With dim lighting, jazz music blaring over the PA, and an audience largely comprised of friends of the performers, Club Bohemia cultivated a seedy vibe in a laid-back environment last Thursday – a great atmosphere for a night of burlesque, spoken word, and music.
The night began with Stella Swingline strutting around stage and through the crowd, undressing from her business woman outfit. While showing great stage presence, she also showed the most composure out of any of the performers. During her second act, later in the evening, the music cut out. Rather than panic, she calmly maintained her pose until the music came back (which seemed to take forever) and finished her routine, which saw her, ironically, redressing.
Madam K took a different approach, coming out in heavy, unrevealing outfits, giving her plenty of time to twirl gracefully around the stage and remove them. Her routines had unexpected themes – with her first called “Books for Burlesque.” Her second saw her undressing from traditional Jewish garb. Both of her performances displayed great choreography and confidence.
The most tongue-in-cheek performance belonged to Thru The Keyhole Burlesque, asking the crowd beforehand “do you like boobs?” then performing to novelty cabaret song “Boobs” by Ruth Wallis, which has to be one of the most ridiculous songs I’ve ever heard. Interestingly, most of the hooting and cheering for all of the burlesque performers came from women, lending credence to the idea that burlesque is about empowerment rather than straight-up objectification.
For spoken word, the audience was first treated to storytelling by Brendyn Schneider, who immediately caught attention by coming to the stage in a gorilla costume. Considering that his story was about his adventures in the suit and people’s reactions to him as “Nigel The Gorilla,” it was appropriate. His second story, later in the evening, was more traditional – a reflection on his younger family life, particularly with his grandfather, and a contemplation of how he and his friends will be as senior citizens. Despite having no plans to ever don a gorilla costume, I didn’t have much trouble relating to his stories, and his energy kept the crowd engaged.
Narragansett Beer poet laureate and host Marc Zegans only told a few poems, but had me pondering much more than I normally would on any given evening at a bar. “A Hipster Retired” served as the mission statement of the evening. He wasn’t necessarily condemning people wearing skinny jeans, or indie rockers, or PBR drinkers with his disapproval, but rather the apathetic people on the sidelines. It’s as fair a railing against “hipsters” as I’ve ever seen. “I Am Not A Performance Poet” clearly established Marc as someone more concerned with the words rather than the reading. The poem also made me consider the challenge of telling poems (or of any kind of performance, really) in a live setting, the challenge of being nuanced and complex while also making sure the meaning isn’t lost on an audience who may only hear it once.
Music was first provided by Aaron Shadwell (of the band Shadwell), who said that he wanted to make the crowd “feel stuff.” His style was straightforward pop/rock with some hints of Brit pop; his voice taking on a slight English accent (almost Muse-like) at its most powerful. Quiet, fingerpicked songs as well as four chord rockers filled the setlist, with some banter in between. He also threw in a few covers, including a brooding version of “When Doves Cry.” The crowd was very appreciative, as he earned some of the longest and loudest applause breaks of the night.
The night ended with a performance from the Duet Jameson. They played Gypsy Jazz, an upbeat, toe-tapping style that always seems to be in motion, popularized by Django Reindhardt. The duo showed great skill as they deftly handled complex lead and rhythm patterns, effortlessly switching between their duties. The sound mixing wasn’t optimal, but it didn’t do much to impede their charming, delightful performance.
At nearly three hours, The No Hipsters Rock N Roll Revue probably could’ve been shortened. Still, they managed to showcase an eclectic group of performers, and the format, which rarely saw the same type of act follow another, kept the night from getting stale. It’s a great idea for a show, and I’m hopeful there will be future iterations.
Photos by Kira Doucette