Photos: Courtesy of Connie Tsang
Party Patrol: Peaches brings TIFF to climax
On Friday night, Peaches returned home from Berlin to take over the Drake Hotel for a live adaptation of her new concert flick. The result was a total interactive assault.
9 p.m. It’s Friday night, the second-last hurrah of the film-festival season. Most of the international media has fled, off to reflect about festival films and our fair city. The big premieres and bigger stars have come and gone. The red carpets have been rolled up and shipped out. What remains is for those who toil below—or, at the very least, who constantly straddle—the glitz and glamour. The one party that most belongs to “the people” of Toronto—the one made for them in this after-dark carnival of underwhelming spectacle and overwhelming exasperation—is the arrival of Peaches + Friends, live from every corner of the Drake Hotel.
The one-night-only engagement is part of a multi-sensory, multi-media performance/installation surrounding the TIFF debut of her concert-flick-cum-semi-biopic Peaches Does Herself. The premise: “a young woman who, inspired by a 65-year-old stripper, begins to make sexually forthright music. Her popularity grows and she becomes what her fans expect her to be: transsexual. She falls in love with a beautiful she-male, but gets her heart broken and then ventures on a path of self-discovery.” Conceived in the vein of a jukebox musical, and described “as a transsexual rock opera,” the movie is an offshoot of Peaches’ stage show in Berlin (where the Toronto native now resides) and has been recreated as part of TIFF’s Future Projections, a brilliant program that aims to blend cinema with live performance outside of the theatre.
9:20 p.m. Up on the Drake’s Sky Yard, electro-punk-rocker Mignon, a recurring member of Peaches’ pussy-power posse, sits straddling a chopper for what feels like five Lady Gaga songs. Peaches’ highly publicized new music video (a Free Pussy Riot social justice firestarter) is playing on loop by the bar, fuelling an anxious tension that’s eased only by the girls in tight white tops handing out tickets for free Corona. (Wait, is that Bruce LaBruce?)
Like the movie and the original show, tonight’s re-imagined ensemble production features the same cast, most notably Mignon, transsexual porn doyenne Danni Daniels (who Grace Jones apparently dubbed “The White Me”), and the bite-sized, Golden-Aged Sandy Kane (the “Naked Cowgirl” of Times Square). But Peaches always runs the show: she writes and directs, and she sings and dances. (There is no non-musical dialogue.) She educates, but doesn’t pontificate, on issues of gender, sexuality, and identity politics. Peaches does what I’ve come to understand she does best: She performs.
I know Peaches the way anyone who writes about the city’s culture-and-stuff knows her—maybe it’s the way you know her, too. I’ve heard the lore that she shared an apartment with Feist before either of them was anything. I know her from that flawless Muppets mash-up video on YouTube featuring her song “Fuck The Pain Away,” performed by Miss Piggy. I know her because she did that song with Christina Aguilera and Le Tigre. And I know her Yoko Ono collab.
9:30 p.m.: “Where the fuck is Peaches?” asks Sandy Kane, in a blue wig and a stars-and-stripes bikini, bursting through the crowd after Mignon sets it off with a version of Peaches’ “Lovertits.” From there, the show is a fast fury of sound, tits, sex, and glitter that will take us from the top of the hotel to the bottom. “You seen Peaches?” repeats Kane. No. (Or maybe. Is she hiding?) And so the crowd follows her downstairs on command, leaving all the normies utterly confused by what just happened.
Yes, I know Peaches, but I’m no superfan. More appropriately, I’m an admirer, which I’m convinced is probably the best way to digest Peaches’ show and not lose sight of what she’s really trying to tell you. But her die-hard fans are fiercely buying into the message that goes something like: “Let’s fucking change the system, fuck each other in the process, and if you don’t like it, you can just fuck off entirely.”
Yes, the disciples lined up in droves for a performance that, thanks to a lack of advance tickets, many didn’t even make it in to see. The capacity issues were caused—I assume—by the unsuspecting patrons eating $18 hamburgers who probably didn’t notice/understand/care about the triptych installation “Bursting into Mud!” bellowing out of the Drake’s lounge and projected onto the Queen West façade every night during the fest. It likely had some quaintly questioning: What goes on in that little art house? Inside, you can’t blame Peaches for trying, nor can you blame her for startling anyone who dared get in her fans’ way.
9:45 p.m.: The show is now straddling the formal dining room and the lounge, giving way to more Sandy Kane banter: “Don’t fuck with me, I’m in therapy.” Diners are becoming increasingly confused by the rush of people from all entrances, straining to see what’s about to go down and where Peaches will emerge. I catch a glimpse of DJ Skratch Bastid, standing there with a shit-eating grin. There’s a Super 8 camera filming the whole thing. I’m in about a dozen pictures I don’t want to be in. Then Sandy starts singing, flailing a big black dildo in the air: “I love dick…” It’s an interactive assault of the best kind.
Suddenly, almost out of thin air, Peaches—clad in a structured shoulder jacket, white MJ-style gloves, aviator lenses, and metallic lurex everything else—jumps into the appropriately-titled “Show Stopper.” (“I’m a stage whore/ I command the floor.”) She mounts Danni Daniels like her own personal throne and proceeds to navigate through the dense crowd. At the main stage, she reels off a stellar string of songs, bolstered by hypnotic MIDI laser-harp accompaniment. I’m surprised at how crisp and controlled her voice is—it’s clear there’s a well-cultivated musical pedigree underneath the theatrics.
After singing along with each song note-for-note, the unassuming bald guy beside me in the black t-shirt finally climaxes in tandem with Peaches’ final song, “Fuck the Pain Away,” just as the Fatherfucker Dancers engulf the stage. How many people were imported with her from Berlin? A lot. How many patrons had that strange mix of shock and awe? A lot. There’s the first appearance of Danni Daniels’ enhanced chest, with a gun tattooed over her left breast. The table beside me is debating whether they’re real or fake, apparently oblivious to the fact that she is half-man. As Peaches told IONmagazine, “I’m shocked that people are shocked.” Me too.
Before I can even clap, the party rushes the exit and beelines for the Drake Underground, where German duo Jolly Goods plays an antithetic, quasi-Canadian introduction set while Peaches prepares for her next role as DJ. The rest of the night happens just like you’d expect: Sandy Kane sings until it stops being endearing and starts veering on tomato-throwing territory; Peaches reappears wearing a costume of boobs and nipples; she spins some songs, but manages to rap over them anyway. Danni shows off more of the goods, including her biggest asset: the cock. A wig-sporting Iggy Pop look-a-like from Peaches’ backing band Sweet Machine joins her to holler through “Kick It.”
11:45 p.m.: By the time I make it up to the lobby, Peaches has already emerged through the hidden side door and been escorted up the stairs to her room, sweaty and fulfilled and accomplished. The business of festival after-parties usually involves standing around wondering when Winona Ryder will arrive and sit in the corner, or whether Jude Law will actually eat that meatball. In all its cacophony and characters and confusion, Peaches’ show was a pre-meditated celebration for the fans, for Toronto. It was the only one in 10 days with such a motive. Not only did she show up, but she also worked the party in its purest sense. And that, bitches, is star power.