by Gregg Shapiro

 

Love Never Dies
Utica, NY

Broadway actress and award-winning cabaret goddess Karen Mason is one of the hardest working women in show business.

 

Perhaps you’ve caught her on Broadway as Tanya in Mamma Mia!, as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (when she was Glenn Close’s standby), as Velma Van Tussle in Hairspray or as the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland. A regular on the cabaret circuit, you might have heard her when she performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, or in New York at Lincoln Center, Feinstein’s at The Regency, Rainbow & Stars and the Algonquin, or in Los Angeles at The Cinegrill, or at The Plush Room in San Francisco or Davenport’s in Chicago. Could be that you purchased, or received as a gift, one of her CDs.

 

Maybe you’ve seen her on TV in an episode of Law & Order. Whether you’ve had the pleasure of attending any of her various performances or you’ve never had the opportunity, the good news is that she is playing the role of the long-suffering Madame Giry in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Love Never Dies, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. I spoke with Karen about the show and her career in late 2017.

 

Gregg Shapiro: What was it about Madame Giry in Love Never Dies that made you want to portray her on stage?

Karen Mason: Madame Giry is a survivor! She has been given a certain set of options in life, and perhaps she did not make the most ethical choices, but she survived. She did what she had to do to put food on the table for her daughter and her. (She’s) a very direct, and directed, woman.

 

GS: Love Never Dies is set on Coney Island. As a New Yorker for many years, how often do you go to Coney Island?

KM: I hate to admit this, but I have only been once [laughs]! Now, perhaps, I will get back there to really look around. I am fascinated by the history of this place now.

 

GS: Not only do you have the distinction of closing act one of Love Never Dies with the number “Ten Long Years,” but you also make your entrance from a mirrored obelisk.

KM: An entrance every actress prays for [laughs] I love the visual of this number in the show. Very dark and mysterious, with these theatrical mirrored obelisks.  I do deal with motion sickness, so I have to prepare to be in there because it gets moved around a lot.

 

GS: As a singing actress, what is most appealing to about being in a Webber show such as Love Never Dies or Sunset Boulevard?

KM: The drama of the music! I do love this score and never tire of hearing it during the show.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is very driven by story.  As an actress, I love telling stories.  Also, the challenge of the music. There are wonderful challenges for me throughout my show. How to really tell the story honestly.  And not just rely on the inherent drama of the music.

 

GS: You’ve gotten to wear some fantastic costumes in Love Never Dies, Sunset Boulevard, Mamma Mia!, Wonderland and Hairspray. Do you have an all-time favorite wardrobe from a show?

KM: I have to say that Wonderland had the most amazing costumes. My Queen of Hearts costumes by Susan Hilferty made me cry because they were so beautiful and absolutely right for my character. They were also the most difficult to wear because of the weight. Each one weighed about twenty-five pounds, with hair and crown thrown in! Sometimes it made singing a little difficult because it threw my body out of alignment, but I loved every second in those costumes. You learn to accommodate to your costume.

 

GS: What are the pros and cons of being in a touring company such as the one for Love Never Dies?

KM: This is my first long-term tour. At my age, it is a very different experience than for someone much younger, which describes the rest of the cast [laughs].  What is great is sharing this experience with this company. We are lucky that this is a very special group of personalities. All just great people; and we like being with each other. For this large of a group, it is a very rare experience, I tell you. The cons are just changing climates so many times. (It) can be fun, but for a singer, this is a big challenge. I travel with all kinds of equipment: air purifiers and humidifiers and anything that will give me a little consistency. So far, so good.

 

GS: Speaking of touring companies, you played Miss Shields in the touring company of A Christmas Story, which was co-written by future Tony and Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. What do you remember about working with them?

KM: (They are) lovely gentlemen and brilliant talents. Smart, generous, and passionate.

 

GS: When I saw Love Never Dies in Fort Lauderdale, you gave the Broadway Cares speech after the show. Please say something about your history with the organization.

KM: It was around 25 years ago when BC/EFA came into being, a time when the AIDS crisis had really hit the New York community.  I watched as friend after friend died.  We were all trying to find ways to feel less helpless and less hopeless.  And this organization came into being to help our fellow actors and has blossomed into a beautiful avenue of help for so many people. I have friend after friend who were helped financially during a time when they were so sick they couldn’t make money.  It is an honor to do the speech, and try to help. As I say at the end of my speech, “as long as we take care of each other, love never dies.”  I believe that!

 

GS: Finally, in 2017 you released a new album It’s About Time. The title track, which was co-written by your husband Paul Rolnick, is a marriage equality anthem. Please say something about the song and the LGBTQ folks in your life.

KM: I love this song so much. I am very proud of my husband and his co-writer Shelly Markham. I started out performing in gay clubs in the ‘70s, working with my longtime music director, Brian Lasser.  Brian was gay and had known it since he was seven.  He was proud, sincere, and very comfortable with the man he was.  That was my first experience with the LGBT community of which I was really aware.  Since then, I am lucky to have beautiful friends in my life, gay and straight, bi and transgender. Honestly, it is the character of the person that matters to me.  I was so happy when marriage equality passed In New York state, where I live. Finally, it felt like we were moving forward. I got hired to sing at the wedding of friends, two great guys. I suggested to Paul that he should write them a song, and he did!  It is an absolutely beautiful statement of love, which is what marriage should be, right?

An Ode to 80s AIDS Activism

 

Photo: Memento Films

 

“Beats Per Minute” is a vivid, deeply felt portrait of the ACT UP-Paris movement in the early 1990s, and the brave young men and women who struggled to make the AIDS epidemic visible to the wider public. The film is France’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year, and the movie was also a close contestant to win the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

 

In Paris in the early 1990s, a group of activists goes to battle for those stricken with HIV/AIDS, taking on sluggish government agencies and major pharmaceutical companies in bold, invasive actions. The organization is ACT UP, and its members, many of them gay and HIV-positive, embrace their mission with a real life-or-death urgency. Amid rallies, protests, fierce debates and ecstatic dance parties, the newcomer Nathan falls in love with Sean, the group’s radical firebrand, and their passion sparks against the shadow of mortality as the activists fight for a breakthrough.

 

Opening November 17 at Midtown Art Cinema

 

Attend a Special “Beats Per Minute” Screening

Out On Film, Georgia Equality and AID Atlanta present an early screening of “Beats Per Minute”. Following the film will be a talkback with some former Atlanta ACT-UP members – including Georgia Equality’s Jeff Graham – discussing the significance of ACT UP and how we can take some of the lessons of ACT UP and use them towards mobilizing and facing the challenges of today.

 

When: November 16, 2017, 7:00 pm
Where: Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Dr. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

How: Tickets ($11) at Landmarktheatres.com

By Mik Hyldebrandt 

 

With Halloween just around the corner, Atlanta is bursting at the seams with fun events that are not just frightening but quite the thrill.

Sleepy Hollow Experience

If you haven’t been to this fabulous fall fright fest, you have to try it. The adaptation of Washington Irving’s tale is far from a sit-down play but engages the audience in fun, playful, and sometimes frightening ways. It’s a wonderful Halloween tradition running now for the fifth year in a row, and the tickets usually sell out, so get yours now!

Sept 28 – Nov 5

Tickets and info at serenbeplayhouse.com

 

“Afterlife” by Critical Crop Top

The woman-run and Atlanta-based production company Critical Crop Top specializes in socially conscious comedy that focuses on social justice, gender roles, sexual orientation, race, politics, and other issues that are at the forefront of our community, and explores them through sketches, music, poetry, satire, and, well, fart jokes.

Oct 21 at the Highland Inn

Oct 22 and Oct 28 at Ballroom Lounge

Tickets and info at criticalcroptop.com

 

Netherworld Haunted House

Halloween is almost here, so it’s time to get your fright on! And Netherworld is definitely the place. The haunted house is eerily realistic, and the amount of props, lights, and even extras match a full-on Hollywood production – if you don’t get scared here, it’ because your blood already runs cold!

Netherworld is open now, closes Nov 5

Tickets and info at fearworld.com

 

 

 

 

Containment Haunted House

This is a different kind of haunted house that not only gives you jump-out-of-your-skin frights but also plays with your perception of things. Each container presents the visitor with a new and increasingly scary scenario that is bound to frazzle nerves and peak adrenaline rushes.

Containment is open now, closes Nov 4

Tickets and info at containmenthauntedhouse.com

 

 

 

 

Cirque du Soleil LUZIA

A fantastical journey into an imaginary Mexico that brings both familiar and new faces, places, and sounds of Mexico to life through surrealistic, visual revelations filled with grand surprises and mind-bending acrobatics. If it sounds like we are gushing, it’s because we are! Cirque du Soliel always brings performances to the next level, and LUZIA is no exception.

LUZIA is ongoing and closes Nov

Tickets and info at cirquedusoleil.com/luzia

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Symphony Hall Live Presents Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

The tricky thing about this unique event is that it combines a movie with a classical concert – and it is quite the treat! For only a couple of nights, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will perform the score to Tim Burton’s classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas” live, while the film plays on a big screen in Symphony Hall.

Oct 27 & 28

Tickets and info at ticketmaster.com

In “The Lady in the Locket”, a New Gay Comedy Film by Steven L. Coard

BY WILLIAM COOKE

In Steven L. Coard’s new film, The Lady in the Locket, Qeescey Green (played by Shawn Singleton) is dumped by his male lover, Travis (played by Coard), on his 35th birthday.  Distraught and fed up, Qeescey makes a birthday wish that he never falls in love again.  Later that day, a mysterious box appears at his doorstep.  Inside is a locket.    Once Qeescey takes hold of the locket, he is transported into it where he meets Lareema, the Lady in the Locket (played by TS Madison), who gives Qeescey a test of love.

“I drew inspiration from the Sarah Michelle Gellar film, Simply Irresistible,” reveals Steven L. Coard from the Jersey City studios of Color of Love Production.  “I wanted to create a similar film with an African American LGBTQIA cast.”

Coard says many black gay men who are over 35 and still single, have become jaded at the idea and prospect of finding true love.  He points a critical finger at black gay men themselves, who, too often, are only attracted to the outside appearance of men and do not take the time to see past a person’s flaws.

In the film, Qeescey Green’s flaw, according to Travis, is his job as a phone sex operator.  Qeescey enjoys the job; has been at it for a long time, and especially loves working alongside his fun-loving best friend, Yadiris Ramirez (played by Magda Suriel).  Travis, however, likens the job to prostitution and uses religion — an undeniably strong influence in the African American community — as his justification to end the relationship.

“Of course it’s a cop out,” explains Coard.  “Travis is like many gay black men who are closed-minded and afraid to commit to anyone who walks outside of what is considered ‘the norm.’”

Coard’s message to viewers is to be unapologetically you and stop trying to be like everyone else. “Find that person that appreciates your so-called flaws,” he says.
The Lady in the Locket was shot last month, over three days,  in Jersey City, NJ.  Coard chose Shawn Singleton, an actor he worked with previously on his film, Raye, for the lead role, bcause, “I love Shawn’s comedic timing and I needed someone who could play off TS Madison’s high energy.”

Singleton is also one of Coard’s students at Color of Love Production Studios Acting School in Hoboken, NJ.  For all of his films going forward, Coard aims to cast his students, whenever possible, so that they get experience working with big name talent like Madison.

Coard had originally cast another actor to play Travis, but when the actor couldn’t do it, he stepped into the role.  “It’s a challenge for me to play these unlikable characters because I’m so likable in real life,” he laughs.

The Lady in the Locket is being distributed by Color of Love Production Studios, an award-winning production company founded by Steven L. Coard that specializes in creating stories about the LGBTQ community of color.   The studio especially strives to  focus on unique issues of relevance to the gay African American experience.  Previous films include Raye, Heartbreaks and Soulmates and last fall’s critically acclaimed romantic comedy, Don’t Marry Griff. 

Steven L. Coard is also the founder of The Color of Love Production School for Film, Television, Theatre a place where LGBTQ talent of varying disciplines can work together in a supportive environment to create exciting visual projects.    “It’s an exciting time for people of diversity to be working in film,” he says.   “We are hard at work, making memorable ‘diverse’ characters like Qeescey and Lareema that have mainstream appeal.”

The Lady in the Locket is out now.    Please visit www.colorofloveproductionstudios.com.

 

Our Must-See Selections for Out on Film 30

By Elijah Sarkesian

For Out on Film’s 30th anniversary, the film festival is expanding to 11 days and three venues. That’s a lot of room for feature films, documentaries and short films to play. If you still need help deciding what to see, we’ve selected 11 films – one per day – that we think are worth checking out.

Happy: A Small Film with a Big Smile

Thursday, Sept. 28 • 7 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Out on Film opens with this look at former Atlantan Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman and his journey to happiness. After losing his partner and battling grief and depression, Leonard began using his artistic process as a way to make it through the darkness surrounding him. As Leonard’s journey progresses, he creates a body of work that resonates with people around the globe.

A Million Happy Nows

Friday, Sept. 29 • 7:15 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

A veteran soap opera star decides to retire to her beach house along with her partner and publicist. Their relationship is tested, though, as Early Onset Alzheimer’s begins to impact their lives. In order to survive, the couple will have to decide what they truly mean to each other.

Hello Again

Saturday, Sept. 30 • 9:05 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

In this musical based on the play “La Ronde,” ten individuals find themselves slipping in and out of one another’s arms as they learn about love. The film features an all-star cast that includes Martha Plimpton, Audra McDonald, Cheyenne Jackson, T.R. Knight, Rumer Willis, Sam Underwood, Jenna Ushkowitz, Tyler Blackburn, Al Calderon and Nolan Gerard Funk.

The Death & Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Sunday, Oct. 1 • 5:15 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Who killed Marsha P. Johnson? Twenty-five years after her body was found floating in the Hudson River, director David France examines the death and life of the woman credited with throwing the first brick at Stonewall.

 

 

        Princess Cyd

Monday, Oct. 2 • 7:05 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Sixteen-year-old Cyd spends her summer in Chicago with her novelist aunt. Cyd finds herself falling for a girl in the neighborhood, while she challenges her aunt in the realms of sex and spirit.

Tom of Finland

Tuesday, Oct. 3 • 9 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

This film explores the life and work of one of the most iconic figures of 20th century gay culture. Touko Laaksonen returns home from World War II as a decorated officer, only to find life in Finland just as distressing during peacetime. In Helsinki, he sees gay men persecuted and forced to marry women. Touko finds peace in creating liberating art – specifically, homoerotic drawings of muscular men freed from inhibition.

 

Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall

Wednesday, Oct. 4 • 7 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

After growing up gay and black in small-town Texas, Todrick Hall has worked to find a place in show business. Behind the Curtain follows the YouTube celebrity and RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars judge as he embarks on his most ambitious project to date: the full-scale original musical Straight Outta Oz.

 

 

Freak Show

Thursday, Oct. 5 • 8:30 p.m. • Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Billy Bloom is a confident, eccentric teenager who faces intolerance and persecution at his high school. Billy decides to fight back by running for the title of homecoming queen. The film, directed by Trudie Styler, stars Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game, Goodbye Christopher Robin) and features Bette Midler as Billy’s mother, Laverne Cox as a reporter, and Abigail Breslin as Billy’s rival for homecoming queen.

 

 

Like Foam

Friday, Oct. 6 • 9 p.m. • OutFront Theatre Company

A group of people search for themselves in an unusual place: an orgy taking place in a Spanish mansion. As this group of strangers come together in search of sex, they find themselves exposing more than their bodies.

 

 

 

 

Alaska is a Drag

Saturday, Oct. 7 • 5 p.m. • Plaza Theatre

Leo is stuck working in a fish cannery in Alaska, when what he wants is to become a drag superstar. Along with his twin sister, Leo finds himself stuck in the monotony of local life, and finds it necessary to learn how to physically fight in order to survive. When a new guy moves to town and offers to be his sparring partner, Leo has to come face to face with why he’s stuck in Alaska.

 

 

Handsome Devil

Sunday, Oct. 8 • 7:30 p.m. • OutFront Theatre Company

Young Ned attends a boarding school where he’s happy to stay under the radar, content with his love of subversive rock music at a school where everyone else cares about rugby. When the new kid and rugby star Connor gets assigned to his room, though, Ned’s world is rocked. The two form an unlikely friendship that forces them both to deal with questions of loyalty and self-interest.

an interview with The Carbonaro Effect’s Michael Carbonaro

By Gregg Shapiro

With his mesmerizing and hilarious hidden camera and practical joke series The Carbonaro Effect, now in its third season on truTV, out actor and illusionist Michael Carbonaro keeps viewers (and his unwitting subjects) guessing. A whiz of a wizard, if ever there was, Carbonaro first crossed our gaydar as sex-obsessed Andy in the 2006 rom-com Another Gay Movie. But his greatest success and exposure has occurred through his longtime love of the magical arts on The Carbonaro Effect. Carbonaro is currently on a cross-country live performance tour bringing his effect to your part of the world. I spoke with him at the beginning of his tour in September 2017.

Gregg Shapiro: How did you first become interested in — and I want to pronounce it correctly — prestidigitation?

Michael Carbonaro: Oh, that’s really well done.

GS: Thank you!

MC: When I first moved to Los Angeles, eight years ago, and got to perform at The Magic Castle for the first time, I was working in the Parlour of Prestidigitation. So that was one I had to learn myself [laughs]. I do love that you gave it another name other than magic or illusion. Because it is a big umbrella for me, what illusion or magic or prestidigitation is. I began with, and still have, a love of special effects. I talk about this in my live show. A huge love of Halloween, costumes and make-up. I had no doubt that when I grew up, I wanted to be a make-up artist. I would buy make-up supplies at a local magic shop in Hicksville near where I grew up on Long Island. There were guys behind the counter who were showing real (magic) tricks. I went there for the make-up and it was full of masks and puppets and gags and pranks and bloody things and zombies. It was theatrical too; there was stage make-up. It opened up this world where illusion is all of that. I became interested in magic from going to buy make-up supplies. Through magic, buying those tricks and trying them out on my friends, I noticed that I had a love for performing. If special effects brought me to magic, then magic brought me to performing. All three of those things are still just as strong as the other. I think they all tie together in the work I’m doing. I didn’t know whether I wanted to be an actor or special effects artist or magician. Well, how about if I do all three of those in the show?

GS: Who are, or were, your illusionist heroes?

MC: Excellent! Look at how this all comes together! My favorite illusion book of all time is by Tom Savini. It’s called Bizarro, later titled Grand Illusions. I love that it was called Bizarro! His book reads like a magic book. It’s the effect I need to make. I need it to look like this troll that’s running across the floor, so I have this trick platform and I slide it and this guy’s in a costume. First I show this, then I show that. It’s a magic book dealing with monsters, so that was it for me. Magic books and (David) Copperfield. Because he, more than anyone embodied this host of all these things that were magical. He would talk to the audience and be funny and go off into some weird fantasy illusion and come back and do a silly little gag. I love that atmosphere that he created.  

GS: How would you say that your sleight of hand skills worked in your favor as a gay man?

MC: Whoa! I don’t know if I’ve ever considered that question. There is something sexy about secrets, isn’t there? I wasn’t out in elementary school or junior high. But I started to find the right kinds of friends in high school. The music department in my high school was really tight knit and we did plays together and were in the chorus.

GS: That was often the GSA before there were GSAs.

MC: Exactly. Right [laughs]? As we used to call the wonderful theater where I’m from on Long Island – it was the Creative Ministries Performing Arts Center, now the Noel S. Ruiz Theater named for the man who ran it – we used to call it the Creative Ministries Coming Out Center [laughs]. I think John Waters talks about this, too, from his generation. It was better when you had to sneak around and come up with little plots or plans or however he put it. There was something about having a secret that was cool. I guess I was better at setting up secret situations and knew how to hide my tracks the way a magician would. Before I came out!

GS: In addition to being the title of your show, you use the catchphrase, “the Carbonaro effect”. How did that catchphrase come into being?

MC: I’ll be honest with you, this was a pitch from the network. And I’ll give it to them. All projects are always a changing and developing thing. You find what it is as you’re making it. I was certain that I wanted to call the show Michael Carbonaro: Trickster. I love the trickster character, I think he embodies what I do on the show. Like Bugs Bunny, poking you in the right direction, playing along with you, making you wonder. That made sense to me. When they first pitched it to me, I was like, “Oh, no, I don’t know!” I always had this weird thing with my last name. I always thought people wouldn’t remember it. It’s confusing. When I was 17, I used to perform as Michael Christopher.

GS: Is Christopher your middle name or something?

MC: Nope! Made it up. If David Kotkin can be David Copperfield, I’ll be Michael Christopher! In retrospect, it did sound a little like a hair salon. Now, that title became what it was we were trying to capture. That moment when an intelligent adult mind can be brought to a state where they wonder for a second if there’s a secret trap in the universe that they didn’t know existed and they believe that for a moment. Isn’t that beautiful? That’s the Carbonaro effect.

GS: The Carbonaro Effect, the show, has as much to do with hidden cameras as it does with magic. Did you ever get to meet Allen Funt, the man behind the popular Candid Camera, one of the original shows of this kind?

MC: I never did, but I watched his show a lot as a kid. I watched all the reruns of that show. You’re right, there’s a magic to that. A hidden camera falls under that hidden illusion we talked about. It’s like I’m hiding a camera secretly behind a mirror that doesn’t look like it could be there. That’s a magic trick.

GS: You appear to make good use of your everyman appeal and improvisational skills on The Carbonaro Effect. Of the two, is there one that you rely on more than the other in the scenes on the show?

MC: That’s a great question. It really is a weave back and forth between those two. I think there’s meter somewhere. I would say that it depends on the moment. If someone is in that state where they need to be looking for clues as to what just happened, sometimes my best bet is just to look down and be in a state of amazement myself. That would be acting, processing the thought of something I just saw. That way I can afford them the private moment to do that themselves and react how they would. This is kind of a new thing we’re doing as the show develops over the seasons. If I think the person is going to get me first, I’ll be like, “Wait a minute! Is this like a freakin’ prank show? How did we get out here?” I will throw it out there first. Because if I’m clearly the only one who could have caused what just happened, then they start to doubt. So, there’s the acting again. The answer is it’s always a needle going back and forth between those two worlds.

GS: How does your husband, (actor) Peter (Stickles), feel about magic and pranks?

MC: He loves them! He loves the life. Our house has a gremlin puppet in it and an alien face-hugger and Jaws posters. Peter was in love with horror as much as I was as kid. We meet on that level. Peter travels with me to do the tour. There are acts he performs with me as a magician.

GS: In addition to your TV gigs, you have also appeared in films, including “Another Gay Movie”, for which you received an acting award from L.A. Outfest. Do you have plans to do more acting?

MC: Absolutely! Yes, a million percent. This show is serving so many aspects of things that I like to do. That’s a huge part of it, that acting energy.  I look forward to having time in my schedule, but right now I’m pretty booked up. I look forward to having a one-man Broadway show and comedic sitcom work and films. I want to direct a horror film myself.

GS: You are currently doing a series of live dates. What can people expect when attending one of your shows?

MC: The best part about the live show, in the way that you were talking about Candid Camera, that energy of playfulness, that same world of non-mean-spirited fun…I talk about this in the live show. I regularly get a similar letter from fans thanking me and saying that my show is the only one on television that they watch with their entire family. That’s the same energy that comes through in these big, beautiful theaters across the country where I perform. The live show is a playful, all-ages show, with the same wry wit from the TV show. I’m loving it as much as the audiences. I’m having a blast. Also, just come and check out that it’s not all camera tricks. Every diehard fan wonders if it’s camera tricks. I say, “Get yourself a ticket, come on down and watch the magic!”

GS: Finally, I live in Fort Lauderdale and we are speaking a few days after Hurricane Irma hit. We’ve been without power for almost a week. Do you think you might be able to work some magic on Florida Power & Light to get our electricity restored?

MC: As a matter of fact, our tour is going to be giving some of the proceeds to Hurricane Irma. I have a wonderful charity, Hocus Focus, that I’ve been working with for the entire tour. It works with children with ADD and adults with learning disabilities. They use magic to help people overcome some of their hardships in focusing. The kids and the adults who do this program are inspired to learn the tricks by keeping their focus. They want to be able to learn it. It’s so beautifully successful for all parties involved. We’ve been donating strongly to them. On this tour, donations will be to them, as well as for hurricane relief.

 

All hail the

fairy dust queen

On the eve of her Music Midtown performance, Tove Lo chats us up about all things ‘Lady Wood’

By Gregg Shapiro

It’s been a couple of years since bisexual Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Lo made an impact with her debut disc Queen of the Clouds, containing the hit singles “Talking Body” and “Habits (Stay High).” For those who waited patiently for her second album, the rewards are plentiful on Lady Wood (Island).

As you might have gleaned from the title on the disc, split into “Fairy Dust” and “Fire Fade” sections, Lo lets her “dirty mind” (so named in the title track) run wild. Opening with a pair of House-inspired tunes, “Influence” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) and the aforementioned title cut, the artist loosens up on the beats on “The Disaster,” “WTF Love Is” and “Cool Girl,” then finds her way back to the club on album closer “Keep It Simple.”

With an Atlanta performance scheduled for Music Midtown on Sept. 16, we spoke with Tove Lo about her music, her process, her influences, and her tattoos.

Queen of the Clouds is divided into four sections. Lady Wood is in two parts. Why do you divide your albums?

It was important to me that it was clear that it’s one body of work. There’s a storytelling element to it; a sequence of events and emotions. I never plan it when I write, but because I write about what’s going on in my life, what’s going on around me, and what’s in my head and my heart, it’s natural to put them in an order that lets you follow the emotional ride, so to speak.

The “Fairy Dust” mini-movie, which incorporates songs from Lady Wood, begins with the quote “There is nothing pure about the way we do things.”

Growing up in Sweden, I noticed it’s maybe a bit more liberal when it comes to sex. Sex isn’t seen as something shameful. Women’s sexuality isn’t seen as something shameful. When I came to the States and started touring, it’s where I first got the reaction that it’s something to be ashamed of, that I’m a bad girl or whatever. To me, it was a shock.

There’s a difference between being provocative and for something to be fun and stir up emotions. There’s a big difference between being good and being pure. Pure isn’t necessarily a good thing.

A lot of times the shame comes from religious descriptions. I think it’s a sad way to raise people because it makes you feel guilty about who you are. Especially if you are coming out as gay. So many friends of mine, the years that they felt ashamed of themselves, makes me so sad; it’s not fair. Because it’s really all about love.

There’s a same-sex romance in the “Fairy Dust” mini movie, too. Do you celebrate Pride?

I feel like I do that every day! [laughs]

In the song “Imaginary Friend,” you sing about “how kids get high,” as well as being “under the influence” on “Influence.” The songs “Not On Drugs” and “Habits (Stay High)” also include similar references.

It’s been part of my life as an escape and an enhancement in certain situations. For me, it becomes, “Should I or shouldn’t I mention this”? I decided not to have a filter and just be honest about my life, so it becomes part of my songs.

What can you tell me about your ink?

I started at 17 with my little scorpion under my collarbone because I’m a Scorpio. It feels very classic. But the rest of it is paintings by (artist) Mark Ryden that I love.

Lo means lynx in Swedish, which has been my nickname since I was a kid. I now have that on my hand. My vagina symbol on my arm, my ‘lady wood’ symbol that I felt needed to be with me forever. I think that’s all I have.

You’re currently on tour and hitting Atlanta soon. What do you enjoy most about performing live?

What’s been so amazing is that we’re combining festivals and club shows with opening for Coldplay in stadiums; the three most different kinds of shows.

I feed off the energy of the audience so much. It’s an hour, hour and a half a day that I get to fully emotionally be very present and not think of anything else. It’s the most present I am at all times. There’s nothing to distract me from whatever is going on onstage. It’s a very freeing feeling.

 

See Tove Lo at Music Midtown on Sept. 16 in Piedmont Park. Visit musicmidtown.com.

Autumn 2017’s tea dance playlist starts with Arcade Fire, who hits Atlanta this week

 

By Gregg Shapiro

 

Arcade Fire has been encouraging us to dance since its first full-length album, 2004’s Funeral. But it wasn’t until 2013;s Reflektor that the band fully embraced its inner dance diva.

 

Everything Now (Columbia) continues in a similar vein, beginning with the title cut. But don’t be deceived by the exuberant beats and synths. The song is really about out of control consumerism.

 

In fact, the album is full of messages set to irresistible beats, including “Signs of Life,” “Creature Comfort,” and “Electric Blue.” Now, Everything Now lacks the impact of 2007’s The Neon Bible or 2010’s Grammy-winning The Suburbs, but that doesn’t mean that Arcade Fire has run out of steam. You can see for yourself when the band hits Infinite Energy Center on Sept. 21.

 

Meanwhile there’s tons of great dance stuff happening this season, and we’re all over it. The creative DJ/production pair Oliver (Vaughn Oliver and Oliver “Oligee” Goldstein) give listeners an idea of what Daft Punk and Air might have sounded like if they were from L.A. and not France, on its debut album Full Circle (Interscope).

 

Other influences, including acts from the original Casablanca Records roster and Tom Tom Club, go a long way in broadening Oliver’s appeal. An impressive array of guest artists include gay singer Sam Sparro (“Last Forever”), De La Soul (“Heart Attack”), MNDR (“Chemicals”), Elohim (“Wherever We Are”), Leon Else (“Love Like This”), Chromeo (“Go With It”) and Yelle (“Heterotopia”). They all contribute to making Full Circle a well-rounded release.

 

The members of Vampire Weekend have been busy with solo projects since the band’s 2013 album Modern Vampires of the City. Bass player Chris Baio just released Man of the World (Glassnote) under the moniker Baio. It’s an ear-pleasing pastiche of ‘80s synth pop with plenty of beats for your feet, especially on the title cut, “Out of Tune.” We also love  “Philosophy!,” “Sensitive Guy” and “Shame In My Name.” Baio tips his hat to VW on “The Key Is Under The Mat” and “I’m Not Curious”.

 

The soaring double-disc set Take Flight (I Am Me/BMG) by UK musician and DJ Maya Jane Coles can be enjoyed whether you’re jacking up your heart rate on your feet or bobbing your head from the comfort of your seat. Coles firmly embraces the repetitive house music esthetic to lift listeners to the next level and beyond. This is best exemplified on “Won’t Let You Down,” “Werk,” “Go On and Make It Through,” “A Chemical Affair,” “Keep Me War,” “Stay” and “Lucky Charm.”

 

 

Echo Papa (airtrafficcontrollermusic.com) by Air Traffic Controller may only be seven songs long, but the band makes a strong impression in a short amount of time. “Keeping Bees,” for example, is like a pot of honey and worth the sting. “After Party” will have some scrambling for an invitation, and “Doubt” undoubtedly has a dance-worthy beat.

 

For someone whose bread and butter is high-energy dance music, Calvin Harris takes an unusual detour with the laid-back beats on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (Columbia). With the emphasis on bounce and a distinctive lean towards vintage vibe, Harris enlists gay hip-hop star Frank Ocean and Migos (“Slide”), Ariana Grande, Pharrell William and Young Thug (“Heatstroke”), Katy Perry, Pharrell and Big Sean (“Feels”), Future and Khalid (“Rollin’”), Snoop Dogg and John Legend (“Holiday”), Nikki Minaj (“Skrt on Me”) for a set of sunny tunes.

 

A long time ago, in the `80s, if you were a band and you dressed a certain way, or if your album cover artwork had a specific look, chances are that the listener was assured that your music would sound a particular way. How things have changed! That’s what’s so funny about From The Outside (Capitol/Hi or Hey/Caroline) by Hey Violet.

 

The members of Hey Violet are definitely poseurs, but they deserve a little credit for making memorable dance music on “Brand New Moves” and “All We Ever Wanted.” They also get points for pretending to be punkish on songs such as “Fuqboi,” “Guys My Age” and “This Is Me Breaking Up With You.”

Each week, the Peach List gathers gay opinions and insights for a Top 10 in all manner of categories. To go with this week’s Fall Preview issue, here are 10 Songs That Drop Drawers

Closer – Nine Inch Nails
Get On Your Knees – Nicki Minaj with Ariana Grande
Crash Into Me – Dave Matthews Band
I Wanna Be Yours – Arctic Monkeys
Fools – Troye Sivan
Smooth Operator – Sade
You Can Leave Your Hat On – Joe Cocker
Shut Up And Sleep With Me – Sin with Sebastian
Bedroom Hymns – Florence and the Machine
Cazwell – All Over Your Face

 

Each week, the Peach List gathers gay opinions and insights for a Top 10 in all manner of categories. To go with this week’s Fall Preview issue, here are 10 trends straight off the Fall 2017 runways that you can totally rock this season.

Quilting
 
Graphic Knitwear
 
Wide Leg Slacks
 
Patterned Suits
 
90s Nostalgia
 
Silk Bombers
 
Turtlenecks
 
Military Green
 
Oversized Layers
 
Political Statements