For a smooth, rockin' good time, nothing beats the beats of local musician Ripley Caine. Ripley has been a fixture of Chicago's queer music scene for a good few years. She has really made her name as the curator of Cake Chicago, a monthly queer music ( and more ) showcase at Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood Ave. This Friday night, October 10 Cake Chicago celebrates it's first anniversary with a 'Vegas, Baby' spectacular.
I sat down with Ripley over a few beers to discuss Chicago's queer music scene, the possibility of free beers and why you should never compare her to Alanis Morissette.
Kirk Williamson: It's all about Cake Chicago's first anniversary. Tell me a little about how the showcase came together.
Ripley Caine: Sure. Cake Chicago started out of my personal desire and need to have something alternative for myself being an out, lesbian woman other than Chix Mix. So, I decided that I was going to do something about it because I am a musician; I know how to book shows; I know how to book bands, etc. Red Line Tap was gracious enough to give me a shot—for real. An opportunity at a straight venue in Rogers Park to give me a Friday or Saturday night. And we were going to do it on a trial basis for three months. Every month they say it's one of the best shows they've had that month. They totally let me book whoever I want; whatever I want; whenever I want. I can't think of any other Chicago venue, or any other venue for that matter, that would let a woman book a queer showcase at a straight venue and for that venue to give it to them on a platter.
KW: Do you think this stubbornness you encounter is specifically a 'queer woman' thing or does it have more to do with just being a woman?
RC: Well, I would say that in the music business, women are still, you know, at the bottom of the list. It's a very interesting question.
KW: Well, does it piss you off that, in the eyes of the industry, men make 'music' and women make 'women's music?'
RC: Abso-fuckin'-lutely. It's like, 'I'm an openly gay chick and I play folk music.' Well, I don't. I play an acoustic guitar and some of the songs are folk-influenced but I have yet to see another singer-songwriter out there doing what I'm doing. And so it's the same thing with Cake Chicago: I have yet to see someone else out there doing something like it ( other than Homolatte ) . But this is in a bar; it's a monthly showcase One of the things I wanted to do with it was to break the stereotype of it being a queer event only; I wanted to have it at a 'straight' venue because I wanted to bridge the gap. We all should love one another and we should all love one another through art and music, at least to begin with and the Red Line Tap has been really wonderful.
KW: Speaking of loving one another, on your myspace space you have the quote 'blending queer artistry into the general public through live music and more. Tell me about this more.
RC: Well, Kirk, let me tell you about more.
KW: Oh, do.
RC: The original concept for Cake Chicago was that I wanted to have it be an alternative for the lesbian and gay community to do something other than hear BOOM-TT-TT-BOOM-TT-TT [ meant to indicate pounding club beats ] all night long. My goal was to do art shows, and dance and independent film and do this huge art thing. But, it's very hard to do something like that when you're doing it all by yourself and because I know how to book shows, that's why I've kept it like this. But, if all goes well, knock on wood [ knocks on the table ] in March or April of 2008 I'm going to curate a queer art show for a weekend. Hopefully, that will be part of the more. But, at the live music showcases we also have spoken word, comedians, poetry. I've tried to integrate other forms that could be done in a bar.
KW: Now, you mentioned Homolatte. Did you learn anything from being part of that series?
RC: Only that it's very frustrating. From an artist's perspective, not so much. But from a booking perspective and trying to keep it going and venues and draw and money and drink tickets and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But you know what, it's the same at any other venue: if you don't draw they don't want you back. But yet, the venue does nothing for you; you're lucky if you get a free beer.
KW: Yes, they look at it from a business perspective. They're the business and you're the artist and it's that old...
RC: That old cliché.
KW: And we're part of it.
RC: [ grunts ]
KW: As far as your musical style, give me one example of a comparison that's been made that you enjoy and one example that you don't want people knowing about.
RC: One that I always enjoy is PJ Harvey. When most people say, 'What kind of music do you play?,' I say 'Do you know who PJ Harvey is?' If they say, 'Oh, yeah,' I say that I'm an acoustic version of her. That's the only way I know how to A bad one—one that I don't like to comment on—is that I don't sound anything like Alanis Morissette; I don't sound anything like the Indigo Girls; I don't sound anything like Melissa Ferrick or Melissa Etheridge.
KW: But you have a vagina...
RC: I have a pussy. I Have a cooter. I munch on carpet. That doesn't mean I like any of those bands. That doesn't mean I play music like any of those bands. And that doesn't mean that I play music that's only queer specific. I play music that I think anyone could listen to, but you have to be in a certain frame of mind.
KW: So, what can we expect at the one-year anniversary of Cake Chiago?
RC: Well, personally I'm very excited because we have Futura Demi Bold, the hostess with the mostest.
KW: One of my favorite fonts!
RC: Exactly--drag queen extraordinaire. I will be performing as well as very good friends of mine Carrie Lydon and Kate Rickenbacker. They're always a fun group of gals. Cameron Esposito will do some comedy. Martha Berner is going to end the show; I'm very excited to hear her and Kerri Grant is going to open the show. So it's a plethora of females on the stage and it's a plethora of different styles of music and comedy and, as I said, a drag queen's gonna host the show. And the best part of it is that we have a theme: Vegas, Baby! What that means is that I want all the artists and all the guests that come to interpret that for themselves and come dressed up.
KW: Well, I'll come wearing a pair of dice.
RC: And nothing else.