Ten Cabaret Performers You Need To See

Thanks, Time Out New York! See the article here.

Ten cabaret performers you need to see

Here are ten unique nightclub artists who will move you, shock you and knock you for a loop.

Bridget Everett
When Hurricane Bridget hits the stage at Joe’s Pub or elsewhere, prepare to be blown away. She comes on like a warrior: fearless and unabashedly sizable, with a classic-rock voice that punches equally powerfully through contemporary pop, ’70s favorites and her own ultra-raunchy originals. But it’s Everett’s vulnerability—the damaged, oversharing regular gal that emerges from her hilariously wounded stories—that makes her so astonishing. Give her a microphone and a bottle of Chardonnay, and there’s nothing she can’t or won’t do.

Barb Jungr
A cabaret set by England’s Barb Jungr, perhaps the world’s greatest interpreter of the post-1960 chapters of the Great American Songbook, is akin to a religious experience. Exploring the mysteries of artists like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen, Jungr balances the heaven of her rich, expressive singing with the earthiness of her warm, funny stories. In her too-rare New York runs at the Metropolitan Room, she has the unpretentious conviction of a reformist oracle: a true believer in the power of song to transform and explain our lives.

Justin Vivian Bond
Countercultural icon Justin Vivian Bond, who prefers to go by the invented pronoun of v instead of he or she, radiates a disarming mixture of nurture and menace: part transsexual den mother, part cultural assassin, part offhand Cassandra. In rambling personal monologues and rumbling songs (from Kurt Weill to Joni Mitchell and beyond), Bond wields a shamanistic charisma that transcends both gender and genre. Heir to—and investor in—the Weimar and Warhol traditions, v commands nothing short of fascination.

Maude Maggart
Maude Maggart embodies romantic nostalgia in the present tense. With full lips and long, dark hair, she looks the part of a nightclub singer in a black-and-white movie; she often performs material from the Great American Songbook era, in a voice that can move from an ethereal sigh to a gently piercing trill. Yet her classic mixture of sensuality and innocence has subtle shades of modern trouble (her sister is Fiona Apple, after all) that deepen with each new set.

Cole Escola
Blending boyish mischief with dizzy charm and the ruthless twinkle of a starlet bent on fame, Escola’s comic persona suggests a street urchin raised by the gang from The Match Game.He gobbles your attention whole, with a scrappy confidence that doesn’t try to hide how hungry he is. Having cut his comedic teeth on YouTube and the Logo Network’s sketch-comedy show Jeffery & Cole Casserole, Escola is happy to bite the showbiz hand that feeds him, but with a poignant sweetness that makes you forgive him any trespass.

Paula West
Boldly straddling the line between jazz and cabaret, Paula West fuses musical rigor with keen emotional insight; perhaps more than any other modern jazz vocalist, she harks back to the glory days of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. This has been a roller-coaster year for the San Francisco singer, marked by the release of her first CD in 11 years (Live at the Jazz Standard) and the death of her longtime musical director, George Mesterhazy. A perennial at the Oak Room for many years, she currently lacks a regular New York home—but a voice like hers demands to be heard.

Meow Meow
The international chanteuse known as Meow Meow—the alter egotist of performer Melissa Madden Gray—is a postmodern kitten with a whip-smart sensibility. Buttressed by pianist Lance Horne, she metes out her polyglot repertoire with brio and pique, moving from comedy to intensity in the blink of a long, fake lash. When not in her native Australia, she haunts the nightclubs of London, Berlin and New York (where Joe’s Pub is her usual home), spinning decadent silk into a tangled, captivating web.

Molly Pope
Self-styled as a brassy comer out of 1950s Broadway, Molly Pope teaches old-school lessons in the value of singing big. Her thrilling alto emerges like a full-on blast from the past; at a recent benefit evening of Judy Garland songs, she earned a midshow standing ovation. And her retro gumption brings a strange force to contemporary material, as she has proved as a fixture of Our Hit Parade—and is now demonstrating anew in a run of shows at the Duplex, with musical madman Kenny Mellman at the keys.

Lady Rizo
Lady Rizo, the “caburlesque” persona of actor-singer Amelia Zirin-Brown, has shed the straight-up girlie-show elements that once surrounded her, including back-up dancers called the Assettes. But there’s still plenty of tease to the stripped-down Unescorted series that she performs at Joe’s Pub. The bump and grind of her crackly retro voice (she sounds like an old blues LP, scratches and all) complements a Gypsy Rose Lee–ish enjoyment at being a naughty girl—a broad wink at femininity, with all its trappings and traps.

Taylor Mac
A Fabergé radical—beautiful, ridiculous and full of hidden tricks—the sublimely freakish Taylor Mac pilots audiences through fantastical journeys, guided only by the compass of his magnetic individuality. He is unafraid to aim at the clouds, and undeterred if some of his arrows go astray. (“Perfection is for assholes,” he insists.) Mac’s typically ambitious current project is a 24-hour concert spanning the past 250 years of American music; each show in his series at Joe’s Pub explores a different decade.

Tom Waits

With a voice described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car,” Tom Waits continues to rip my soul with every rough word. His talent  for songwriting and music lingers on every note and syllable.

These are some of my favorites:

Bottom of the World

Long Way Home

Country Obsessions

Occasionally I go off on a bender that involves a lot of country music, long drives on windy roads, and slipping away to a different kind of lifestyle.

Here are a few of my recent inspirations.

Eric Church – Springsteen 

Nothing like the classic 90s mix tape.

Kip Moore – Somethin’ Bout  Truck 

Country and trucks go hand in hand. 

Thomas Rhett- Something to do With my Hands 

Fun, frisky song. 

JT Hodges  – Hunt You Down 

Gorgeous baby blues.

Trace Adkins- Ladies Love Country Boys

Incredibly tall, incredibly handsome.

Montgomery Gentry- Where I Come From

Epic video.

Little Big Town – Pontoon

Great summer song.

Gotye to Kimbra

I am currently in a relationship, but if it were to ever end, due to our personalities this song perfectly describes what would happen. I love breakup songs – weird, I know.

Note the way his mouth moves when he sings. It intrigues me.

Goyte – Somebody That I Used To Know (ft. Kimbra)

An incredible cover of Somebody That I Used to Know done by Walk off the Earth.

walk off the earth – somebody that i used to know

Kimbra (featured with Gotye) is from New Zealand and uses her voice as strategic sound effects, beat boxing and as background effects.

Kimbra – Good Intent

Kimbra- Settle Down

If you like these, check her out live. She is even better!

Born to Die

Lana Del Rey (aka Gangsta Nancy Sinatra), beautiful blonde with a gorgeous full mouth and a soulful voice that sets your soul alight.

I came across her song Video a few weeks ago and have been slowly discovering a few other songs from her album Born to Die to be released January 31, 2012. She is earthy and soulful with a sarcastic sense of humor and impeccable style. Here are a few of my favorites.

Video Games

Kinda Outta Luck 

Born to Die 

Off to The Races 

Blue Jeans 

Riding in Cars with Boys 

You Can Be The Boss

Holiday Tunes

Christmas music has a tendency to drive me insane. The cheery, upbeat nature and tacky lyrics penetrate my eardrums causing a painful migraine to set in and pound against my skull with every gleeful note.

Here my boyfriend and I have comprised a list of holiday songs that are not only bearable, but really quite superb.

#1 – This is the only song that will receive a number as the rest are pretty much equal. Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kristy McColl is worthy of the title of number one Christmas song EVER. My boyfriend actually reminded me of this recently and referred to the hopefulness for next year’s Christmas rather than the present Christmas (being stuck in the drunk tank). He compared it to our situation – him being deployed in Afghanistan and me being home, celebrating the holidays as best I can without the man I love.

After that, nothing compares; however, if I were to do a second choice it would be The Killers, Don’t Shoot Me Santa Claus. This video is absolutely hysterical.

Tom Waits, one of my favorite voices of all time, wrote a song entitled Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis. Gritty, rough, and hardcore lyrics. Daniel Durchholz once compared Waits’ voice as sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”

Next is my boyfriend’s pick and a definite classic – James Brown’s Please Come Home for Christmas. 

Simply hilarious, I Want an Alien for Christmas by New Jersey natives, Fountains of Wayne.

The Flaming Lips, Christmas at the Zoo. 

Another fun one with a pretty crazy story of violence and drunken festivities (of sorts), Oi, To The World by The Vandals.

Christmas in Cape Town by Randy Newman. Dark sense of humor noted.

It isn’t Christmas without the classic Elvis – Blue Christmas. 

Elvis’ Santa Claus is Back in Town is another essential, raunchy blues Christmas song.

Now I am going to propose something very classic, Frank Sinatra’s Christmas Song. This is a very traditional song, yet it makes it on my list because Frank is simply amazing.

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and please feel free to add any favorites of yours to the comments. I would love to hear them.