Jan. 14, 2012
Better than: Being gored to death by a pack of zombies.
San Francisco has a rich history of drag performance. Look back, and the founding of organizations like the International Imperial Court System, troupes like The Cockettes, and the international popularity of artists like Sylvester pop out of our city's cultural heritage like gleaming beacons to San Francisco's enduring play with the norms of American society. Yet while those things happened years ago, drag in San Francisco still seems as though it hasn't lost any of its vibrant cutting edge. One bar that's consistently stood at the fore is The Stud. The original location for local drag institution Trannyshack, the bar now plays host to the weekly avant-garde antics of SOME THING on Fridays. Run by VivvyAnne Forevermore, Glamamore, and down-E, the event celebrated its second anniversary last week.
The Stud stands on the corner of Ninth and Harrsion in the heart of the SOMA district. It's hard to miss with a bright blue color scheme, rainbow flag flung high, and a large broken-down Googie-style arrow pointing toward the entrance. It's got a low and wide profile that makes it stand out on its block and allows it to greet cars boldly as they drive up the street.
Inside, The Stud shows its age. The bar has existed in some form or another since 1966 and it has many of the hallmarks of a different era. A long wood bar stretches the expanse of the inside running through two rooms and down a short couple stairs. There are eaves and nooks throughout and, in the back, a perpetually unplayed pool table sits lit by the club's noirish glow.
Walking down the stairs and through a curtain, Avalon and I found ourselves in the main room. A small crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings of the early "Try SOME THING" show for new performers. Onstage, a skinny drag queen named Mandy CoCo wildly swung a fencing sword in the air while lip-syncing to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Awkwardly balancing on high heels, the inclusion of the sword provided a bizarre and vaguely dangerous edge to her show.
From here things moved in a traditionally structured way. CoCo cleared the stage and Little Miss Hot Mess appeared to MC the proceedings. Looking like an impeccable snooty '50s sorority girl, she provided some zingers (and a bang-on giggle) while she hosted the early portion of the night, which also included a rendition of Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By" by a singer in a cartoonishly large afro wig named Miss CLEO Patois, and a black-lit performance (in fluorescent make-up) by Filetia Mignon of Imani Coppola's "I Love Your Hair."
There was also a fair bit of dancing throughout the night. Early on, Solid Gold's DJ Pink Lightning provided a trip down recent memory lane with a selection of mid-to-late '00s rap and popular club tracks like Juvenile's "Back That Ass Up" and Azari & III's "Reckless With Your Love." Later, Stanley Frank from Vienetta Discotheque lent his musical taste (and performing acumen on two numbers) to the evening with a set that started at LCD Soundsystem's "Pow Pow" and worked its way to the disaffected electroclash of Appaloosa's "Patchwork."
The energy in the room was a rollercoaster ride through intense situations and surreal moments buffeted by catty banter. Some of the best moments of the show came between the acts, as MCs down-E, Vivvyanne ForeverMORE, and Little Miss Hot Mess exchanged words. It was during one of these moments that Vivvyanne remarked, "I just want to thank you because without all of you, this would just be a weird exercise in my room."
There were other highlights: Early on, a bald headed DIamanda Kallas took the stage in a provocative shirt that read "DED FAGGET." Holding a strobe in front of her face (which was saturated in pancake makeup), she painfully lip-synched to The XX's "Teardrops" before smearing blood across her mouth. This dark vibe was carried further by Ambrosia Salad, who played the part of a drunk hunter holed up in a cabin facing down a pack of zombies. With ripped red streamers falling from their mouths, they piled up and disemboweled her en masse to the tune of Radiohead's "Talk Show Host." The most intensely strange moment came toward the end, as DIamanda Kallas took the stage again to shave Vivvyanne ForeverMORE's eyebrows off while Little Dragon's "Fether" lent a Bowie-esque acoustic backdrop. Together, out of their clothes and in cellophane brassieres and feathered thongs, they broke the fourth wall and triumphantly marched through the audience with clots of red glitter dripping off their faces.
It wasn't all dark though. A good portion of the evening was dedicated to more lighthearted fare. Glamamore and Alotta Boutte assumed the roles of Jay Z and Beyonce for "Crazy in Love." Harsh strobes and savvy lighting created an effect as explosive as the original music video -- it was the kind of performance that had the audience throwing crumpled up wads of cash onto the stage. Similarly, Little Miss Hot Mess and Mona G. Hawd nailed it with an on-point rendition of Bobby Darin's classic "Mack the Knife."
The climax came at the end of the evening, during Glamamore's performance. She emerged on the stage in flowing Japanese kimonos. Wielding these with the help of a black suited accomplice, she did an epic lipsync to Florence and the Machine's "I'm Not Calling You A Liar" in which her robes seemed to fly out and up from the stage to envelope the entire room in fabric. Somewhere along the way something clicked, and as though through bizarre invocation, it honestly felt as though she were actually singing for the rest of the song.
Finally, the Stud gave out free champagne in honor of SOME THING's anniversary. In anticipation of the sloppiness to come, we made a quick exit through the smokers and disappeared into the morning.