Mysteries of Mad River + Grumble: Love and Anger - Friday 16th September
It's been a pretty stressful week. I won’t go into the details (*read marriage equality debate) but let’s just say that Alana is ready to put on some fancy clothes, have a gin and let her hair down. It's 6pm, we need to get ready and head down to Chippendale for our first show. I emerge from the shower to find my partner, Declan, trying to balance an allen key on his nipple... To be fair, he had spent the afternoon building IKEA shelves and his patience was growing thin, but I can not help but feel that this will somehow set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Dec follows me into the bedroom as I slip on an appropriately fun and psychedelic ‘fringey’ dress.
He hesitantly asks, “So…what are we seeing tonight…?”
“The Mysteries of Mad River. It’s swampy blues mixed with Tom Waits and Nick Cave. You’ll love it, babe…”
I smile. “And then, Betty Grumble…”
“Betty Grumble…?” Dec asks. “What does she do?”
I can’t help but laugh. “There will be vagina,” is all I can say.
We arrive at the Knox Street Bar, order some wine and enter into the world of Mad River.
My eyes immediately move to the projected illustration on the brick wall. It's a drawing of the Mad River Tribune with the ominous headline ‘Children Are Disappearing.’ As Keppie Coutt’s strides onto the stage with wide, manic eyes it becomes blindingly clear who’s responsible.
The band fires up and Coutts launches into her first song, ‘The Revenge of Willy Rose #1.”
Her macabre tale of wayward children, lost love and curses is peppered with humour, heartache and homework. Her voice soars alongside the tinkling piano, steel guitar and double bass with a sultry cadence. At other times it almost sounds like fingers digging into the wet earth of the Mad River bayou.
The Mysteries of Mad River is somewhere between Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s Murder Ballads, Roald Dahl and Little House on the Prairie. I ove it.
An anarchic looking Marie Antoinette commands the rose coloured Stage One of the HPG Festival Hub. T. Rex’s Hot Love blasts from the speakers. She strides backwards and forwards amongst a chaos of roses and hieroglyphs scrawled onto a white sheet.
Marc Bolan’s voice crescendos.
She flips up her ruffled skirt, grabs her labia and begins to mime along to Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You’ with her vagina.
Betty Grumble is in the house.
Her show, Grumble: Love & Anger (Or Sex Clown Saves the World Again!), is queer, feminist performance art at its finest – enraged and grotesquely beautiful, part exorcism, all woman.
Her body gyrates and convulses as it leads us through rituals of hedonistic violence and heartfelt sensuality. During her cover of Iggy Pop’s I Wanna Be Your Dog, Grumble howls an excerpt from the SCUM Manifesto and calls upon the spirit of Valerie Solanas to move through us. Later on she has us screaming, “YES!” over and over as she wraps herself in rainbow flag bunting.
I look around the audience.
I am surrounded by living breathing bodies, wailing, writhing, clapping – practically Pentecostal, speaking in tongues, hands raised to the sky – “YES!”
We need strong bodies like Grumble’s, now more than ever, to move us, to challenge us and most importantly to remind us to stay angry.
I sip my gin.
I feel electric.
As the performance ends, Grumble calls to the sound operator,
“Play a bit of Kate Bush babe!”
Bush’s voice swirls-
“Don’t ever think that you can’t change the past and the future…”
Love & Anger indeed…
[Tomorrow Millie goes applauding with the Naughty Hands]
Written by Alana Bowden