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  WINDY CITY TIMES

BENT NIGHTS
by Vern Hester
2001-05-23

This article shared 1232 times since Wed May 23, 2001
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Its' 2001. We're edging past the gay revolution and into a new ( mainstream? ) sensibility. What used to be gay ( and therefore cutting edge ) now seems commonplace, and safe. As a reflection, gay humor seems to be experiencing a sitcom-induced canning ( canned laughter ) in our gravitation to acceptance. But not Lee Kay and his Bubbleheads. The stretch of Halsted from Belmont to Wave-land is filled with boutiques and shops aimed at same-sex shoppers, but only Batteries Not Included sticks out. Though I've never been in the store, the front window is always worth checking out. 3-D artist Kay's installations are everything that gay humor has lost.

Somewhere between Mad Magazine zaniness and Andy Warhol satire, Kay's caricatured cut-out paintings with accessories have a bizarre in-crowd smartness, a ribald hilarious infantilism that's witty, delirious, and pointed in a non-sarcastic way. There's Judy Tenuta looking over-ripe and royal; RuPaul with that stainless steel smile and the rest of him/her spilling out of a corset; Quentin Crisp looking too witty and slightly ridiculous for it, and most hysterically ( for me ) media baroness Tracy Baim kicking a soccer ball with unbridled little-girl glee. The unknown ones are just as funny. Enlarged heads of adults, bug-eyed, laughing/smirking/grinning/sulking with the frenzied unsocially educated freedom of a three-year-old. A new vibe of humor for these troubled times or perhaps a re-invention of gay humor? Can't say, I'm not an art critic.

But I did get to speak to Kay briefly and he let me know it's all in fun. "I love the way people look, if they are a little heavy, or different, like being on a bus, there are so many different kinds of people and I love it. It's like a show." By day Kay draws construction drawings for architectural firms ( "I'm not a 9-to-5 type of guy ) , but he relishes the freedom of creating his Bubbleheads, and his relationship to Batteries seems made in heaven. I asked him what's next for the window, and he said possibly a white trash wedding. Should be perfect for Market Days.

_____

Andrew Bird and the Bowl of Fire play the Double Door June 1 and 2. Even if you've never heard him or seen his face, you've likely read something about Bird in the last three months, or about his new CD, The Swimming Hour.

A year ago I went to a WXRT Local Anesthetic showcase at the Metro. The surprise of the night was Bird, fronting an oddly arranged band ( the drum kit was set at the lip of the stage-;up front ) who then tore into a letter-perfect buffet of gypsy and obscure ( as in the 1920s ) western music that was not only exotic and fiercely passionate, but intensely emotional. The gem of the show was Bird himself. A slight, goodlooking, unassuming man who has "shy guy" written all over him, Bird also has a way of standing and projecting that speaks of innocence and non-arrogance ( this isn't an act-;he's really like this ) . Then he props his violin on his shoulder, jerks his body into the music, closes his eyes, opens his mouth to sing, and ... he's outa here. I assume he's in the music, but he could be in Wonderland, heaven, ( on the searing "Why" I'm sure he's in ) hell, somewhere, but not there at the moment.

Since the release of The Swimming Hour, Bird has reconfigured the Bowl of Fire with longtime collaborator ( drummer ) Kevin O'Donnell, adding bassist Jimmy Sutton ( of the 4 Charms ) and co-vocalist Nora O'Connor and frequent guest Kelly Hogan. The Swimming Hour is technically the first "modern" recording the Bowl of Fire has made. Not necessarily a departure from something good to begin with, but a shockingly fresh swerve in another direction. Better to catch them at the Double Door where the vibe is smokey and intimate, the lights are a touch above pitch black, and the room allows you to fall right into Bird's flight path.


This article shared 1232 times since Wed May 23, 2001
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