Published on March 7th, 2013 | by Elizabeth Coleman0
WIGband’s irreverent, “trashy feminist points” on stage.
Armed with walking staffs and adorned with dildos, Viking helmets and wigs, Johanna “Silver” Poethig and Barbara “Bambi” Golden took to the stage of Berkeley Arts last week and promptly began to chant, “You’re not a woman! You’re a gaping cunt! Neanderthal, Neanderthal!” to the obvious pleasure of the crowd, who erupted in hooting and cheer. It was at this moment that I understood the longstanding popularity of the notorious duo known as WIGband. With a live show mixed with footage from past shows and video skits, WIGband celebrated the launch of their latest CD/Songbook release, WIGBAND: 4 DECADES 5 PRESIDENTS.
WIGband, created by Poethig and Golden in 1985, is an irreverent, feminist cabaret duo that has become a cornerstone of San Francisco’s performance art over the last four decades. Known for political satire and unabashed commentary on women’s issues, WIGband uses several different mediums during their performances, including film, song, slides and props to get their “trashy feminist” points across to the crowd.
WIGBAND: 4 DECADES 5 PRESIDENTS comes with 22 songs, vintage photos and other memorabilia, divided between political administrations from Reagan to Obama. Popular favorites include “Let’s Start a Disease”, “Clit Envy”, “Lick Me to Heaven” and “I Wanna Drive a Car in the U.A.R”.
The show had a number of crowd favorites, like “Trashy Girls”, a video featuring topless women in fishnets and lingerie drinking and smoking in the bathtub; “WIGband Incarcerated,” another video in which Bambi and Silver are locked up in shackles after the Homeland Purity Council accuses them of depravity, heresy, lack of patriotism and bad language.
The crowd was a rambunctious mixture of all ages, but most seemed to have a personal connection to the women, shouting, “Take it off!”, “Put it back on!” and “Sluts!” during WIGband’s on-stage costume changes to leopard-print bustiers and giraffe-print jackets.
This wild energy began to wane toward the middle of the show when WIGband turned to their more somber songs about politics and 9/11, demonstrating that perhaps vulgarity and crude humor — rather than political messages — is the real draw to the show. But the ladies strike a careful balance: for every song full of serious political criticism, there is another on the opposite end of the spectrum (where the ladies take every opportunity to yell raucous lyrics like, “Danielle Steel, show your tits!”).
Both women certainly appear to enjoy shocking people with a sort of “women behaving badly” kitsch; I felt that I had stumbled upon some sort of secret club group devoted to progressive performance arts and a boisterous time. But despite the crowd’s cliquey attitude (I was asked by several people “who I knew there”), WIGband has a way of immediately capturing your attention and intimately drawing you into their inner circle.
I left the show feeling uncertain whether there was genuine political sentiment behind WIGband, or if the act was merely an excuse for two women to do crazy things in the name of free expression.
Nevertheless, I found WIGband to be fearlessly over-the-top yet simultaneously intimate; neither Poethig nor Golden are afraid to delve into personal stories or touchy subjects. With this latest show, WIGband acted as a larger example that perhaps the best way to shed light on delicate political issues is to use humor: maintaining a careful balance between the serious and silly.
For more on WIGband, visit johannapoethig.com.