“A bar of gold in the new depression”- Hilton Als describing Mx Justin Vivian Bond
This past Sunday 20 November 2011 I had the pleasure of seeing Mx Justin Vivian Bond perform at Joe’s Pub for the third time. I have encountered Mx Bond since the mid-1990’s when Mx performed at SqueezeBox! and hosted a party in the East Village called Foxy. Mx’s biting, about to go off the rails, wit provided endless moments of laughter and her passionate singing performances were also characterized by a liminal apocalyptic abandon that was appealing in the 1990’s queer landscape and simultaneously frightening as if Mx might cut you.
And I have seen Mx perform as the character Kiki, the grotesque, over the hill lounge singer of the duo Kiki & Herb. Those performances too were both alluring and seemingly dangerous. Where did Justin end and Kiki begin? Kiki might just cut you too.
Mx’s cabaret shows that I have seen at Joe’s Pub are no less passionate, no less overflowing with liminal apocalyptic abandon, but the songs Mx sings and those sung particularly on Sunday 20 November 2011. are replete with melancholy, loss and pain.
In contrast, Justin’s banter between songs is incredibly witty, funny and at times vulgar. Mx knows that the emotional intensity of the songs would be too much to bear without some relief, without some laughter. So, on Sunday, Mx recounted getting regular blowjobs from a seedy cab driver in the mid 90’s, volunteering as a candy striper as a teenager, falling in love with a fellow female volunteer, winning a Kate Bush album on the radio, playing the entire album over the phone for the teenage object of her affection. Laughter filled the room.
But while we (I) may enjoy the banter between songs, hearing Justin sing is why we (I) come again and again. As I wrote here the last time I saw Mx perform: While Justin Bond can be devilishly funny, her choice of songs and the manner in which she sings are full of longing and loss. They are always replete with tough emotion. They are poignant. They are cathartic. In this sense her form and content expresses what is essentially human: that life is about loss- loss of youth, loss of love, loss of friends and family. And despite our best efforts and the capitalist myths of everlasting life that surround us, we can never escape this haunting truth. Mx Justin Vivian Bond is the Chanteuse of the New Millennium.