i woke up today feeling hungover and tired from all the stuff i have been pouring into my days. besides my cultural diet, i am also gorging on old friends and long catch-ups. so i took today easy, kind of.
when my friend c.Love and i had coffee this morning, i asked her if she was doing anything interesting tonight.
"yes, trans, dolly, gospel."
that's really all i heard, because i got so excited by what she was describing.
"stop," i said."i want to be surprised."
so i ended up tonight at joe's pub in manhatten seeing an incredible transwoman perform the gospel-oriented repertoire of dolly parton, complete with 7 piece band and choir.
it's so rare that i see something i knew nothing about ahead of time, and i think it's a major contributor to being blown away. i dare say, that only the first time or the hundreth time you see a performer, it has the potential for real transcendance.
our lady J got me tonight. she re-arranged and re-contextualized songs like "the grass is blue", "traveling", "two doors down", "9-5", "the seeker", "i will always love you", combining hits and more obscure tracks, switching between secular and non-secular music. not only was she a killer piano player and arranger, she had 4 costume changes! i was taking notes.
listening to song after song, i was also struck by the depth of the writing. that was the real brilliance of the show for me and what makes dolly parton such a rich vein to mine for comment. not only does she write with humor and flair and craft, she also writes from a deeply spiritual place that anyone can connect to. it's tempting to love dolly parton ironically, for her exagerated appearance, for her gaudy production values, for all her shiny country sheen, but that's all sequins to make people buy things. only later do we consumers realize there is the heart of a true artist beating underneath the costume.
it's really important to me that we make a space in our culture for people who don't fit in narrow boxes, who would rather make their own categories. people like dolly parton. or our lady j. and that's how i think of myself, for sure. the category of erin. i am especially attracted to those who push at the gender spectrum, who shade it with finer and finer grades. when you combine that with good old fashioned show biz, then i'm a goner.