J. and I sang in an event yesterday called Gay Bi Gay Gay, in a backyard here in Austin. (There are lots of real and imaginary events riffing on the South By Southwest theme this time of year. My favorite is Fuck By Fuck Y'all.)
We sort of fell into it. A few weeks ago, J. was talking with a new friend who mentioned the event and J. I think mentioned that he used to perform; the next thing we knew we were on the bill. I didn't know what to expect, but what I did not expect was something so big and fun and great. We were early in the lineup -- I think we went on at about 3:30 -- but there were already dozens of people there. By the time we left (at about 8, halfway through a lineup of about 15-20 bands) there were at least a couple hundred people packed into that yard.
We sang very cheesy arrangements of old gospel songs: Are You Washed in the Blood?, When the Roll in Called Up Yonder, etc. Songs we love, and love to sing. But the arrangements were a little bizarre. J. just got a new keyboard, the kind that plays itself. But it sounds great. The piano and organ and drum sounds are actually fairly convincing. If you need it to (and we do), the keyboard will do the bass chords and rhythms, drums, fills, intros and endings. But you have to push the buttons at the right time. If you don't, you may just end the song after the first verse, for example. I like to think of the keyboard as a very enthusiastic but unpredictable new band member.
I wore a powder blue suit, and J. wore all black. I don't think the audience knew what to make of us, but for some reason that added to my enjoyment of the experience.
The revelation of the day was a solo performer called Dynasty Handbag. She was crazy-freaky and hysterically funny. Picture a cross between Laurie Anderson, Lucille Ball, and a schizophrenic homeless woman. She sang, danced, spoke and muttered to prerecorded tracks, often having otherworldly conversations with her own recorded voice. After her set, she emerged from the backstage area, just an unassuming, very sweet young woman selling her CDs, and for some reason that made it all the more remarkable. That it wasn't actually a crazy person but a real live artist. She's from New York and was here for SXSW.
There were a whole bunch of great bands and acts on the bill. It's been a long time since I've been in the midst of so much creativity and such a big supportive audience for it. This same crowd does a once-a-month open stage performance night called Camp Camp. I've never been, but J. and I plan to sing in the next one. I've heard that it's just as popular and just as wildly creative as Gay Bi Gay Gay.