Just push play
Local GLBT rockers turn "gay music" stereotypes on their ear
The Flesh Hungry Dog Show has hosted monthly concerts at Jackhammer for the past year, giving Chicago’s gay crowd an alternative venue to see queer and queer-friendly rock bands. The show’s promoter (and Flesh Hungry Dog frontman) Gary Airedale, has booked two of the city’s biggest indie bands for the upcoming one-year anniversary show, new wavers the Dirty Things and glam-punks Baby Teeth. But fans of FHDS know that queer beats are always at the core of this gay-music extravaganza. As the gay-music scene in the city heats up, Jackhammer remains one of many places to check out up-and-coming GLBT rockers like these:
The Flesh Hungry Dog
Airedale discovered Hedwig and the Angry Inch and his musical self in the same week. “I started to think, I want to be in a rock band,” he says, so he started taking lessons and joined up with a few friends to play at Jackhammer’s Out Music Open Mic Night. With a positive response to the group’s B-52’s–inspired sound and Airedale’s determination, the Flesh Hungry Dog was born. The band sings songs such as “Macho Pussy,” with cheeky lyrics like “Read my lips!” and probably boasts Chicago’s most diverse lineup, with members who are transgender, straight, gay, African-American, and as its website states, “white boys from the ’burbs.”
8 Inch Betsy
This two-year-old pop-punk trio is more like Green Day than the Donnas. Riding high after a Midwest tour with the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and a recent opening slot for the Gossip at the Abbey Pub, the ladies are reinventing “women’s music” by producing their own feminist homocore style. “People are usually surprised when they see us,” says drummer Stephanie Levi. “They’re probably used to having a lesbian with a strap-on guitar singing a slow song. They didn’t know they have the option of choosing something else.” Levi’s cohorts are vocalist-guitarist Meghan Galbraith and bassist Liz Burke. As for their elusive band moniker, Levi says, “If you think it’s a sexual innuendo of some sort, great. It can have some references to a doll, too. But we leave it open to interpretation, and everyone seems to enjoy thinking what they want to think about it.”
The women of Stewed Tomatoes have been in the Chicago rock scene for more than a decade, so they’ve encountered a lot of hecklers. “As three women in a band, we’d be setting up and people would yell, ‘Play some Melissa Etheridge or Indigo Girls,’?” says drummer Katie J. “Then we get up there and play hard rock and we have nothing left to prove.” With lyrics like, “I wanna be your leather daddy?/?I wanna pump you all night long,” the Stewed Tomatoes aren’t shy about expressing their sexuality. The members are seasoned veterans of both the rock- and gay-music scenes, and boast performances on Q Television and Windy City Radio. J says she and bandmates Lisa Hernandez and Martie Marro have five self-released albums and years of refusing major-label contracts behind them. Their alt-rock sound is edgy yet accessible, an incredible feat for a band with explicit ideas expressed so clearly in their songs.
Three Dollar Bill
While it’s inevitable that queer bands will always be identified as “gay musicians,” it is less of an issue for bands who have the talent to win over fans of all orientations. As devotees of punk and rock & roll, Jane Danger, Chris Piss, Chip Lash and G. Rex have done a little bit of everything on the proverbial musical scale. They’ve scored music for two plays, performed in an upcoming film, Hellbent, recorded albums, played every venue in the city, and toured extensively. With androgynous lyrics and a metal edge, their sound is as easy to find in gay music as a $3 bill in a bank.
The FHD anniversary show rocks the Jackhammer Fri 21.