photo manipulation by nacrowe
its always interesting when bands deconstruct the live experience and provide critiques of all the PERFORMATIVE CLICHES associated with the band/audience ritual. my favorite example was how RUSH in their later years would put up popcorn machines, washing machines (complete with laundry) and even rotisserie ovens (complete with chicken) in lieu of a wall of amplifiers. it was beyond dorky and silly but undeniably cool. LE TIGRE does the same, being deliberately aloof with clunky dance moves, gaudy homemade outfits and amateurish choreography designed to lighten people up and shake them from trying to act cool at shows and actually, you know, have fun. forget what the person next to you is doing or wearing. forget pretense. just enjoy life a little.
the documentary WHO TOOK THE BOMP? LE TIGRE ON TOUR (FIX FILMS, 2010) follows the POST PUNK-inspired NYC ELECTROCLASH outfit LE TIGRE (made up of JOHANNA FATEMAN, JD SAMSON and KATHLEEN HANNA) around the globe and finds them going through all the mundane realities of touring life. its pretty eye-opening and quite discouraging to witness how REDUCTIVE and MORONIC the interview questions (not to mention NIRVANA-centric) routinely are and the level tokenism they have to deal with. its frustrating, cringe-inducing and just plain exhausting to witness the band's value be determined by hacks in the marketplace with superficial notions regarding GENDER and HANNA's past associations with a long-dead male musician. youd think the enormous cultural shadow of BIKINI KILL would color their perception, but no, its an all-male band she wasnt even in! there's a moment in the film when the band is doing radio promos for a show in JAPAN and they wanted to add in the words "feminism" and "lesbian" into the advertisement, but word got back that "feminism" was alright but a no-go on "lesbian." that struggle between one's internal politics and those of the marketplace is super interesting. how do you maintain a sense of purity in broader profit-motivated economic construct with its own regressive agenda to maintain a conservative status quo. i dont have an answer but its a beyond compelling dilemma.
at least stateside, it is quite insane to think how male-centric the live experience itself has become over the years. the band talks about the experience of dealing with SEXIST venue owners, promoters, sound guys, bouncers, etc. why is that? is it just an outgrowth of CORPORATE MARKETING and HETERONORMATIVE CONSUMERIST AGENDAS that underlies it or is that just WESTERN CULTURE in a nutshell. is the lowest common denominator of AMERICAN culture all these seeming hordes of uneducated, beer-consuming heterosexual WHITE MIDWESTERN cavemen with high school educations? are we doomed to that stage of affairs ad infinitum? feels like it. not much has changed since 2010. in fact, it feels worse. it feels like we've regressed as a society.
obviously how one is perceived is beyond one's control. what i appreciate about the band is their conscious effort throughout the film to promote a sense of INCLUSIVITY, which is probably routed in the underground fanzine culture they all came out of. HANNA is of course famous for her participation in the RIOT GRRRL scene with her band BIKINI KILL which challenged PATRIARCHY and aggressively promoted female artistic and political participation at their legendary shows and beyond. LE TIGRE feels like an extension of that same same ethos but with a goofy, danceable vibe that is much less caustic yet still confrontational, while still promoting the need for a safe community for expression among women and those dominated by male-defined spaces. like ROCK N ROLL.
as a WHITE HETEROSEXUAL dude, i know that this documentary is not necessarily aimed at my demographic per se, but id argue it has relevance and value to my cohort more than a decade after release. its always a good idea to be aware of the lived experiences of others and i feel like the work of LE TIGRE was a great vehicle for such needed communication. just makes it apparent of all the work that still needs to be done.
definitely a documentary worthy of investigation.