Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Sunday December 5th, 7 pm, $5
Even though the Portland Drag King performance scene, DKPDX, is flourishing, I'd always resisted seeing them, largely due to a single phrase from a coworker, who once said, simply, "They're okay; lots of lip-syncing." My narrow mind instantly concocted a visual of my third grade summer camp lip sync rendition of "Kokomo," only done by women with bad fake moustaches, and I resolved to stay away at all costs. Months later, at the Mercury talent show, Pizzazz! (which I could not miss) that all changed. DKPDX shattered my preconceived notions with a mulleted, lip-synced trailer park rendition of Def Leppard's "Love Bites," so passionate, hilarious, and oddly poignant I found myself, in the span of one five-minute buttrock standard, forever changed.
In the hands of DKPDX, lip-syncing became not just a bona fide art form, but a tool for social commentary. With a hyperactively macho song as inspiration, DKPDX gals Ace and Christa Orth (AKA Simon LeBongo) enacted a torrid love affair between two beer-swilling manly men, brilliantly dissecting an entire backwards tradition of masculinity underneath a gender-skewed microscope.
"It's easy to put on a moustache and lip-sync a song and be entertaining," says Orth. "It's more challenging to bring a message to your audience about gender and anti-racism and anti-sexism."
With over 20 members pitching ideas at the last group meeting, DKPDX is bulging at the seams, and yet avoids potential sloppiness with performances that are elaborate and layered, yet rigorously rehearsed and tightly choreographed. At the recent International Drag King Extravaganza in Chicago they unveiled an eight-person manifesto that commented on Patriot Act paranoia. It featured George W. Bush and secret spies disguised as real estate agents, and moved to the groove of Rockwell and Michael Jackson's "Somebody's Watching Me." This Sunday, the theme is "A Night of Fantasy," and the Kings will present new pieces inspired by The Neverending Story and, most excitingly of all, David Bowie's epically cheesy "Dance Magic Dance" number from Labyrinth. I'm scared to even consider what cultural walls will be shattered when a woman dresses up as a male Jim Henson puppet, but the Portland Drag Kings--God bless those intrepid trailblazers--aren't.