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, NY, the show was stimulating in its polymorphous perversity, the performances audacious in their satirical elements and guttural verve. Manhattan-based artist Chavisa Woods opened the night with her spoken word piece “No One is Ever Going to Touch You Like This.” Woods’ piece was a powerful inquiry the reality of passion and fantasy.

El Perro Del Mar: Live at the Bowery Ballroom (3/1/2007)

Some musicians are primarily recording artists, and others excel when they play live. Because El Perro Del Mar (Swedish singer-songwriter Sarah Assbring) plays quiet, repetitive, melancholy pop songs that are great to listen to when you’re reading or half asleep, I had her pegged as belonging to the former category. However, her recent headlining performance at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC left me pleasantly surprised to find that she has found a way to make her music thrive in a live setting.

BARR - Live in Philly (2/19/2007)

There’s nothing more refreshing than a band who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, particularly when they are this catchy. Even more inspiring is a band who, perhaps unknowingly, manages to deconstruct what it means to be a male musician. It was my first time. Seeing BARR was a release like no other. Their performance exhibited a seamless balance of blunt honesty and raw optimism.

The Mammy Project

Michelle Nicole Matlock’s one-woman show, The Mammy Project, is a provocative piece of theater that entertains and educates through a series of vignettes that deconstructs the controversial history of the Mammy stereotype. Matlock builds her show around two stories - the life of Nancy Green, a former slave who was hired as the first-ever Aunt Jemima for the World’s Fair in 1893, and Matlock’s own experiences as a full-figured African-American actress who thought she’d never have to play the part of the mammy-maid in today’s entertainment business, but found herself getting cast in those r