#Iwanttodrawyourband VAG HALEN
these pictures were drawn live at the Vag Halen show @ Wrongbar Fri October 18th, 2013. it was my first time seeing the band, and I was really looking forward to the experience after missing their stellar performace at Long Winter last year.
when I was a high school freshman, my dad walked in on me jamming out to some Nirvana- and after asking me what the hell kind of noise I was listening to, he introduced me to hard rock. I became fluent in Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, & Queen- and began holding music exchanges with the various rocker kids in my high school, trading Pink Floyd cds for Jimi Hendrix box sets. getting burnt discs of Metallica or Guns & Roses from the girls in my computer class, and swapping them for Aerosmith & The Doors.
imagine my surprise when I first learnt the term “cock rock”.
incidentally, when I first heard the term I was reading the passage of Chuck Kloosterman’s “Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs”- where he was talking about ironic taste in music at industry conferences. I knew I couldn’t be the only feminist who liked cock rock, and yet- I hated how the only role for women in the genre, was as a groupie.
by appropriating & performing songs from that genre, all-girl cover band & queer feminist art rockers Vag Halen reject the model of rock & roll where women can only participate as the audience. the end result is a musical product which is as refreshingly subversive, as it is wildly entertaining.
after a couple of short sets by awesome preteen punk rockers Unfinished Business, and some noise? rock? from New Fries who are new to the Toronto music scene (this is only their 4th show, and they must be stoked to be playing such a stacked bill)- Vag Halen climb on stage. their 2 front women are in matching balaclavas and body stockings. there’s a stripper pole set up in front of stage right. lead singer Vanessa Dunn starts wailing, and the crowded venue of mostly queer women goes wild.
what proceeds is an unusually erotic, high octane rock & roll performance- covering a repertoire of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Guns & Roses, & even Nirvana. the performance leaves many audience members feeling as if they’ve had a religious experience, and here’s why:
as a band concept, Vag Halen is successful by hitting multiple targets that we look for in a great musical performance. strictly as a gimmick, it’s really easy to get behind sexy women in lingerie, gyrating while they perform seamless covers of songs we already love. it’s basically a recipe for how to create a commercially successful rock band. what’s so clever about it, is that this formula will look like a pretty par-for-the-course use of the female body to sell music. however, conceptually the performance reads less like exploitation, & more like historical revisionism in the playful manner of queer painter & jokester Kent Monkman. (In his paintings, Monkman challenges the fact that classic Canadian paintings such as the works of Paul Kane, exclude Native and queer voices- by revisiting this scene & style, but adding gay cowboys and Indians fucking each other.) this elevates their appropriation into art, and conveys a social message in a format that’s fun, not preachy.
the wrongbar show is sing along burlesque to head bang to. there’s nothing not to like here. periodically a girl from the audience will send a stream of beer flying towards the stage. right before the set, I took off my bra- which I now throw onto the stage. it seems only fitting. during a smoke break after the show, I thank the band for a fantastic performance- and I use all of my self-restraint not to go into a Wayne’s World-esque chant of “we’re not worthy!”
back into the venue. hot & bothered. we all want t-shirts, but they’re sold out of everything but the largest size. I decide to buy one anyways, and mutilate the basic tee into a much more revealing garment -and my own sexy tribute to a sexy band.
long live heavy flow rock and roll.