"Corruption!" yelled Veronica, her tightly laced bodice sparkling, with her fist thrust in the air. The crowd screamed. It was a rallying cry at Emilie Autumn's show at the Beaumont last night: something that everyone -- from teenage girls with pink hair to their mothers in tennis shoes and sparkling teal tops -- could get behind.
After all, we were at an Emilie Autumn show: the vegan, bi-polar, asexual Victorian industrial, classically trained violinist, who has a tattoo on her arm of her cell-block number from her stay in the mental. Oh, and she's also obsessed with rats.
Unsurprisingly, freak behavior was at a premium at the Beaumont. Here are the top five disturbing moments that I witnessed last night.
1. The bum chasing the goth girl.
Incredibly, this happened before I even set foot in the venue. After parking my car and walking past Westport Coffee House, I passed a teenage girl in red fishnets with 10-pound goth boots, caked black eyeliner, and a bare midriff splattered with fake blood looking fearfully over her shoulder while she paced past me. Abruptly, a bum on a bicycle rolled up behind her, calling out: "I know yer skinny, but I love ya!" (Turns out, this guy was actually in the show and got kicked out. The cops were questioning him on the sidewalk across the street from the venue. Great.)
2. The creepers.
An upsetting number of bearded dudes with ponytails and leather jackets stood toward the back of the venue with their hands in their pockets, watching the stage -- and Emilie Autumn and her girls' playfully sexual stage antics -- with rapt attention. I got the feeling that most of them came alone. (Of course, some of them may have come along with the throngs of girls that crowded toward the stage in veils and black lace, many of whom looked like they idolized Helena Bonham Carter.)
3. The girl with the cane.
Sorry, I had to include it: One fan donned a top hat, around which she'd tied glittering red scarves and hung Mardi Gras beads. This wasn't out of the ordinary, until I realized that she was carrying a straight-up cane as an accessory. It was black, and it had a silver duck head. And she raised it to toast Emilie Autumn onstage, when she emerged in full mask, gloves and skirt, from behind her gigantic shadow clock on the night's first number.
4. Emilie Autumn's Bloody Crumpets.
In interviews, Autumn has referred to her stage show as "dinner theater," because she and her backup singers -- she calls them her "Bloody Crumpets" -- routinely hurl muffins and spit tea at the audience. Of course, the show is also indebted to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (duh) and a lot of the cheesy horror that one will find in the West Bottoms around October. The skits were actually wildly more entertaining than the music, much of which was pre-programmed, with Autumn singing over harsh electronic beats.
That is, besides when Autumn whipped out her violin, playing it with the showmanship of a rock star. Her snarling solos were nothing short of chilling and were far sexier than any of the prancing and preening she did onstage last night.
The interplay among the four women was absurdly theatrical enough to recall some of Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker's witchy weirdness from Hocus Pocus. They contorted in garters and corsets with feathers, glitter and "whore-red" lipstick, spewing tea and spanking each other, among other sorts of semi-scandalous activities. But I've saved the most scandalous for last.
"You're all so dirty," Veronica said, flirting viciously with the crowd between songs.
"Is this what's been going on all along?" Autumn asked Veronica, acting with the faux authority of a dominatrix. Someone from the crowd yelled, "No! It's much worse!" Someone else hurled a bra onstage.
"You don't deserve this," said Autumn, holding the bra, to the cowering Veronica.
"I know the sickening thoughts that slither around in your head. You've been thinking of running your fingers up and down my ... harpischord."
Then, Veronica asked Autumn that if she played the harpischord really, really really well, if she could play the Rat Game. Autumn said she could, if she could play the harpischord really, really really well. (All while the two women are caressing each other onstage, inches from each other's faces.)
Of course, Veronica killed the harpischord on another tune ("Stretch your fingers, Veronica. They're not your primary instrument," joked Autumn), and Autumn slipped backstage. (First, Veronica trapped Autumn in a searing kiss.) "Did they actually leave me alone with you?" asked Veronica, purring into the microphone. "Since this show has started, I've been thinking about doing really dirty, perverted things to you that are probably illegal in four countries. You made me do it."
Thus began the Rat Game: where Veronica chooses one female crowd member who is over 18, "pure as the driven snow," and who has never kissed a girl but wants to kiss Veronica.
Veronica invited an 18-year-old girl with hot-pink hair onstage, who was wearing little cardboard rat ears. (She was carrying a handmade sign, which Veronica said was decorated with "glitter and her own blood.") Veronica even directly referenced Dr. Frankenfurter, asking if the crowd member was trembling with "antici...pation." After much titillating fanfare -- an eskimo kiss, a hair caress -- Veronica smooched the girl passionately, knocking off her cardboard rat ears.
"Another one corrupted!" Veronica screeched, triumphant; and the crowd went wild.