w/the Valentine Killers, the Viles
Sit & Spin, 441-9484, Thurs Mar 29.
"I'd heard a lot of people in the few years before we started Pho Bang saying things like, 'The music scene in Seattle is dead.' And everybody was bored with drag," Ursula Android tells me over coffee. "But I think it's silly to think that either of those things is dead. It just all depends on how you present them."
I'm talking to Ursula, and to Jackie Hell as well, because for those who regularly attended their brilliant Thursday-night event, Pho Bang, which closed when Foxes went out of business, Seattle's nightlife now feels like it's lost an essential ingredient. The show was essentially a punk rock cabaret, which featured Jackie and Ursula's drag shows, live bands (the good, unknown kind), and lastly, dancing. The night always ended with DJ-spun '80s new wave and art rock, during which the audience overtook the stage and got loose.
"The dancing was my favorite part," Hell tells me.
Not mine. Mine was the drag, and I personally think drag is really stupid. But Jackie and Ursula are not the kind of ladies who don fake tits and bad wigs for the mere cheap thrill and ego stroke. They're twisted, gifted entertainers who re-appropriate ideas from old horror movies, cartoons, and vaudevillian theater to create modern performance that is nothing short of a blurry, drunken mindfuck.
"I think a lot of people have a yearning for vaudeville that they're maybe not even aware of," Ursula suggests. "And what we do is very much like vaudeville. Or kind of like a drag version of Laurel and Hardy. In different shows we take turns having one of us play the straight man and one of us playing the lunatic, and those roles sort of bounce back and forth. Or one of us is the aggressor and one of us is the victim. And those are great staples of old vaudeville. We just try very hard to entertain people the way they used to entertain people. I also think it's like Tom and Jerry cartoons, where a lot of the time it's just that same event shuffled in a different order to keep people entertained. Jackie and I have smashed bottles over each other's heads a million times, and throughout the course of an evening probably somebody's gonna get raped, and somebody's gonna get murdered. Probably somebody in a chicken suit is gonna molest somebody. But it's always presented differently, and there's always a different motive behind what we're doing. I think that has something to do with the popularity of Pho Bang."
Foxes was perfect for the show. It was rundown and overflowing with natural charm. The kind of place one might feel comfortable vomiting in. Ursula's hair loomed over the audience like a warning as she knowingly traversed the dingy space. Jackie Hell always sort of lurked, like an insane, dribbling thing. Without debate, Hell is a genius. The dynamic between the two of them--the sick, gut-spilling psychodrama they created--was the most decadent, punk rock tension and symbiosis Seattle saw each week. The crowds were always a mixed bag, and most everyone drank to excess.
"I think the show had the feel of a high school play, or a show in a barn," Ursula tells me. "It was definitely a very alcoholic good time, and there's nothing wrong with that. You had to have a certain amount of alcohol in you to really appreciate the night, and I think that's great. I definitely wouldn't recommend our show to people who don't drink."
So plan to drink heavily if you attend this week's "Faux Bang," a one-off Pho Bang at the Sit & Spin. The show will feature the Valentine Killers and the Viles, two bands that were scheduled to play Pho Bang before Foxes shut down. Note, however, that Ursula and Jackie have no plans to set up permanent residence anywhere else, unless Foxes reopens, or they discover some "trashy cowboy bar up here on the Hill with sawdust on the floor or something."
"With Foxes, sure, the bar was really gross in some ways," Ursula says, "but you definitely felt like you went somewhere when you went in there. It may not have been a nice place, but it was a real atmosphere."
"Yeah, because there was nothing intentional," Jackie adds. "It was just trash. That's what I liked about it."