Summer Camp at Art & Mayhem Gallery, 6/14/08

Summer Camp at Art & Mayhem Gallery, 6/14/08

Photos by Tito da Costa

Saturday night, I carpooled on down to the Summer Camp event at the Art & Mayhem gallery in Atwater Village (not to be confused with the Little Radio Summer Camp–can you say “theme conflict?”). The “camp” theme this night was universally interpreted as Indian feathers and headbands for the girls (totally hot) and shorts and knee-socks for the guys (kind of gross). And there was some kind of Friday the 13th theme going on too. And kids were doing arts and crafts, and playing games with water balloons and three legged races and shit like that–but I was more into the aural tug-of-war going on between the different acts of the night.

First up when I got there was Electrocute. I didn’t think I was going to like this band much. How dare they not know that there was a former incarnation of the Donnas on Sympathy for the Record Industry years ago called “The Electrocutes” that had the same bratty energy?

But they kind of won me over with their matching baby-blue Fender bass and geetar made to sound like a video game–with their summery electro sound, Vox Jaguar keyboards, boomin’ beats, and rap lyrics about hot pants, bikini bottoms and hippy boys, sometimes I felt I was watching some hybrid of the Go Go’s, Salt n Pepa, Kim Wilde and Berlin. I kind of got a sugar crash by the end, though, when their set went on forever. Leave ’em wanting more, kids! An opening band doesn’t need to do twelve songs.

The Lady Tigra, who many in attendance openly confused with “Le Tigre,” did a shorter and much tighter set. Lady Tigra made a smash hip-hop classic, “Cars That Go Boom,” as one half of the rap duo L’Trimm in 1988, which by my math makes her about forty years old. But she looked 23 on stage as she pranced about the stage in hot pants, accompanied by an equally adorable female singer and dancer, as well as some seriously talented mixers and skratchers in the background. After the first song or two, she literally stood right up front, looked at us, and said “take my picture!” And we did, and she did a little sashay shante and asked everybody to pull out their cameras and cellphones and take some shots.

Pretty soon she had everybody up on stage dancing with her–there were camp counselors and kids groovin’ and shakin’ like it weren’t nobody’s business! This was not exactly Miami Bass hip hop as I remember it, but it was fun, entertaining, and female-affirming, as well as well-mixed and full of great samples: just what hip-hop used to be before Dr. Dre released The Chronic.

Jer Ber Jones came out next, a super tall drag queen who just might be from Utah. “She” sang us a screechy song about being the most beautiful woman we have ever seen (“I am! I frickin’ am!”), then did a couple covers of Kate Bush and the Xanadu theme, as well as a trade-off duet with the Lady Tigra about socks and bras in which Jer Ber hobbled around the stage with the heel broken on one of her giant boots. It was one of those acts that might not be so good on the recording, but live it was fantastic and funny and everything I want to hear in an entertainer, right down to the running commentary about her own show–at some point, the wig came off, revealing a short matted head of brunettism, and I think I heard her mutter something about not being a natural blonde but going for “the Annie Lennox look.”

We Are the World was the last “band” of the evening. I saw them the weekend before out in Joshua Tree, and I hesitate to call them a “band” per se, since only one of them played an instrument (drums) and even then it seemed we could have unplugged him and enjoyed their industrial background rhythms just as much–they’re more a dance troupe who happens to write their own background music.

But what a dance troupe! Pictures just can’t convey how well this night’s show went down. There was a man drumming in the middle of the act, wearing an executioner’s mask and suspenders. There were masked tribal monks, and men dressed like hobbits, and tap-dancing, and interpretive dance wrestling, and women in flowery pioneer dresses, and revolutionary flag-waiving (nearly injuring a crowd-member or two), and moccasins, and some singing (though it sounded lip-synched to me), and a grand finale where their mustachioed ring-leader cut holes in a broad piece of cloth and they all stuck their tortured limbs through the holes. It was like watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers meets Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring–way more professional a show than we deserved.

After We Are the World ended, we were all kind of amazed, and gathered up our macrame and went home. Or at least, I tried to go home. Like the last day of a real summer camp, it was hard to get the kids off each other and into the car!