Nope. You're nobody until a drag queen's done ya. Meet Peaches, a haute couture sexual provocateur in third-rate fashion store clothing. You may never have heard of her, but thanks to crotch-grinding queens across the country she's as blue-blooded as Tina Turner, Cher or Madonna. And it just so happens the real Madonna and Peaches will be in the Peach State on the same night, though that's not their only similarity.
"I've had drag queens do Peaches shows in New York and L.A.," says the sex-crazed Berliner (by way of Toronto) , drawing up the first of many Madonna comparisons. "They dress up like me and perform 'Fuck the Pain Away' (from Peaches' Kitty-Yo solo album The Teaches of Peaches).
"A gay friend of mine in New York went to this club called the Fat Cock and all of a sudden he hears people yelling, 'Peaches! Peaches!' He got kind of confused since I'm his friend and he couldn't figure out how I'd be there. Then this drag queen came out instead in little red shorts, fishnets, etc. And there's even a girl rock band in Finland who does Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre and Peaches covers, too."
Therein lies the conundrum of Peaches, the 30-something Merrill Nisker who'd done stints in acoustic folk (Mermaid Café) and noise-core (the Shit) before her dirty mouth, gritty avant-harde beats and a move from teaching music to school children in Toronto made her the toast of the European press.
Peaches' music can sit comfortably with drag queens lip-syncing their lady Madonna and indie rock's royal court, which includes the aforementioned Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre. With her hissy, distorted guitar and raunchy raps, Peaches comes across raw as carpet-burnt knees, like Lil' Kim fronting '70s synth-punk pioneers Suicide. Saying the explicit things usually associated with male entertainers, Peaches -- like Madonna before her -- strikes a compelling female figure, almost more fun to deconstruct than simply enjoy.
Peaches' stage show, however, may not be as enjoyable for the less alternatively oriented crowd, as she found out a few weeks ago. At the free Village Voice Siren Music Festival on Coney Island, she performed alongside some of indie rock's crowned kings, including Quasi, Superchunk, Guided By Voices and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
Peaches -- in fishnets, garter belt, panties and a torn red top, with the mic stand protruding from her crotch -- certainly managed to get the crowd's attentions. She ran through songs including "Diddle My Skittle," "Cum Undun" and the Eurotrash club hit "Lovertits." Peaches rocks crowds, so they figured she'd fit with indie rockers. And she did. She just didn't fit with parents.
"It was pretty funny," recalls Peaches, "because there were all these moms complaining. They were like, 'That girl, what's she doing? My kid's got his mouth open and I don't know what to tell him. Make her stop.' All these moms were looking for the stage manager and the stage manager was trying to shut me down. They were holding up a sign that said, 'Say goodbye.'"
Surely more than one parent was up in arms in the '80s as children watched as Madonna writhed in a wedding dress performing "Like A Virgin" at the MTV Video Awards. As well, both Peaches and Madonna are probably as infamously well known in their skivvies as they are fully clothed.
Friends have told Peaches -- who invited Madonna to her show when the two tours crossed previously in New York -- that Madonna played The Teaches of Peaches over the PA before going on stage in Barcelona. And like the Material Girl, Peaches' anti-fashion style has been appropriated by label whores and "rebel" designers, used in runway shows for Prada and Givenchy, among others.
The Teaches of Peaches has become the hot accessory ever since the Berlin-based Kitty-Yo picked up on Peaches and her compatriots Chilly Gonzales and Taylor Savvy through a six-song EP.
Even without the help of an American label, The Teaches of Peaches made it into all the right hands, resulting in features in hip rags and hot places -- from Interview to Vogue, from a Parisian art-center to gay techno clubs in Berlin to New York's Coney Island and later punk clubs like the Bowery Ballroom.
When Peaches comes to Atlanta, she isn't exactly playing Philips Arena. She's rockin' MJQ Concourse, a hot, sweaty, sex-filled room with dark corners and maybe even some drag queens looking for a new act. Caught between stylish conceptual art and anti-fashion, Peaches' show may not have the same production values or ticket frenzy as Madonna's, but Peaches is going to give equivocal money's worth, nonetheless.
"Madonna is totally an opera. I'm the vaudevillian, cabaret version," says Peaches.
But they're both a royal thrill to watch.
Peaches plays MJQ Concourse Mon., Aug. 20. 404-870-0575. Madonna plays Philips Arena Sun.-Mon., Aug. 19-20.
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