CoS live @ Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA, 19 April 2001
By: Cocoa Beware
The Great American Music Hall feels plush, like an opera house. When I walked in, I was surprised to see Chicks on Speed collages, posters and what looked like a COS quilt hanging above the entrance. The crowd was very bubbly and I spotted a few drag queens and also some guys in cowboy outfits. The venue didn't sell out, but it was pretty full.
Kid 606 was first, and all the freaky IDM lovers crowded to the front. I enjoyed his visuals a lot; they matched the music he was making with his laptop. He teased the clubby San Francisco crowd by closing his set with 30 seconds of a house track, then cutting it short and smiling sheepishly.
IQU went next and they were great to watch as well. Michiko has a stage presence with her spacey clothing and composed air of proficience. The crowd was stunned when K.O. started playing a Theremin. He was very good at manipulating the pitch. Apparently, these instruments aren't that hard to make?
The Chicks came on stage pretty soon after IQU left, which was nice. The crowd seemed very receptive (the last time I saw CoS - Feb 22, 2000, Upstairs at the Garage, London - they seemed to be unhappy with London and the gig, and the crowd), and they launched right into their set. They included some songs I didn't think they would. "Night of the Pedestrian" "Panasonic Rip-off" "For All the Boys in the World" (by request). "Lisi, This Is House Music" Kiki's hand gestures were so perfect for "Lush Life" that members of the audience started doing them too. There was this song I haven't heard whose chorus went something like "Exploit yourself, before they exploit you"? It was really poppy, I loved it. They also sang "We Don't Play Guitars" which seemed to be a live favorite. The crowd really went for it.
Melissa's hair was heavily pomaded and her face was powdered stage-white, which made her looked slightly witchy, like Marlene Dietrich meets Shakespears Sister. Alex, with her accentuated heavy blush, looked like a cross between Grace Jones and Claudia Schiffer. Kiki looked at times angry, at times bored, and at times jubilant. Her slumber party bunny-hop is my favorite dance move of all time.
They were a multimedia extravaganza: inflatable Boob Monster, projections of intricate patterns and surreal images, Melissa in a yellow shirt with cape extension, Kiki in a black and red jacket that looked like something Michael Jackson wore in the 'Thriller' video, and Alex in a polka-dotted T-shirt with screenprint on back. They sang with force. They spoke at the same time. They punched the controls of tiny machines. They introduced "The Floating Pyramid" by saying something like, "This next song is kind of new agey..."; when the synthesizer intro started, the people up front started pogoing and dancing like robots.
My favorite moment was when Melissa started the bit of "Euro Trash Girl" that goes: "The waitress he married... She picked up the phone. She never really did like me..." and then paused and ripped off her cape to reveal the Bizarro-backwards Superman logo on her sleeveless shirt, defiantly shouting "But I can stand on my own!" The girl to my left with blue hair extensions stopped her slow gyrating and faux-Indian hand gestures and screamed. It temporarily gave me a bit more space.
For the encore, the Chicks returned in different outfits and sang "Turn of the Century" and another song which I am forgetting (maybe the other version of "Turn of the Century"?) Melissa (or maybe Alex?) picked up the huge Inflatable Boob Monster and they all started dancing under it like ants holding up a chunk of a sandwich. I looked around and even the people in the back were freaking out. I didn't want it to end.
Afterwards, the Chicks disappeared backstage. I loitered around conspicuously and then I asked the surly gatekeeper by the backstage door to give Kiki a present I made, and he sourly refused. I had to beg him to do it. Soon, Alex came out and I asked her if I could take a photo of the group for pHinn and she said yes and then she told me to wait and went backstage. Then the grouchy manager told me, "You are going to have to leave," so I made my way to the merchandise table. I helped the sweet merch-lady remove the Chicks poster from the wall, and she told me stories from the tour. She said that the Cleveland crowd was very punk and into the thrashier songs, and that the Chicago concert went really well. She kept alluding to the "next time the Chicks come here in concert" which I found promising.
Alex returned and brought me to the Chix bathroom, where they were removing their make-up. They remembered my Chix article in Amp! One of Melissa's brothers, Tobias (who lives in East Bay), took all our photos together with two cameras. (The room was oddly lit, and my camera doesn't have a flash, so the picture came out sort of fuzzy and cubist looking.) I made nervous small talk but they were very kind and at ease. They are as stimulating and unsettling as I expected they'd be, yet charming and smooth - the perfect combination.
See also: Attempted Boob Monster Theft in SF
CoS backstage with Cocoa Beware