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Photo: Crystal Sullivan / Melissa Ann Cook
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Photo: album art
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Photo: Bloomington Burlesque
The Lady Gagas Rock'n' Roll Tribute
A benefit for Bloomington's Middle Way House at The Bishop Bar.
The Bishop, 123 S. Walnut St., Bloomington, IN
May 8, 2010 at 10:30pm
$5 at door
Not everyone is a fan of glossy, radio-friendly pop music.
But chart-topping dance music star Lady Gaga is special – why else would a group of Bloomington punk and folk musicians choose to devote so much time to a performance of her songs?
Meet Crystal And Melissa
“When I came over today, you were looking up hot pants online?”
“Yeah. And sequined tube dresses. I’ve been on a week-long search for the perfect sequined tune dress.”
That’s Crystal Sullivan, vocalist for R’n’B inspired rock group Hot Mess.
Several months ago, Sullivan and her friend Melissa Ann Cook, former singer of punk band Jerk Alert, had the idea for a Lady Gaga rock and roll cover band. Weeks later, her dream became a reality. Along with several other musicians best known for their time in punk and folk ensembles, the group performs May 8 at The Bishop Bar in Bloomington.
For A Good Cause
The women decided to organize the event as a benefit for a non-profit.
“I definitely wanted to keep it local, and I wanted it to be female-oriented. We felt that Middle Way House would be a really good fit,” says Sullivan.
“I love supporting them,” Cook adds. “Whenever I have clothes to donate, I give them to them. Anything that I have, I try to give it to them. I think it’s important to support the women in our community.”
There’s Something About Gaga
The theme of supporting and empowering women extends to the music the group is choosing to cover. Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has won praise not only from her massive fanbase, but also from a variety of feminist thinkers and music critics.
Ms. Magazine, for instance, recently wrote that Gaga’s “immense popularity and youthful, outspoken image could be the perfect set-up for a revolution of the word ‘feminist.’”
Growing up, a theater kid and pianist in New York, Germanotta studied music at NYU before dropping out to pursue a career in pop music. She quickly gained major label attention as a songwriter for other artists before releasing her first record, The Fame, which broke the Billboard record for #1 singles on a debut album.
Not Your Mother’s Feminist Icon
Gaga’s songwriting chops, along with her ferocious, Freddie-Mercury-meets-Cindy-Sherman persona, have endeared her to many women who do not typically listen to pop music.
“I think that she is certainly a feminist pop artist, and it’s so important for girls to see that,” says Cook. “She’s not a product of something else, she’s a product of herself. She writes her own music, she’s in control of her image and what she does. That’s very rare for pop music, especially for female singers. Somebody always writes their songs, Lady Gaga was writing songs for other people before we even knew who she was.”
And though the blond superstar, with her skimpy outfits, may not be your mother’s feminist icon, Sullivan says Lady Gaga is anything but a passive sex object. She’s sexy, weird, and utterly in control.
“Some of her stuff is super sexual, but there’s so much power behind it, it’s like ‘I have the power to do whatever I want with my body, and be whatever I want with my body.’ That’s what’s really appealing about her.”
Disco Sticks, Etc.
The Bloomington Burlesque Brigade will perform an opening set at the event. The group plans to stay true to Lady Gaga’s stage show by incorporating costume changes, props, and a light show.
“I mean, you just can’t go up on stage, and look like yourself, and sing Lady Gaga songs,” laughs Cook. “No one’s going to put up with that.”
Preparing for the benefit show has had an unintended side effect on the frontwomen. Sullivan admits, “It’s definitely affecting my band. It’s making me think more about needing to show more energy on stage, or be more put together.”
Cook agrees: “Just by doing punk vocals most of the time, this is a chance to show a wide variety of skills instead of just screaming and yelling. I actually get to sing!”