Jessie Evans with Toby Dammit at Bordello, 1/31/08

“Are we ready?” was the question Jessie Evans put to her drummer Toby Dammit right before she dropped her heavy, black winter coat to the Bordello stage floor, causing the crowd to inhale collectively at the sight of her costume underneath.

(all photos by Rena Kosnett)

Never has a country-western marching band leotard been put to such good use as it was last night on the body of Jessie Evans—she was all tassels and glitter and screaming red satin in an outfit so snug it may as well have been painted on. Evans and Dammit, although they introduced themselves as being from Berlin, spread their musical talents all over the US, their home terrain, before packing it up for Deutschland. Evans, also listed in the past as Jessie Trashed, played with new-wave revivalists the Vanishing and all-girl dance-punk quartet Subtonix in the San Francisco area before developing Autonervous, her other recent project, a two-piece group with Bettina Foster. And Dammit’s career is dazzling—Tex and the Horseheads, Iggy Pop, SWANS, even The Residents—his list goes on and on. But you wouldn’t have to know about any of Dammit’s major career moves to appreciate his skill last night. Watching him work his magic was like watching a turn of the century steam engine rolling over its tracks—you have to stand back and marvel at the power, and prowess, of such a beautiful machine. His stoic. forceful ability was the perfect canvas for Evans, who was all over the place, literally.

You had to hand it to the girl—she really put on a show. She was on stage, she was off stage, she was running, she was jumping, and she made good use of her bottled water, although the people down in front may have not been overly ecstatic when they got sprayed with her backwash.

Overall, the music was decent. Her opening and closing gothic-calypso single “Scientist of Love” is a smash. Total hit. It’s an unexpected and pleasant saxophone and percussion-led get up and move surprise of a song. When her girl-punk vocals beckon “Come over explorers/Let go of your horrors and love” you picture some magical dark paradise, perhaps located nearby, but not necessarily in, Jamaica.

Evans knows how good this song is, as she played it for her opener as well as her closer, which was fantastic. It was like getting to listen to your favorite track again at the end of an album. But that’s precisely the problem with synth-pop performers who sing over a pre-recorded track—the performance can get tiresome, like trying to listen to a dance hall album in your living room. Some people enjoy that kind of steady consistency, but me, I’m more partial to musical instruments that respond to touch, pressure, variation, emotion. I like to know that what I’m listening to is a living, pulsating organism. I love watching videos of Nick Cave in concert, because he and his Bad Seeds rarely play the same song exactly the same way twice. When Evans was playing her saxophone, I was spellbound. And when she wasn’t, and the music started to sound a bit too repetitive, I watched the blissed-out gay Latino gothic boys dance at the front of the stage, and I realized that for them, Evans was their “Deanna.”

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