Time to get those gold pants dry-cleaned and spit-shined, weirdos. After way too long of a silence (OK, only since 2011, but we’re impatient), gem-sweater dance-pop queen Leslie Hall is coming back with a brand-new album of remixes and a 2014 tour. Can an album of remixes be brand-new? It can when Leslie’s doing it. She’s a rule breaker like that.
No word yet on the title of Leslie’s remix album, but we can tell you it’s due out this December and features new takes on Leslie & the LY’s classics by “Mash-Up Mad Man” Titus Jones. She’s following up its release with what is sure to be the most bedazzled national tour of early 2014. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry may as well just wave the white flag now.
Full tour dates after this delightful clip for Jones’ booty-shaking remix of “No Pants Policy.” We are blogging pantsless in its honor. Actually, we blog pantsless most of the time, but you probably could’ve guessed that.
Leslie and the LY’s 2014 tour dates:
1/12 San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
2/5 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
2/6 St Louis, MO – Plush Saint Louis
2/7 Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle
2/8 Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
2/9 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
2/10 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot (The Pike Room)
2/11 Columbus, OH – TBA
2/13 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub
2/14 Providence, RI – AS220
2/15 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Brooklyn
2/16 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
2/17 Washington, DC – DC9 Nightclub
2/19 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
2/20 Charlotte, NC – TBA
2/21 Atlanta, GA – The EARL
2/22 Birmingham, AL – Bottletree Cafe
2/23 Nashville, TN – 12th & Porter
2/24 New Orleans, LA – TBA
2/25 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s Houston
2/26 Dallas, TX – Club Dada
2/27 Austin, TX – Red 7
3/1 Tucson, AZ- club congress
3/2 Las Vegas, NV – TBA
3/3 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
3/4 Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
3/7 Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
3/8 Portland, OR – Branx Blow Pony
3/10 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
3/12 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive Denver
3/13 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room Lounge
3/14 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
3/15 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
3/21 Iowa City, IA – Blue Moose Tap House
We’ve had a rough couple of weeks here at Weird Band HQ, so we were in dire need of some cheering up. And what better way to cheer up than with a little candy-colored, hyper-caffeinated J-pop? In J-Pop-Land, no one ever gets stuck in traffic, the serotonin flows like tap water and fluorescent is the new black. You know your favorite adorable kitten video on YouTube? Cram all five minutes of it down into a three-second animated GIF and you have the perfect visual accompaniment to most J-pop.
All J-pop looks and sounds pretty strange to us Westerners, but the genre’s most freshly minted superstar, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, takes things to a whole new level. She’s sometimes described as Japan’s answer to Lady Gaga, but it would probably be more fair to describe her as the majokko lovechild of Katy Perry and Psy. Like those two, her music tends to be polarizing (you either think it’s adorably catchy pop or annoyingly repetitive drivel), her dance moves tend to be varying degrees of ridiculous, and most importantly, her costumes and music videos tend to be garish eye candy explosions in which the cute, the comical and the grotesque intermingle in all sorts of head-scratchingly unexpected ways. You may prefer to watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s videos with the sound turned down, but I bet you’ll watch them all the way through.
Kyary, who’s only 20, got her start as a fashion blogger and model associated with Harajuku, the youthful Japanese clothing style known for its bright colors and obsession with all things “kawaii” (cute). Kyary’s unique spin on Harajuku has always been to inject it with a touch of the bizarre: a rubber shark hat, a demonic painted-on mouth, hair clips with eyeballs on them. “I love grotesque things,” she told one interviewer. “There are so many ‘just cute’ things in the world, so I add grotesque, scary and even shocking materials like eyeballs and brains to balance out the cuteness.”
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a bona fide superstar in Japan; her first video, “PONPONPON,” has racked up over 50 million views on YouTube, which I’m pretty sure makes her the most popular artist we’ve ever blogged about (sorry, Flaming Lips; you had a good run). But popularity and weirdness are not mutually exclusive; over the course of “PONPONPON,” Kyary dances with a giant floating eyeball, pterodactyls and what appears to be a fat dude in blackface and a pink princess dress. And “PONPONPON” is probably her least eccentric video. In her most recent clip, “Ninjya Re Bang Bang,” she rides a giant carp, dances with cartoon robot mice and vanquishes an evil floating head by turning her arm into a laser cannon, all while wearing what we’re gonna describe as ninja sleepwear. Here, check it out, but be warned: This song will lodge itself in your head for days.
We’ll leave you with “Invader Invader,” which both visually and sonically gets our vote Kyary’s for greatest and weirdest achievement to date. The finger-mustache dance moves, the breakdancing fur monsters, the TV-headed DJ, the completely gratuitous and totally awesome dubstep breakdown…why can’t American pop music be this much fun?
Kyary’s latest album, Nanda Collection—which features “Ninjya Re Bang Bang” and “Invader Invader”—just came out in Japan and the States (not sure about the rest of the world). You can buy the digital U.S. version here.
This week’s weird band was suggested by an excellently named reader called Adam Whybray. He describes a.P.A.t.T. as sounding “a bit like a glitchy Mr. Bungle cult that formed down the pub.” And while that’s probably as good a description as any of these cheeky Liverpudlians (although it doesn’t contain the word “Liverpudlian,” which is one of those words you should use every chance you get), it really only scratches the surface of what this avant-pop art-school project has achieved in its 15-odd years of existence.
a.P.A.t.T. (what does it stand for? how do you pronounce it? who knows? who cares?) formed in Liverpool in 1997 or 1998. Their early goal, according to their Wikipedia page (which the band links to from their official site, so let’s assume it’s semi-accurate), was to “make, find, imagine, and create ‘secret music,’” by which they seemed to mean music that abandoned traditional song structures and instrumentation. You can hear some of the band’s early stuff on Welcome to a.P.A.t.T. Island – A collection of earlies, which veers sharply between abstract, ambient noise and bursts of spastic, genre-hopping art-pop that reveals some of those Mr. Bungle influences that Adam picked up, as well as an even more direct early influence (and another favorite of ours around here), Cardiacs.
By 2005 or so, the band’s music had become even harder to categorize. On the Fre(e.P), they started doing Girl Talk-like mashups, mixing recognizable pop and classic rock samples with trip-hop beats and trashy club rap, but doing it in a style meant more to be unsettling than party-starting. Check the amazing “Megamix Part 1″ for a taste of what happens when you cram the Jackson 5, Coolio, Portishead and “What a Day for a Daydream” into the same track.
Meanwhile, they were also developing a live soundtrack for the silent-film-era vampire classic, Nosferatu, complete with strings. Because hey, why not?
In 2008, they reinvented themselves yet again, transforming into a Zappa-like prog/jazz/metal/psych-rock orchestra on the epic, 27-track Black & White Mass. Most recently, they released Paul the Record, a split album with a band called Peepholes, then decided to embrace the “playlist on shuffle” mentality of our modern age with Ogadimma, a 14-track set on which no two songs are done in the same style. They’ve also shot videos for all 14 songs; taken collectively, they’re pretty amazing. Here they are, for example, in full-on Prince-meets-Of-Montreal mode:
Now try to remember, as you watch this next video, that this is the same band:
They also cite Ween as one of their influences, which honestly didn’t make sense to me until I heard the casual, tongue-in-cheek virtuosity of the Ogadimma stuff: “Oh, you want to hear us do some ’80s synth-pop? Sure, here you go. No big whoop.” (Among their other listed influences: The Residents, Duran Duran, Captain Beefheart, John Zorn, Slayer, Claude Debussy, ABBA, and The Beatles. Much like a.P.A.t.T.’s actual music, this list simultaneously makes no sense and all the sense in the world.)
You’ll notice up until now that I haven’t mentioned any of a.P.A.t.T.’s members by name. That’s because, quite frankly, I have no idea who these people are. a.P.A.t.T don’t perform wearing masks or anything, but they do (mostly) stick to an all-white costume palette that seems to help them maintain a semi-anonymous quality. That plus, let’s be honest here, a.P.A.t.T. is not the world’s most Google-friendly band name. According to their Wikipedia page, their core members go by the names General MIDI, Field Marshall Stack, Dorothy Wave, Master Fader and The Researcher, but that’s all I know.
We’ll wrap this post up with a clip of a.P.A.t.T’s live show (non-orchestra version), which looks like jolly good fun. That lady keyboard player (Dorothy Wave, we presume) has sure got some sick dance moves.
I’m not gonna lie: When Jake and I first started this blog, it was a full-on sausage party. For about the first year or so, I think pretty much the only female presence on the entire site was Miss Pussycat. But chicks like weirdin’ it up as much the boys do, and we’re finally taking baby steps towards some semblance of equal gender time with recent Weirdos of the Week like Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and Miss Von Trapp. Sorry it took us awhile, ladies.
We’re continuing our female-friendly trend this week with the long-overdue addition of Iowa’s craziest product this side of the hot beef sundae: Leslie Hall, the queen of bejeweled sweaters, gold spandex jumpsuits, high-STER-ical dance videos and geeky electro/hip-hop party jams as sleek and stylin’ as the aforementioned gold spandex jumpsuits.
Hall became a minor Internet celebrity not, at first, with her music, but with her sweater collection: an online “Gem Sweater Museum” that went viral back around the time people started saying things like “go viral.” In an NPR interview, she later claimed that the music began as a side project to pay off her bandwidth overage charges: “I’ll put out a hip-hop album, sell CDs, get rich and famous, and this bill will go away.” Her first album, released in 2005, was called Gold Pants because, according to another interview, “65% of the comments on my [Gem Sweater Museum website] were about my gold pants.”
Amazingly, working with just GarageBand and, as far as we’ve been able to learn, no real musical training (she actually has a fine art background), Hall has since pumped out five albums’ worth of cheeky, increasingly polished dance pop, over which she raps and/or sings about dancing, her sweaters, crafting, her pants, dancing, and how awesome she is. And, one time, killing zombies. But mostly about dancing.
With her chunky glasses and chunkier physique, Hall is like the anti-Katy Perry—a shiny gold beacon of the uncool-as-cool, a reminder to us all that no matter what you look like, all it takes to be fabulous is the right attitude and maybe a good dance move or two. And a gem-covered sweater never hurts, either.
P.S. A big ol’ sloppy thank-you to reader Susan Molnar for recently introducing us to the wonders of Leslie Hall, which we had somehow managed to miss previously. Clearly, we need to get out more. Or maybe we need to get out less—and spend more time on YouTube.
P.P.S. Banner photo of Leslie and her white tiger sidekicks by Kai Chan, lifted from this article.
Man, I love our Facebook polls. If it was up to me, we’d do one every week, but my partner in crime Andy is a fucking control freak so we only do them every month or so. The rest of the time, we get to pick the bands. But honestly, you guys out there in Readerland kinda do a better job at it.
Case in point: This month’s poll winner, a one-man/one-doll band from Vermont called Caring Babies. Actually, this is the second winning band in the past few polls that features inanimate objects as band members. Your Fuzzy Friends, who we featured in November, are a one-man/three-animal-hand-puppets band. We should find a few more and organize a festival. We could call it Fluffstock or some shit.
The human member of Caring Babies is apparently a dude named Matt Mazur who sings like David Byrne and, as you can see, has excellent taste in sweaters. He had this to say about being our Weird Band of the Week: “I will wait as patiently as I can for this article, but I am doing some dances because it’s cool and because I’m excited.” Well, wait no more, Matt! But keep doing those dance moves anyway, because judging from your live show, you need all the practice you can get. (I kid! If it wasn’t for spazzy white-guy dance moves, this whole blog wouldn’t exist.)
The non-human member of Caring Babies is a Cabbage Patch-like doll named Redgei. She had nothing to say about being our Weird Band of the Week, but since she’s a doll, she’s probably not real good at writing emails. Then again, she’s credited as playing all the band’s computers, so who knows? Maybe she’s just less impressed with us than Matt is. As she should be.
Caring Babies have been around since 2009 and are from a town in Vermont called Wilder, which is so fucking appropriate I can hardly stand it. Their songs are catchy little synth ditties that mostly seem to be about friends and balloons and generally happy stuff. They also have a song about cell phones, which by their standards gets kinda dark: “Mr. Cell Phone, I thought you were talking to me.” It’s biting social commentary you can spazz-dance to.
For more on Caring Babies, check out their Blogspot or peep the videos below. Oh and go vote in our next poll, OK? I’m pretty sure this one is 100% doll, hand puppet and stuffed-animal free. We try to mix things up.
P.S. We’re taking next week off to go torture our families during the holidays, so this is our last Weird Band of the Week for 2012. All kidding aside, thanks for supporting us so much these past 12 months and get ready for even more weirdness in 2013. We’ve barely scratched the surface, people!
(Photo swiped from Vinton Today)
Summer’s almost here, and you know what they means: Time to grab the kids, strap on the feed bag, and head on down to the county fair to ogle the livestock and scarf down anything that can be cooked in a deep frier. It’s also time for America’s No. 1 detritus-based county-fair-circuit entertainment crew, Vocal Trash, to bring their Glee/Stomp/junkyard song-and-dance extravaganza back on the road.
Actually, judging from their website, Vocal Trash never leave the road these days. They’ve got tour dates for all of 2012 currently posted, from January through November, and they’ll be covering pretty much every corner of America, both literally and figuratively: everything from the 20th annual trade show of the U.S. Composting Council in Austin, Texas, to the Schuylkill County Fair in Summit Haven, Pennsylvania, to the Fairmont Opera House in Fairmont, Minnesota. They don’t list any weddings and bar mitzvahs, but we bet they’re available for those, too, if the price is right.
Here are their remaining 2012 dates (so far) for public events; we omitted the private dates because, as awesome as the can-banging, breakdancing, headset-mic-harmonizing spectacle of a fully operational Vocal Trash show can be, we assume you’re probably not interested in crashing any corporate events Up in the Air-style to see them in action. But hey, if you’re gonna be at WASTECON 2012, Aug. 13-14 in Washington, DC, we can confidently predict that they will be one of the conference highlights.
May 18 – Westlake, TX – Westlake MasterWorks Concert
May 19 – Kaufman, TX – Lost Treasure Found Art, Kaufman Heritage Garden
May 24 – Roanoke, TX – Masterworks Series, at Austin Street Plaza
May 26 – Moses Lake, WA – McCosh Park (Free)
May 27 – Moses Lake, WA – McCosh Park (Free)
June 16 – Council Grove, KS – “Washunga Days Celebration 2012” Council Grove High School Auditorium
June 23 – Vinton, IA – “Party In The Park”, Riverside Park
June 29 – Killeen, TX – Hot Summer Nights Concert Series Killeen Community Center
July 4 – Joshua, TX – Joshua July 4th Celebration 2012 Owl Stadium
July 12 – Plano, TX – Summer Fun Thursday’s The Shops at Willow Bend – Grand Court
July 13 – Cuba, MO – Crawford County Fair Hood Park
July 18 – Chautauqua, NY – Chautauqua Amphitheatre
July 27 – 31 – Cobleskill, NY – Sunshine Fair
Aug 4 – Summit Haven, PA – Schuylkill County Fair
Aug 10-12 – Sioux Falls, SD – Sioux Empire Fair
Aug 21-26 – Rhinebeck, NY – Dutchess County Fair
Sept 6-8 – Hebron, CT – Hebron Harvest Fair
Oct 6 – Dallas, TX – Reverchon Park, 5K Run and Walk One Run: Cancer Support Community
Oct 10-14 – Perry, GA – Georgia National Fair
Nov 9 – Lubbock, TX – Young Leader’s Society Fundraiser Louise Hopkins Underwood Center Firehouse Theater
Nov 10 – Fairmont, MN – Fairmont Opera House
Forgive me if this week’s post is even more rambling and incoherent than usual. I just completed a very early morning transcontinental flight and I’m so jetlagged, I’m starting to talk like Sean Penn in I Am Sam. Then again, being delirious with jetlag might be the perfect mindset for exploring the bizarre pop music footnote that is Tiny Tim.
Born Herbert Khaury in 1932, Tiny Tim became, very briefly, the most celebrated oddball in all of music, thanks to some memorable appearances on the comedy/variety show Laugh-In in 1968. With his gawky stage presence, comically miniscule ukulele (contrary to his stage name, he was rather a hulking fellow), and warbling falsetto, Tiny was an unlikely star—but something about his guileless interpretations of old American songbook warhorses like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and his signature tune, “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips,” struck a chord with middle America. He became a regular fixture not only on Laugh-In but also The Tonight Show, where Johnny Carson teased out enough personal details (five showers a day, wore ladies’ cosmetics, openly had a thing for pretty underage girls, which he referred to as “classics”) to finally convince viewers that he was not some elaborate put-on, but a genuine weirdo.
On his first Laugh-In appearance, Tiny was introduced by the show’s droll, chain-smoking hosts, Rowan and Martin, as both an undiscovered diamond in the rough and “the toast of Greenwich Village.” Both things were true, in a way. After years of taking any gig he could in every New York dive under a variety of stage names (including Darry Dover, Emmett Swink, Judas K. Foxglove and “Larry Love, The Human Canary,” when he briefly appeared as part of a freak show), Tim finally hit the big time when he was “discovered” at a hip nightclub called The Scene. By the time he made his first Laugh-In appearance, he had already released his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, on Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records label. It contained his signature “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips,” but the album’s most memorable moment is probably a cover of “I Got You, Babe,” on which Tiny sings both Sonny and Cher’s parts in a performance that’s simultaneously virtuosic and ridiculous.
Like all true outsiders, Tiny Tim was not destined for lasting stardom. He and his music were just too “far out” for the mainstream squares and too old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy for the hippie rock ‘n’ roll types. His jump-the-shark moment came in December of 1969, when he married his 17-year-old sweetheart, Victoria Mae Budinger, aka “Miss Vicki,” on an episode of The Tonight Show that is reputed to be the second most-watched TV program of the ’60s (21.4 million viewers) after the moon landing. Apart from the bride’s age, the ceremony is actually kinda boring by today’s Springer/Kardashian standards, but there was still a certain freak-show aspect to the whole thing that eclipsed Tiny’s music—especially when the couple revealed that they planned to sleep in separate rooms and even dine apart because of the groom’s phobia of eating in the presence of others.
By the late ’70s, Tiny Tim was divorced (though he later remarried, twice), dropped from his label, and reduced to releasing novelty tunes like “Tip-Toe to the Gas Pumps.” In the ’80s and ’90s, he occasionally collaborated with younger artists who admired his work, like (no, really) Camper Van Beethoven—but for the most part, he was remembered (dimly) as a tulip-sniffing, one-hit wonder. In 1996, shortly after the release of his final studio album, Girl (recorded with the aptly named Texas polka-rockers Brave Combo), he suffered a massive heart attack during a performance in Minneapolis and died that same day. He was 64.
Even though it’s probably true that most Laugh-In and Tonight Show viewers were laughing at, not with, Tiny Tim, it would be unfair to dismiss him as the Rebecca Black of his era. There was nothing manufactured or phony about him. His talents were outlandish, but they were genuine; take this amazing, Tom Jones-like version of “Stayin’ Alive,” which starts out a little shaky but eventually turns into a tour de force of vocal elasticity. Not many humans have ever been able to sing in a hairy-chested baritone and a choir-boy falsetto in the same breath. At least not with this much chutzpah.
I could go on defending Tiny Tim’s legacy, but I know I’m preaching to the choir; several readers over the years have suggested we add him to the Weird List, and since he would have turned 80 this week, we figured this was a good time to do it. We’ll leave you with perhaps his most famous performance. If you’ve never seen it before, you’re in for a treat.
- Tiny Tim Memorial Site
- Tiny Tim “official” website (hosted by this company, which apparently now owns the rights to his likeness and some of his music)
- Interview with Tiny Tim expert Justin Martell (much of this post was cribbed from this interview, as well as from Irwin Chusid’s Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music)
Here at TWBITW, we’re always up for supporting a good cause. So when we learned that self-described drag terrorist and “sexually infused sewer of vile shamelessness” Christeene had only three days left on her Kickstarter campaign and was still more than $2,000 short of her goal, we just knew we had to leap into the breach. Even though we were a little afraid of using the word “breach” in a sentence about Christeene.
For those of y’all not familiar: Christeene Vail is the creation of singer/rapper/filmmaker/drag artist Paul Soileau, born at a queer open-mic in Austin about three years ago (Christeene, not Paul—Paul looks to have been born sometime in the late ’70s, though only his makeup technician knows for sure). Paul had performed for years as a more conventional drag queen named Rebecca Havemeyer, but he concocted Christeene because he wanted a persona that was more, in the words of one writer, “quick, destructive and fun—something to leave his audience speechless in less than five minutes.” Mission accomplished!
Christeene is a foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, trailer-trash naif who makes improbably catchy electro-pop with touches of R&B, hip-hop, dubstep and booty bass. She’s sort of what might have happened if Crazy Britney had spent less energy on shaving her head and attacking cars with umbrellas and more on actually making music as provocative as her pantyless bouts with the paparazzi.
Christeene’s performances and amazing, totally NSFW videos (made with filmmaker PJ Ravel under the name Three Dollar Cinema and mostly available on Funny or Die) are aural and visual assaults of gold teeth, smeared lipstick, flashed privates, ass-cheek-spreading backup dancers, and gender-bending songs and raps about ass play (“Bustin’ Brown”), sad hookers (“Tears From My Pussy”) and what we can only assume is old-people sex (“Workin’ on Grandma”). It’s not for the faint-hearted, even though Christeene herself maintains an endearingly childlike, Adam Sandler-ish quality throughout.
Arguably the weirdest—inarguably the most downright nasty—thing Christeene’s ever produced is “Bustin’ Brown,” a song about anal sex (“breakin’ laws in your bee-hind”), with a video that mostly takes place inside a giant colon. But for sheer NSFW hilarity, we have to agree with reader Hirsh, who first brought Christeene to our attention on our Submit a Band page by posting the “Fix My Dick” video along with the that-about-sums-it-up comment, “Mmmm yes.” (Did I mention this video is NSFW? I really, really can’t stress that enough.)
If you enjoyed that, please for the love of Jesus proceed immediately to Christeene’s Kickstarter page and give generously so that her debut album, Waste Up, Kneez Down, may see the light of day. Jake just stole one of my credit cards and gave five bucks, and if that raging homophobe can support this hot mess with someone’s else money, you sure as shit can, too. (I kid. Jake’s not a homophobe. He just gets squeamish about hairy guys in thongs.)
[Update: Well, shit. Christeene just hit her $10,000 Kickstarter goal with 46 hours to go—and barely 24 hours after we first wrote this post. Y'all just got the Weird Band Bump, Christeene! Congrats.]
As we gear up for another round of dysfunctional holiday get-togethers with our respective fam-damnlies, Jake and I would like to take a moment to reflect back with gratitude on all that 2011 brought us here at TWBITW. This was the year in which we had our highest traffic day ever; in which our average monthly traffic nearly doubled; in which we discovered Here Come the Mummies and witch house; in which we got mentioned by The Onion (OK, it was really just the Denver/Boulder AV Club, but close enough); and in which we got to see Peelander-Z in the costumed, squid-kicking flesh. Oh, and somehow I managed to find time to get married. (Jake is still saving himself for the right girl and/or vaginally equipped life form.) It was a pretty great year.
Most importantly, we got a shit-ton of band suggestions, comments, emails, Facebook likes and ego-stroking gestures of goodwill from you, our readers. So thanks for all that. You are the rum in our eggnog.
We’re going to enjoy a little down time for the remainder of 2011, but we’ll be back in 2012, bright-tailed, bushy-eyed and ready to unleash more weirdness upon the world. And we’ll be making some changes to expand the scope (and hopefully the readership) of this site. So stay tuned, ’cause it’s about to go down like Foxy Brown. Or something like that.
In the meantime, we’ll leave you with our favorite Christmas-themed weird band: The Superions. They surfaced last year with an album called Destination…Christmas! that basically sounds like an even campier version of the B-52′s…which makes sense, given that the head Superion is the B-52′s’ shouter-in-chief, Fred Schneider. Apparently they also do a few non-holiday-related songs, too, but we prefer to think of them as Schneider’s secret gay plot to forever associate Christmas with hunky shirtless dudes dancing with fruitcakes. Enjoy your holidays!
P.S. They also have a Fruitcake app, which you can purchase for 99 cents here. We haven’t tried it yet, but we’re guessing it does not contain actual fruitcake recipes.
Today’s weird band…or rather, weird artiste…was suggested by a reader named Aaron, who notes that New Wave opera singer Klaus Nomi was “most defiantly a awesome weird guy.” True dat, Aaron! Even if you meant to say “definitely,” there was also something defiantly weird about Mr. Nomi, too.
Klaus Nomi was an opera-obsessed gay kid from Bavaria, which is sort of the German equivalent of being from Alabama. He moved to Berlin as a teenager to attend a music conservatory and work at the Deutsche Oper where, legend has it, he gave impromptu concerts for his fellow ushers while they were sweeping up after the shows. But he didn’t really fit in with either the Berlin opera community or the gay nightclub scene (which wasn’t used to drag queens singing arias), so like many of the world’s great freaks, he finally washed up in New York City. The year was 1972.
By 1978, Nomi was finally making a name for himself in the East Village art scene, performing arias in a melodramatic counter-tenor and even more melodramatic costumes, engulfed in smoke bombs and sci-fi sound effects. His reputation eventually caught the ear of David Bowie, who invited Nomi and one of his backup singers, Joey Arias, to perform with him on Saturday Night Live in 1979. You can watch clips of the performances over on this site, and marvel at how much tamer pop music is these days (yes, even you, Lady Gaga).
The SNL appearance changed Nomi’s life. Not only did he borrow the oversized plastic tuxedo look Bowie sported and make it his signature outfit, he also scored a record deal and released two albums, Klaus Nomi (1981) and Simple Man (1982), before his AIDS-related death in 1983. He was 39.
Nomi’s music was a bizarre and totally unique mix of original pop tunes done in a campy, New Wave style, avant-garde covers of oldies like Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and operatic pieces–his set closer was an aria from the 19th century French opera Samson and Delilah. You could call him a trail-blazer, but really, no one’s quite followed the trail he blazed. Everyone from Morrissey to Jean Paul Gaultier has acknowledged him as an influence, but really, there just ain’t that many pop/New Wave opera singers in the world. Klaus Nomi was probably a one-time deal.
Here’s a clip of him performing his most famous tune, “Nomi Song,” on French TV. Purists might prefer the original “Nomi Song” video, but the picture and sound quality are a little better on this version.
- Klaus Nomi ZABAKDAZ (official site for posthumous Nomi album, Za Bakdaz)
- Klaus Nomi on MySpace (unofficial)
- The Nomi Song (official site for Klaus Nomi documentary, released in 2004)
- The Klaus Nomi Tribute Page (fan site)
- Klaus Nomi Keys of Life (fan site)
- A weird little Klaus Nomi Flash animation tribute site