For shows and new music from local musicians queer and otherwise, 2015 ended with so many great offerings that I feel cursed for not being able to cover all of them last month. For starters there were three sold-out blowouts at The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., starting with buzz rockers Meat Wave and Melk Belly on Dec. 12, then straight-up hard rockers Mama and Vamos on Dec. 14.
The final 2015 edition of queer showcase Glitter Creeps took place on Dec. 16 and the show turned out to be as violently schizophrenic as it was entertaining. Opener Donkey Hotel ( with hot pants wearing, ukulele strumming bear "Chill" Bill in exceptional form ) was typically literate and passionate and proved to be the sanest band on the bill. Once The Holy Alimonies got onstage and cut loose with a furious barrage of soggy urban hard twang the night got nuttier by severe degrees.
If The Alimonies jacked the evening into high gear, a rare set by happy poppers Sheep Numbers knocked it into overdrive with a neck-snapping change in mood. With vocalist/guitarist Mike Martello smacked up on cheer ( think of Mr. Rogers on happy dust ), the band celebrated the holidays, life, and anything else that needed celebrating all in one furious forty five minute set. Where The Alimonies snarled through their set with grimaces on their faces and vengeance ( seemingly ) in their hearts, the Numbers frolicked and bounced with an unnerving glee. The fact that both bands served up differing flavors of rock with equal portions of gusto actually made the pairing intoxicating in a deranged way.
All that bama-lama was all fine and polite until Alan Khan and his deceptive band, Bad Bad Meow, closed out the night with even more extreme weirdness. This quintet clearly has a lot more going on than their recordings imply and seeing them loose on stage gave a much fuller picture of who/what they are. On 2015's Half the Bad and Twice the Good ( available through Bandcamp ), the act embraces a ramshackle looseness which would not sound out of place on a Delaney and Bonnie album from 1969.
"Freak Flag," "Leave" and "Bad Bad Bad," have an effortless sloppiness that is downright appealing. Hearing those songs onstage was something else altogether with Khan and bassist Stanley Treger taking what sounded like spacy rock and twisting it into steel-shredding punk. Between Khan being possessed by some ribald demon and Treger flinging himself about like a wet doily in the wind, Bad Bad Meow resembled black comedy on parade. Funnier still were the reactions of guitarist Greg Peerbolte, drummer Tommy Mendoza and Grace Alford on keyboards who looked at the proceedings with a bored inevitability.
With Bad Bad Meow officially starting up the second year of Glitter Creeps ( the anniversary was in November ), 2016 clearly promises to be thrilling for a number of reasons.
For those in need of a more sedate flavor of queer music, we have acoustic troubadour Dylan Wright and his new Hate Me EP ( available via Bandcamp ). Wright deals exclusively in the kind of confessional, patient sparse pop that belonged exclusively to Roberta Flack back in the early 1970s. Hate Me is a quiet, sweet little masterwork and feels intensely personal, but for all the muted emotions and hushed tones ( Wright seems to just love singing in your ear ) the man and the music come off as compelling and seductive.
"Tell Me I'm Afraid" is so subtle and nuanced that it begs to be played repeatedly, and I have yet to decide whether I love the song itself or the way it makes me feel. Wright has this slight crack in his voice which gives his warm tones a slightly melancholic edge but the overall effect is hardly sad or tragic. Bianca Russelburg displayed a deft, light touch as producer Hate Me and Wright sounded so fragile that you may feel he and it will blow away in the breeze. My favorite, "Hate Me," is a treasurea near-lullaby of gentle lyrical emotions tumbling over a haunting melody. For all the warmth and subtly on display here I think Hate Me is Wright and Russelburg's way of telling the world to shut up and listen.
Heads up: Out guitar goddess Kaki King hits City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., on Tuesday, Jan. 19, for a second helping of her The Neck is a Bridge to the Body Tour, which I called one of the best concerts of 2015. Queer-flavored band Absolutely Not heads a bill at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., that includes Strawberry Jacuzzi and Velocicopter on Saturday, Jan. 30, while LGBTQ faves Metric play The House of Blues Friday, Feb. 12.