The first time I saw Peaches Christ was one of the most surreal nights of my life.
First off, no one expects any real lunacy on a Tuesday night. But my partner and I were visiting San Francisco, and he was determined to pack as much as he possibly could into each moment of the trip. Ray had gotten a bartender to scribble a few of his favorite attractions onto a napkin, one of them caught his eye: Trannyshack at the Stud. (No one likes a pun better than San Franciscans. One of my favorite bands there? A punkabilly outfit called PoonTwang.)
The show wasn’t supposed to start until midnight, but with nothing else to do, we took a cab over at 10:30, and there was already quite a crowd milling about. We took notice of what appeared at first to be a young boy on a skateboard doing tricks. Upon closer inspection, he turned out to be a fully grown adult — with no legs.
Inside, we did something I’ve never done before or since: We danced to Beck music. I remember thinking how novel the night was shaping up to be. Little did I know.
A few minutes later, the place was suddenly inundated by some of the whitest, tallest, squeaky-cleanest group of Irish tourists ever to set foot on our mainland. Being Irish, I’d know. The girls were perfectly coiffed, the guys broad-shouldered and square jawed. They looked like they belonged in a ’20s movie with bearskin coats and megaphones cheering their home team to victory.
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The lights finally went down, and suddenly I felt something brush past my ankle. It was a deeply creepy sensation, not unlike what happens to Luke and Leia in the Star Wars trash compactor scene. I felt it again. Then a third time. Finally, I heard a voice over my shoulder: “Crip comin’ thru!” he bellowed like a town crier. “I got a crip comin’ thru!” I shook my head, and then I looked down. Sure enough, it was our young skateboarder friend making his way to the front.
When Peaches, the headliner and emcee for the evening came out, it was to the strains of the then-brand-new soundtrack to “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” The speakers blared the song sung by two Pentecostal young girls, “In the heather, in the hedges, I will work for my Lord…”
In the meantime, Peaches, who was wearing the kind of pillbox hat and suit skirt set that Jackie Kennedy made famous, was onstage, miming the words as she worked a wire coat hanger from its original shape into something more menacing. When she had it completely undone, she jammed it into a strategically located balloon filled with fake blood, and when it popped, it went everywhere. Everywhere.
The Irish let out a collective gasp. I watched one girl scale her boyfriend with a rockclimber’s precision. They fled as they had arrived — en masse. It was over as soon as it had begun, this Tuesday night like no other. And, as we spilled out into the unusually warm San Francisco night, I heard over my shoulder: “Great show! Crip comin’ thru!”
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Last modified: July 25, 2019