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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Meet Muñecas, the Brains (and Lipliner) Behind Lilith Bear

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 4:26 PM

click to enlarge From left: Horchata La Shy Girl, Tamale Ringwald, Cholula Caliente. - SCOTT IVERSON PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Scott Iverson Photography
  • From left: Horchata La Shy Girl, Tamale Ringwald, Cholula Caliente.

This weekend is San Francisco Bear Pride, a four-day celebration of girth, body hair, and, weather permitting, cargo shorts. While most of the events (beer busts, brunches and underwear parties) will be familiar to dudes who follow the bear circuit, and easily deduced by San Francisco's non-bear population, there is one event that sticks out: Lilith Bear, this Saturday, Nov. 8 at Truck.

Now in its fifth go-round, Lilith Bear stretches the definitions of bear-hood. DJs, drag queens, and bands with real, live gender deviants in them will take over for a refreshing break from all the fur and flannel. We spoke with two of the three musicians from drag-punk band Muñecas — Danyol Leon (aka Tamale Ringwald) and James Rouse Iñiguéz (aka Cholula Caliente) — about how this alternative-to-the-alternative event came around, what its future might be, and who from Lilith Fair they'd love to book the most.

Tell me about Lilith Bear.

Danyol Leon/Tamale Ringwald: Lilith Bear started because I used to go to clubs and bars, mostly bear-oriented, and didn’t feel really included. So I wanted to come up with a party that celebrated women and drag, and try to bring more women and more drag into the bear community. Because the reason I started going to the bear events was that anybody could go. All shapes, all sizes. And then it became, “Well, you’ve got to be this shape and this size and have this much hair on your body and not have a vagina.”

And I grew up on '90s female rock, going to Lilith Bear and Lollapalooza. I definitely wanted to present lesbi-onic shenanigans. Because I like hanging out with lesbians just as much as fat, hairy dudes.

We’ve done five of them, and James has been a part of four of them.

Are they regular?

DL: The first one I ever did was during the SF Bear Week, which maybe happened two years ago in February.

James Rouse Iñiguéz/Cholula Caliente: I performed at the first one.

DL: Oh, you did!

JRI: After the first one I became more involved.

Were you spinning?

DL: No, his first band, Beard Summit, played with All My Pretty Ones. They did kind of acoustic, unplugged sets, because at the time it was taking different genres of '90s music. I couldn’t really do this alone, and I needed a partner, so James decided to work with me. We both have this same aesthetic; we both have this inner lesbian. It’s turned into a band collaboration, and it’s all because of Lilith Bear.

JRI: You know what it is? I got bored Being in a bar full of dudes is boring after some point. You can only live in San Francisco so long before you’ve figured out everyone you’re going to have sex with. And then you need to give up the 1970s porn fantasy and settle in and start making close relationships with some people.

And at least half of those relationships are going to be with women, lesbian or straight. You start to look at other venues and other things that are happening that aren’t necessarily queer, and they all have this feel of radical inclusion. Which I felt really echoed what Danyol was doing with the party when I asked to join. We wanted to encourage a space that was very friendly for women, for fey, queer, femme men.

DL: Trans people.

Is that working?

DL: When I first started this, it was going to the Lone Star in drag and getting shunned. Getting looked at up and down, like, “Why are you here.” That was in 2012. So within two years, they have a lesbian night at the Lone Star.

JRI: They have drag two or three times a month.

DL: I don’t want to say, “Oh, because of me and this tiny club where like eight people came, things changed,” but that was my goal and I see it coming to fruition. And it’s very, very satisfying.

Where does Muñecas fit into that?

JRI: It was the third Lilith Bear, we were short a band. Zbörnak was going to play, but we needed an opening band, and Danyol and I had talked a lot about playing together. Beard Summit had broken up a few months earlier. Gabe Garcia, who played bass in Beard Summit, and I were sort of free agents. We [three] agreed to put a band together as a one-off for Lilith Bear. We wrote four songs and learned a punk-hardcore cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” that was super-queer. We played, and the response was really amazing.

DL: We had four rehearsals. From our first meeting to our show. Four rehearsals.

JRI: People were super into it.

DL: Because of where it was coming from, too. It was coming from an honest place. We liked that queer, radical, feminist aesthetic that we learned in the '90s and that’s missing in the teens.

JRI: Muñecas was somewhere between Lilith Fair and the Riot Grrrl Scene in the mid-to-late '90s and it was really natural. Since then, we’ve opened for [My Life With the] Thrill Kill Kult, Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Torche. People have actually embraced it, so we’re like, “We should keep doing this.” And it’s super fun. It kind of had this parallel trajectory over the past couple years.

DL: Lilith Bear allowed us to incubate and play with things in Muñecas in a very safe and free site.

click to enlarge MUNECAS
  • Munecas
Not for nothing, the three of you are Latino and the bear scene is pretty blue-eyed.

DL: Half-Latino, yeah. The three of us are definitely advocates for people of color, and I always seek out work with people of color any chance I get because they’re not visible. James brings a lot to that because that’s what he does for a living.

JRI: It is different, being mixed-race and having the sensibilities of someone who sort of knows difference. We write songs about that in Muñecas. We write songs about white privilege. We write songs about racist remarks.

DL: We write about misogyny and how fucked up it is.

JRI: I think people relate to it because everybody has this bi-cultural-ness in San Francisco. No one’s from here, right? Everyone has this other life they had before they lived in San Francisco. It’s sort of like the insider-outsider feel. Being biracial, being mixed-race, is very similar to that, and telling that story in easy to remember lyrics that don’t often go beyond three lines, with lots of screaming —

DL: [laughs] Under two minutes.

Are you recording new songs?

DL: That’s our next goal. We’d like to be recorded by January or February.

JRI: We’ve got a couple things in the works. We’re thinking about what a tour might look like, maybe up and down the coast. Lilith Bear has definitely been a part of that. Sometimes you just have to make your own stage. You can’t wait for somebody to tell you, “OK, now’s your chance.” The feel of DIY art and punk is to make your presence known. Another big impetus for Muñecas is don’t fucking wait around for someone to tell you that putting on makeup and screaming at the top of your lungs is the right thing to do. That’s what that music’s about.

It’s so crazy. Bad Cop/Bad Cop got signed because of Lilith Bear to Fat Wreck Chords, because Fat Mike was in the audience at Truck and saw them perform. Now they’re touring Europe and doing this crazy shit. It’s like, if that’s how it’s going to be, that’s awesome. You have to dig deep in San Francisco to find that now, because everything’s changing. It’s not gone, it’s just layered. Old San Francisco is still here, it’s just now under rubble.

DL: A layer of tech rubble.

JRI: You just have to look a little harder now.

Muñecas is headlining. Who else is playing?

DL: We’re playing with a band called Year of the Fist. Are they San Francisco or Oakland?

JRI: They’re this Oakland punk band. Two chicks, two dudes. They’re sort of punk veterans from the East Bay. I grew up with one of them, this woman Katie Colpitts, who played in Dolorata, a fairly big rock band. They got a lot of attention nationally.

DL: It’s like make-your-ears-bleed punk.

JRI: And just a host of drag excellence, and DJs. SniffAlottaPuss and DJ Luna are going to be DJing. Suppositori Spelling is going to be performing. Lil Miss Hot Mess is hosting.

DL: L O L McFiercen, Jem Jehova, Linty, Persia.

You do all the booking?

JRI: Together.

DL: It’s collaborative. One of us has an idea, we’re like, “Go for it. Let me know what happens.” We’re always on the same page. It’s an amazing symbiotic relationship we have.

And I want to take Lilith Bear on the road, too. I think it would do really well in L.A. Have Muñecas go with it, have a local band go with it. Local queens and maybe one San Francisco queen. I think it’s a book-able thing.

JRI: Lilith Bear is an official party for SF Bear Pride. Matt Rentecca, who’s done the whole Bearracuda dynasty — we’ve known him for years. He’s like our in if we want to take it on the road, because Bearracuda has already charted this map. We’ve had the encouragement, we just need to take the time.

If you could book anybody who played at any Lilith Fair, who would it be?

DL: Indigo Girls, hands down.

JRI: I call on the resisting soul of Galileo, king of night vision, king of insight!

DL: The first Lilith Bear we ever threw was at Truck, and we had a sing-along. At the end of the event, I played “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls and we didn’t need any microphones, we were just singing every single word. I’ve never had that experience on stage before, in the multiple years I’ve been performing. It was amazing.

JRI: They’re sort of like our Destiny’s Child.

DL: Pretty much. They were like the Destiny’s Child that never had the Beyoncé to break them up. I think Melissa Etheridge was probably the Beyoncé, and she just went and did her own thing.

Lilith Bear, Saturday, Nov. 8, 8pm-midnight, at Truck, 1900 Folsom.
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Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40


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