I watched a handful of 70s-era David Bowie videos on Youtube recently, and one video in particular, an excerpt from the Ziggy Stardust film that features Bowie in several one-armed leotards performing an eerily accurate mime-in-a-box routine, reminded me why Bowie is the King. In the height of that psyched-out space time in music, he was the sexy androgynous alien of a thousand faces. And I wish there could be a new him, and no, Lady Gaga does not count, because she’s basically a giant Pepsi commercial.
David Lynch has called Chrysta Bell a “sexy alien,” and after watching her slither around the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles last week, I can think of no other explanation for her existence than David Lynch summoning her from some dark moon waters to produce an album. She’s one of those rare spotlight people who mysteriously does not have a Wikipedia entry, which essentially renders her ageless and without origins. I’ve become fascinated with her relationship to Lynch after watching a short video of them making the album in the studio, Chrysta breathing out all her short gasps of words, thanking David profusely. It was one of Lynch’s creepier productions, and exactly this time last year, Kelly McClure and I were camping deep in the heart of the PacNW for the Twin Peaks Festival, so it seemed fitting that this year I’d get to see David Lynch on stage, introducing this newest ingénue to the crowd. I think some nerds showed up solely to see Lynch’s hair, but all the guy had to do was say something along the lines of “pay attention to the show,” and everyone fell quiet as Chrysta entered, and Lynch was ushered off the stage.
Chrysta opened with the title track off of This Train while donning a black bra with sheer gauze on her midsection, along with a high-waisted leopard print skirt. The vocals, swathed in reverb like a Neko-Case-Celine-Dione soundbaby, were alarming in the way Isabella Rossellini’s were when she crooned “Blue Velvet,” like you’re not sure if you’re supposed to be punching her, but she keeps wrapping that scarf around her neck and tightening it, and you’re like, “Maybe I should be punching her? Is that what she wants? I’m a little uncomfortable with that.”
The photographer I brought, who’s only about 5’2” and is a woman, had to sneak by a chubby 6’5” nerd with a salt-and-pepper mop on his head. He was obnoxiously crowding the stage, and when she got past him and tried to take a few shots and run away again, he pushed his fat into her back repeatedly, turned to the woman beside him, and bitched about women with boobs (yes, most of us have them)just thinking they can do anything they want because they have boobs, and how dare this bitch think she can just walk in front of me just because she has boobs and women need to stop thinking they can do that to men, all the while Chrysta has stripped down to a black bra and panties with a garter belt and stockings. When the photographer sneaked away from the fatty, he went back to sedately ogling the naked lady on stage. You’re right, chubby comic-book guy: how dare a woman use her tits to get something…besides your undivided attention, that is.
And actually, sexuality defined the whole show. I wanted there to be more. I kept thinking of that David Bowie video and his interactions with the band, how sincere and energetic they were, and how everything was clearly rehearsed, but the choreography had an air of “I would be doing this in my bedroom if you weren’t here watching me.” There was immediacy in the message. And maybe I’m unfairly comparing the two—a silky siren isn’t necessarily aspiring to be David Bowie. But Chrysta’s band did not seem to be having fun, and when her bass player turned on the keyboard for her, then helped her plug in her guitar, nicely and quietly and discretely, the show felt more like a few unenthusiastic musicians helping this nice, breathy lady put on a recital than a cohesive stage show with all pieces working in unison. But in all honesty, the alien-sexuality and pose striking of Chrysta Bell worked for me, initially. And then I got bored and realized that only men were standing up front, and all the women had left to smoke and drink outside and get rowdy.
I want Chrysta Bell to succeed. At this point, I just want all women in music to succeed to even the score a little. Yes, sex is interesting. So is David Lynch’s music. Chrysta Bell is enigmatic as well. But for Chrysta and her album to reach for that higher rung, she may have to do a bit of work to transcend sexuality. And I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think Chrysta really wanted to be a “star,” because her stage posturing is begging for exactly that, and there’s a chance that her surreal oddity could get her there. But maybe we’ve reached this point in music where the sexy siren becomes the bed partner who’s constantly begging you for attention and pawing all over you and whining that you haven’t had sex in two whole days and don’t you find me attractive anymore and look at me when I’m talking to you, and you’re like, GOD, I have to get up for work, and I’m tired, and all I want to do is watch this one episode of Animal Hoarding to make myself feel better about life, and you can’t even give me that, can you, just sex sex sex all the time. There’s gotta be more than this.
Photos by Cecille Anne Inga