Free Radicals: Gabrielle, Velocity and Vaudeville

My Wednesdays in NYC are usually reserved for Burning Man Happy Hour. While it isn’t always that well attended, it is a guaranteed good time: people I know and have something in common with and, usually, cheap-ish drinks. That it mostly happens at my favorite bar, a mere three blocks away, make sattending an even easier decision. So events that happen on Wednesday usually lose out to pints of PBR. One of those events has been Radical Vaudeville, a monthly evening of “brutally brilliant entertainment” that my friend Gabrielle Penabaz produces and emcees. It’s been happening for a few years and next month will be their final show. Damn it. Last night, after a few beers, I wound up in the audience. And I dragged a few other happy hour-ers with me. Sure, showing up somewhere after you’ve been drinking might not be the best idea, but the concept of vaudeville suggests comedy. And we were ready to laugh.

The show had quite a bit of interaction, including one totally bizarre performance that featured audience members being literally pulled into the show, still in their seats. I wound up chasing the guy backstage, pulling his clothes off and giving him a sponge bath in a utility closet. It was all part of the performance, I shit you not, with no weird sexual over- (or under) tones. Fun, right? Well the guy who came on after that bit of shenanigans wasn’t quite as interactive. He was a stand-up comedian. And my friends and I were still in interactive mode. Uh-oh. I’m a big supporter of artists so would never maliciously heckle. But if someone asks, “Ya know?” or something, and looks to the audience for a response, I’m gonna pipe up. My friend was a little mouthier than that, though, and we got the verbal smackdown from Mr. Comic more than once. We were un-sober enough to not be insulted. But I don’t think I can say the same about the stand-up. Oops. Our bad. The show, in its entirety, was definitely entertaining, including the absurdity of our dust-up with the comic. And it was fun to see not only the familiar faces onstage but those in the audience, some of whom I hadn’t seen in — but have known for — years. It was, in other words, a really good time!

Which leads me to today’s spotlight, which I’ll point it at two of my performing arts friends, Gabrielle and Velocity.

My Bloody !BadAss! - Midnight Saturday July 17th, 2010. Photo by GothicHangmanVelocity Chyaldd was one of last night’s performers. I’ve known — and booked her — for almost 20 years. Yipes! She has always served up edgy, cerebral burlesque as well as deeply personal, gut-wrenching rock ‘n’ roll. She produces the long-running BadAss Burlesque!, which I’ve written about and emceed for at a couple of its many venues, from Bowery Poetry to Arlene’s Grocery. It really is the most subversive of all the city’s burlesque shows and definitely my favorite. As the front woman and creative force behind Vulgaras, Velocity has shocked and delighted audiences while exorcising her demons. I’ve loved everything she’s done, from the first time I saw her, wrapped in saran and sloppy meat at the Pyramid to last night’s channeling of Marilyn Monroe. She never disappoints.

gabfleurGabrielle St. Evensen, aka Saint Eve, is a chanteuse and producer, alchemist of dreamy liqueurs, writer and filmmaker, editor and aesthete, with a voice so sexy she gets paid to record erotica. She has graced many stages I’ve emceed or managed, going back almost two decades. I still rave about her performance of “The Chain” at Night of Thousand Stevies 23. It was flawless. And her ensemble, wings of actual chains, made it even more memorable. So good. She’s been producing Radical Vaudeville and I’ve attended “Till Death Do You Part: Marry Yourself,” her one-on-one, live art piece/installation. She’s one of those people you can call on to do just about anything: just provide a theme!

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