There is nothing better than an event that combines live music, a sing along, and burlesque. It seriously did not matter that the theme of the night was emo and that was never really my scene. The combination of entertainment was a fun mix and made Riot Nerd’s latest Barbary event, I’m not Okay – A Live Music and Burlesque Tribute to Emo, a huge success. Even people like me, unfamiliar with anything more than a few mainstream emo artists, were able to have a good time. I may have been lost when it came to singing along, but I wasn’t lost when it came to spending time at a great venue, supporting friends, and donating to a great cause, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
This whole event was the brain-child of a local up and coming producer/performer, Jay De La Vega. Having pulled the doorman duty on a regular basis for a variety of local shows from drag competitions to burlesque, Vega has been slowly but surely dipping his toes further and further into this wonderfully sexy and creative subculture that is blowing up in the city. After forming the band Your Favorite Weapon, comprised of members from Great Weights including Meri Haines and Pat Higgins, Vega created JDV Productions in order to bring events to the scene that focus on inclusivity. Vega’s production company is on a mission to bring you performers of all sizes, shapes, shades, and genders and JDV Productions’ debut event did exactly that.
First up we were treated to a set of covers performed by Your Favorite Weapon. Opening with Jimmy Eats World’s “The Middle,” Vega’s band went on to perform more of the mainstream emo songs more familiar to anyone who had access to MTV or a radio during the early 2000’s. Wrapping their set up with the theme of the night, My Chemical Romance’s hit and basically the emo kid anthem “I’m Not Okay!” Their set got the crowd amped and ready for what was to come.
As we continued on, we were joined by our lovely and talented host, Mae Rose. While the noise of the sold out crowd proved to be a bit much to contend with throughout the night, Rose delivered quick wit and a presence that let you know she wasn’t slowing down for anyone! First up on the burlesque side of this tribute was Fae Tantra featuring Iguana B. Lizard performing to Thirty Seconds To Mars’ hit “The Kill(Bury Me).” The duo delivered a powerful performance in which Fae fights off the negativity and barrage of put downs we deal with every day. Kyla Ren brought just the right touch of Nerdlesque to the stage with a well chosen Enchantress number done to the Hidden Citizens cover of “Paint It Black.” This Suicide Squad number was nominated for a 2017 Golden Tassel Jawn and it was easy to see why.
Local performer Ron Binary brought us a teen wolf number that tackled the issues of bullying faced by so many people in the sub cultural scene. Binary delivered a [performance full of angst and frustration, the emotion spilling over into the crowd but with a sense of triumph as this was clearly a night where the non mainstream, the so called outcasts among us, were to be celebrated for their bravery. Veronica Vicious wrapped up the first half of the show with a fun and steamy number to My Chemical Romance’s “Teenagers.” As hot as it was in The Barbary that night, that act managed to heat things up even more and led us to a much needed cool down with a brief intermission.
When we got back it was time for Oliver Hartman to make their way to the stage again and lead us in a few more of the genre’s anthems as well as some die hard emo fan favorites. The energy they exuded on the stage was rock star quality belting out another My Chemical ROmance crowd pleaser and a few Fall Out Boy tunes that were obscure to me but loved by the emo loving crowd. Joined on stage by Vega for those, they got everybody going with the songs “Saturday” and “I Slept With A Member of Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Song.” The crowd loved it, drinks in hand, belting tunes out like they were seeing their favorite bands, which basically they were, just in a casual, cover band type setting.
Adding to that awesome setting was of course more celebration of the beautiful thing we call a body with ore burlesque! You asked for it and JDV Productions and Riot Nerd delivered, closing out the show with some of the best entertainers in the city. Lady Lazarus was on hand bringing a haunting number to “The Ghost of You.” Graceful and light, she is always a delight to see anytime she is performing in the city. Lazarus was followed by the infamous, Areola Grande, an up and coming performer in Philly’s DRag Queen scene, she is known for being edgy and raw and damn if she didn’t deliver all of those things that night. You knew you were in for something special when the stage kitten of the night, Ogre Achiever, had to lay down some plastic sheeting on the stage. Grande delivered a powerful performance, using hot wax and her ability to own and rock a stage. Last but not least we were treated to a classic burlesque beauty, Sinnamon. She closed the show with a bit of elegance on a bill that while genre specific, boasted a variety of performances.
The emo genre evolved into a movement, one of mental health and suicide awareness. Its often associated with being emotional, introverted, shy and it became a platform for people, especially youth in the early 2000s, to talk about things honestly and try to erase the stigma of some of the stereotypes that come along with these issues. Vega’s show was not only a fun night to get together, sing songs, and celebrate all body types, it was also an attempt to raise awareness and funds for an issue that goes well beyond this specific scene. The collaboration of Riot Nerd and JDV Productions was a sold out success that celebrated inclusivity and brought together a variety of talented entertainers for a unique experience on Fishtown’s waterfront.
Words by Heather Fox, Pictures by Jamie L. See