Le Butcherettes were a portrait of domestic bliss when they walked onstage at Spaceland for their debut Los Angeles show. Sure, drummer Normandi Heuxdaflo and a mystery bassist guy looked a bit unsettling in their creepy masks, but singer Teri Gender Bender brandished a long red feather duster and vigorously swept the amplifiers and mike stand like an obedient housewife. How thoughtful.
Of course, her happy-homemaker white dress was covered in blood, and, once Le Butcherettes started to play, Ms. Gender Bender did'nt seem nearly as sweet and innocent. Songs that began as melodic, romantic entreaties soon turned into literal fuck-yous. When she chanted, "You can take my fucking dress off," it sounded both seductive and accusatory, the meaning changing with each inflection. Her love songs were political as much as they were personal, challenging gender roles with a raw, caustically uplifting directness.
Moving back and forth from keyboards to electric guitar, Gender Bender led the Mexico City band through a series of intense, cathartic workouts that encompassed fierce riot-grrl punk, dirty old blues, spoken-word improv and post-punk experimentation. She didn't get around to any of her solo acoustic tunes, but then again she wasn't in a sensitive singer-songwriter mode tonight.
Gender Bender was a constant fireball onstage, and even offstage, where she spent considerable (and risky) time crowd-surfing and dancing with strangers in the pit. She moved around so much, it was hard to get a good photo of her. Halfway through the set, I was looking down and fumbling with my camera when I felt something big and heavy whiz just past my head. I don't know what it was, but it came from the stage, and I'm glad it missed me. I don't think the singer was aiming at anyone in particular -- Gender Bender sent a lot of stuff flying across the dance floor, including her own body. Near the end of the show, she tossed white clouds of an unknown flour-like powder into the air, like a squid shooting ink to escape.
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Except Gender Bender wasn't trying to hide. She was perfectly willing to be the sacrificial fool/rag doll/scapegoat/martyr/avenger/exhibitionist, if that's what it took to save us, or at least get us to rock out and stand outside of our shadows for a little while. She did it all, including a quick and catty Salma Hayek impression. The near-capacity crowd appeared to be in love with Le Butcherettes before they even played -- perhaps based on instinct or rumor, since the trio don't have an album out yet and had never performed here before. There was even slam dancing, a rarity at Spaceland.
Much of the crowd was probably there to see one of the earlier bands, Vato Negro, a project with the Mars Volta's Omar Rodríguez-López and Juan Alderete. Rodríguez-López is a big fan of Le Butcherettes, and he's producing their upcoming full-length album, Sin Sin Sin. It's hard to imagine how he can fully capture Teri Gender Bender's manic onstage personality in the studio, but the results could be spectacular, as long as he keeps things . . . bloody.