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Sex, drag and rock ‘n’ roll

Stars shine at the Chamber’s monthly Glitterdome

A live rock band fronted by drag queens, transsexuals and other assorted divas? Is the traveling revival of The Rocky Horror Show in town? Did John Waters remake This Is Spinal Tap? No, it’s just Glitterdome — a nine-month-old theme night, equal parts rock ‘n’ roll parody and talent showcase for queens — held the third Friday each month at the Chamber. And since Pat Briggs, singer for goth-glam act Psychotica who created the similar Club Make-Up in Los Angeles, brought his latest creation to town in March, Atlantans of all stripes have been buzzing about who’s going to be there and what might happen.
“The best part is you can go to Blake’s, you can go to Backstreet, you can go to the Chamber, you can go to the Highlander, and all those subcultures are aware of Glitterdome,” brags Briggs. “I think one of the main attractions is that people can walk into a room and be around people they might not normally hang out with and have a really, really good time.”
As it is with Waters and Spinal Tap, it’s impossible to deny that all the kitsch and spectacle involved are part of the formula for Glitterdome’s success. Still, it’s hard to ignore the work and musicianship that make these loud sweaty nights a success. But when Briggs, who hosts the event as his drag persona Torment, first performed with his Glitterdome All-Star band, he says no one quite knew what they were getting themselves into.
The musicians, Briggs says, “had no idea who I was. They were like, ‘Oh, we’ll make a couple of extra bucks on the weekend.’ Then I show up and I’m like monster Briggs later that night. I just remember the look of terror.”
Lead guitarist Richard Gibson, affectionately referred to as “Dickie G” among his bandmates, says Glitterdome has turned out to be a rewarding experience as a musician. “It’s one thing being a musician in a band,” he says, “but when you’ve got a leader and a singer who really goes out there and takes the crowd in the palm of his hand and takes it somewhere else it allows you to go further as a musician. You’re not just playing backup to somebody. Everybody’s into it and it allows you to go to the next level.”
Gibson, who also plays in the band Monochrome, and the rest of the group — keyboardist Jeremy Frank, guitarist David Joseph and bassist Brian Nielson (who are also in Serotonin) and drummer Mike Carrillo (formerly of Fusebox) — no doubt got over the initial shock when they realized they would be playing to copious feathered and frisky metalheads and cross-dressers.
Glitterdome has also changed perceptions many have of drag queens as performers. While most are busy lip-synching Madonna songs, Glitterdome’s drag queens sing everything from LL Cool J to Ozzy Osbourne, backed by the All-Stars. For many, it is the first time they’ve ever performed live. And for some, Glitterdome has led to other gigs singing live at other drag events.
“I’d always wanted to sing and there’s not really an arena to do that when you’re a drag queen,” says Chamber resident queen Kristiva Diva. “[Pat] gave me a chance and I did it. It was so thrilling and exciting. It makes people realize I’m not just someone who puts on makeup; I’m an artist. I think we’re all part of something that’s changing the way people think about live entertainment and part of making drag a legitimate art form.”
While some performers still rely more on drag queen drama and explicit sex than musical ability — Tweeka Weed, for instance, was violated onstage while performing “Hurts So Good” — there are others who have musical careers of their own.
“I performed live by myself for 10 years in the industrial and gothic scene,” says Brigit Brat, a 7-foot transgendered performer who will make her third Glitterdome appearance in January. “Pat actually brought me out of that scene and into more mainstream rock. He really knows how to showcase us girls so that when we hit the stage people have really thrown out all of their gender definitions and they’re just there for the good time.”
The legendary Jayne County, a Georgia native who earned fame as part of the CBGBs scene in mid-’70s New York, makes her second Glitterdome appearance at this week’s event. Known pre-op as Wayne County, she continues to make a career out of blurring the lines between gender-bending and punk rock. “Being born in Georgia,” says County, “I’ve never had a lot of opportunity to perform on my home ground and Glitterdome has given me this. To me it’s almost like religion because I want people to listen to the music and enjoy the beat, but also recognize me for what I am as an individual person.”
Just as Brigg’s previous club nights in L.A. and New York have taken on lives of their own, Glitterdome appears poised to do the same. Waters couldn’t have created a bigger monster himself; not even with a helping hand from Frank-N-Furter.
Glitterdome is held at the Chamber, Fri., Dec. 15, with performances by Jayne County, Constance, Peg, 13, Tweeka Weed and Nicole Paige Brooks. Doors open at 10 p.m.; $15. For more information, see www.theglitterdome.com or call 404-248-1612.