Even though it features a video of Neal Medlyn humping a mattress while wearing a tight blue unitard, Sexercise Live! isn't really performance art. It's purely performance or purely art, depending on your perspective. My perspective (and rightly so in my opinion) was drunk. From that perspective, I was perfectly comfortable, sitting in the darkness of Someday Lounge, listening to the indomitable Bridget Everett tear her way through soul songs and talk about cunnilingus. I only wish that the place had been more beer soaked and full of smoke.
Sexercise Live! is a show that would be completely, un-ironically at home in a low-down dive. It would be at home in the kind of place where ragged men—love beaten and heart sick—sit around tables, believing that the vision with the smoky voice up on stage is singing just to them. Not only does it offer catharsis, in Everett's unbridled performance, it offers blue laughs as a salve to the weary ways of sex and love.
Kenny Mellman and Bridget Everett created Sexercise Live! as a tribute to Millie Jackson. Jackson was a seventies era soul singer with a raunchy streak, who sang and rapped about getting together, fucking, and breaking up—not necessarily in that order. She was well regarded by her musical compatriots but has since been relegated to the back bins. Luckily, her album, Caught Up, was re-released this year. It's a good thing too... Her version of If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to be Right) is a sad, luscious masterpiece,
Bidget Everett is also a sad, luscious masterpiece. Actually, far less sad than luscious. Her voice is powerful and full of cigarettes and bourbon. On stage, she is completely commanding. The first part of her set found her in a sequined blue dress, split up the thighs. She reminded me of one of those sparkly, sugar coated, wedge shaped candies from back in the day. God help me, I'm a married man, but I wanted to take a bite.
Mellman is something altogether different. He is gloriously ungentle on the keys, yelling along in the background. In association with very capable musicians on bass and drum, the whole ensemble creates a writhing, sweating beast with four backs.
But like I said, it's either all art or all performance, depending on your perspective. through my particular haze of cocktails and sleep deprivation it was all performance... and a goddamn good one. But I gotta tell ya, walking out the door, listening to festival goers discuss the finer symbolic merits of Sexercise Live! made me want to find a real dive bar and a real Millie Jackson to sing me to my stupor.