Like A Record, Baby :: San Francisco Album Project’s Drag and Rock Mix
San Francisco has a rich history of drag, which has brought us everything from the acid-tinged musicals of The Cockettes, to extravaganzas dedicated to this season’s reigning pop divas.
But The San Francisco Album Project is a bit different. Pairing gender-blending performance art drag with some of the greatest albums of the last few decades, the Album Project presents classic records in their entirety. On Sunday, January 19, the Album Project will be breaking out the flannel shirts and plaid glitter for a drag interpretation of Nirvana’s breakthrough 1990s classic Nevermind.
According to Robert Barber, (who produces the bi-monthly Album Project shows, alongside Nathan Rapport and Michael Soldier) the Album Project came into existence after years of working within San Francisco’s thriving drag scene.
"Nathan and I were bouncing ideas back and forth trying to find our own niche, our own take on a drag show. Some of our favorite drag events ever were the ’album’ nights at Trannyshack back when it was at The Stud. That concept was first thought up there at Trannyshack by Heklina, Peaches Christ and Vinsantos, and we wanted to try and build off of it. Once Nathan and I were able to bring Precious Moments (Soldier) on board as our third producer/director we knew we had to go for it."
The first show in May of last year featured Yaz’s 1982 record "Upstairs at Eric’s." Since then, the Album Project crew have also tacked Radiohead’s "OK Computer," Prince’s "Parade," and Roxy Music’s self-titled debut from 1972. They’re not traditional drag fare, and that’s part of the beauty of Album Project shows.
According to Barber, one of the ideas driving the shows is that that "drag performance can be many things; not just in content, but in form as well."
In keeping with that boundary-pushing, the Album Project performances are not your typical lip-sync show in a bar. Thus far the shows have also been presented in a "non-traditional" venue for drag performance. The first four happened at The Chapel on Valencia Street, and this month’s Nirvana show is moving to the Victoria Theater.
"The venue is very important to a show like this one," Barber says. "[At first,] we weren’t sure just how the night would be experienced as a whole. Is it a club night that has a show? Or is the Album Project a night at the theatre with a listening party before and afterwards? A combination of the two?"
Before and after the shows, DJs spin a mix of tunes from the same year as the featured album, giving audiences some context for the material, as well as a crash course in excellent tunes.
The shows themselves are the result of collaborations between the producers and a wide range of San Francisco drag performers. The Nirvana show will star Johnny Kat, U-Phoria, Jordan L’Moore, Ambrosia Salad,Vivvyanne Forevermore, Raya Light, Roxanne RedMeat, and Elijah Minnelli.
"Watching a drag show in a theatre instead of a nightclub elevates the performance, albeit superficially," said Barber. "Ultimately what happens on the stage has to live up to the grandeur and history of the venue. This is something I hope we’re able to do with the Victoria Theatre."
We asked Barber what’s next for the Album Project, and he opted to maintain the mystery for a bit longer - the album for the next show is announced at the end of the show. But he did offer this tidbit.
"The March show is the day before St. Patrick’s Day, so perhaps we’ll be doing something relating to that."
The Album Project performs Nirvana’s Nevermind at the Victoria Theatre, Sunday, January 19. $15-$20. 8pm. 2961 16th St. Tickets: http://store.peacheschrist.com/products/129-the-san-francisco-album-project-nevermind.aspx