Connie Walger sleeps, but Connie Oh!, her performer analogue, does not. Walger explained this to me while her “happy death metal” band, the Fuzzy Bunnies of Death, loaded up the U-Haul van they’d rented for last Friday night’s “Cabaret of the Nameless,” held in a decrepit warehouse full of artists’ studios near Kedzie and Cermak. Connie Walger wears glasses and studies fashion at the International Academy of Design and Technology; Connie Oh! wears black lipstick and slaps people she doesn’t like.
Getting the stage ready for a Fuzzy Bunnies show is a real process: deciding where to place each of the couple dozen crusty stuffed animals they use as props is crucial, as is the placement of the band’s banner. And then there’s the matter of getting dressed in so, so many layers, all in the wrong order: undies over garter belt over shorts over at least two pairs of tights, plus zip-up leg warmers, plus a belt and suspenders; arms wrapped in black electric tape or covered in skull-motif socks with the toes cut off; not to mention a hairstyle that would make your mom cry.
“We’re the Fuzzy Bunnies of Death,” Connie Oh! yelled to the few dozen people in the audience, all of us sitting around the band like they were about to tell a bedtime story. “We’re happy you could be here so that we can kill you!” Everyone cheered. And then the band ripped into a shit-awful bottom-heavy ditty, complete with lots of sliding on one of those hesher guitars you can legitimately call an ax, unmiked rat-a-tat-tat drumming, a ten-finger keyboard slam, and unconfident sludge bass. It was awesome.
The Fuzzy Bunnies are all style over substance. You imagine auditions went something like “Oh, you look cool: wanna be in a band?”–a strategy I wholeheartedly support because it’s pure; this band’s pleasures come from genuine unfakable excitement instead of something boring like skill.
Throughout their set Connie Oh! would stop singing from time to time to perform little skits with her stuffed-animal friends, tearing open a green teddy bear’s chest to reveal red licorice whips, ripping off a dirty rabbit’s head and pulling out globs of cotton candy, which she then hand-fed to the audience. We stretched our mouths toward her like baby birds.
For the grand finale she stabbed what appeared to be a kitty in a black plastic cloak and hat and drank its gooey blood before squirting it all over the audience. Later, Walger told me the blood was just flour, water, and food dye. Why did it smell like barbecue sauce? “It’s been sitting around for a while,” she explained.
Next in the lineup was the Genderfuck Burlesque, a quartet consisting of drag queen Tristyn Harlequin, drag king Sunny Awesome, and two harlots named Miss Mango and Betty Devoe. They dragged out a mattress and box spring and covered them with garbage and beer cans, and cut ridiculously large, fluffy worms of fake cocaine on a table. They proceeded to wiggle around lasciviously, push Sunny around, and make out under a sheet. Then they ordered the audience to dance, and we did.
Impromptu dance parties peppered the rest of the night, thanks to New Orleanian one-man band Ratty Scurvics. He tickled a keyboard and kicked the hell out of his drums with both feet, while his friend Forest, who wore an enormous beard and a tiny top hat, swirled the overhead lighting around and shook a flashlight in people’s faces. It was getting really hot in there–so hot that the sound system conked out until a fan blowing directly onto a monitor brought it back to life–and with the fucky lighting it felt like we were on a boat barely maneuvering stormy seas. There’s nothing like the impression of impending disaster to inspire some fancy footwork.
I kept thinking, I’ll leave after this act–and then the next one was so good I couldn’t tear myself away. It didn’t matter that I didn’t really know anyone there–this was one of those enchanted nights where you’re so into what’s going on that having friends to tend to would almost ruin it. The kids, looking all strung out and heat exhausted, slumped on mattresses pushed against the wall; red candle wax dripped down a corny abstract sculpture that looked like a human heart; there was an embarrassment of red eye makeup and baggy goth-kid zipper pants. All of it was so charming and dorky and sincere I kept having to go outside to catch my breath.
Halfway through Ratty’s performance I pretty much decided I was in for the long haul. When Betty Devoe, who helped book all the acts, announced that a circus was coming on next, I got all swoony.
For the next hour Erik Bang!!! and Lizabeth of the Scrap Yard Sideshow wowed us with horrific feats of self-mutilation. Erik ate and breathed fire, intentionally burning his face and neck from time to time just to freak us out. Lizabeth juggled bowling pins while standing barefoot on two swords. Erik lay bareback on heaps of jagged glass while a couple of audience members stood on his belly. Lizabeth drove a nail up her nose with a hammer. Erik wriggled out of a straitjacket while suspended from his ankles by a chain rigged to the rafters. Lizabeth juggled a rubber chicken, a machete, and a lit torch.
For their last act Lizabeth lay on a bed of nails and Erik hacked open a watermelon on her abdomen with a sword, then chopped the halves into pieces for the audience. He capped off the night by stripping naked and sticking nine feather-tipped spears into his face, nipple, throat, and penis.
By the time I got out of there I’d lost my voice and the sun was almost up; my car had a flat (again) and wouldn’t start (again), and I was getting harassed by shady dudes in SUVs. It was the best night I’ve had in months.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Suzy Poling.