March 10, 2004

Performance Rituals of Sex Shamans in 21st Century San Francisco

I'm still coming down off of my night - dancing my ass off to the Lovemakers - most of their music sounds like 80s James Bond themes; whatever your feeling, in person they make a foot move and a hip swing. lovemakers, by Lisa NolaMore new wave than funky, they do manage some sex energy - mostly turning on the sparks tossed off by the two front people. Slinky outfits, barechested guitaring, dignified writhing and rocking. Lisa a more patrician Siousxie, Scott looked like one of the Durans, firmly pouting. Jason the keyboardist seemed happy to have beamed in for the event; he served as our voyeur stand-in, watching the staged lust up front.

Before them had been Gravy Train ( and I had been sure that I couldn't have any better musical experience that night at Cafe du Nord. Here were four ambiguously but eagerly sexxxed out people prancing and stripping and rapping loud over Peaches' fastest beats. Heck it's Peaches ethics and the fastest Peaches or maybe Yeah Yeah Yeahs but spitting raunch rhymes dirtier and live and writhing fun fantastic full ball busty proud bareassed shaking shaking shaking it. And it was inspiring to watch and full of San Francisco pride anyone can suck and fuck around on stage and share that kind of spastic sweaty love. Doing the splits! Shaking a beautiful bare ass. Celebrating fat tits. I was nursing a man-sized crush on the lead singer; as each of them pranced I could have fallen to worship anyone.

But in the end it was the slightly more abstemious sexuality fronted by the LoveMakers that had me pumping the hardest. I mean I had my arms over my head and my hips were machine gunning I was steam training sweat mouth open tongue out eyes lidded ecstatic! Ah who gives a fuck it was one of the best nights I've had out in weeks and I smelled like nothing but human sweat and leaking ambition. I've got to start wearing more eye makeup.

And I owe most all of it to photographer Lisa Nola - she took that picture of the Lovemakers, and she encouraged me to come.

I compiled a video from short films shot on my digital camera: GravyTrain footage becomes Performance Rituals of Sex Shamans in 21st Century San Francisco (a 1.34mb .wmv video download) - (one minute, twenty seconds, edited with Movie Maker using footage from my Optio).

Reading from the foreword to Mircea Eliade's Shamanism: "Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy":

"The writer who approaches shamanism as a psychologist will be led to regard it as primarily the manifestation of a psyche in crisis or even in retrogression; he will not fail to compare it with certain aberrant psychic behavior patterns or to class it among mental diseases of the hysteroid or epileptoid type." (page xi)
Certainly that holds true with GravyTrain, especially the epileptoid part.

The people on stage that day were practicing ecstatic techniques that induced a group meditation. But their ritual work might have been too grounded in audience engagement and affirmation of their physical forms to qualify for Eliade's definition of a Shaman as someone who "specializes in a trance during which his soul is believed to leave his body and ascend to the sky or descend to the underworld" (page 5). If GravyTrain had performed for another hour or two, I suspect there might have been some descending going on, ie them leading the audience into rhythmic sexual chaos. (Reading from a book leftover from a shamanism class in college: Eliade, Shamanism, Princeton, 1974).

Posted by Justin at March 10, 2004 04:54 PM | TrackBack
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