Sister Spit: The Next Generation
Sister Spit is a touring troop of queer literary performance artists. SS was in part founded by Michelle Tea, one of San Francisco’s more distinguished and prolific queer writers. This all-female punky fan of writers first started trekking across the globe in the 90s, and have recently regrouped as Sister Spit: The Next Generation to tour across Europe and the U.S., including a stop in Salt Lake City at the Sponge Bar.
This was the first time I had ever been to this tiny venue, which is probably one of the weirder spots in Salt Lake. Aptly named the Sponge Bar, it was SpongeBob themed: Stuffed SpongeBobs lined the shelves behind the bar, which didn’t actually serve any alcohol, plastic SpongeBob figurines, and SpongeBob pictures on the wall. There was only room for maybe thirty at most in the room, and the Sister Spit members sat at the bar or in the booths with their audience when they weren’t up at the mic.
Michelle Tea MC-ed the event, introducing each person and telling rambling anecdotes about touring in between each performer. The evening began with Ben McCoy, who first psyched the audience out with part of a lip sync dance routine to Lady Gaga before launching into his written work. He read from an advice column to a gay teenage boy, using the format to spin an elaborate story wherein the boy courts his unrequited jocular crush by inflaming the other boy’s homophobia until the jock has no choice but to sleep with him. Then this boy is advised to catch the illicit act on tape (somewhere in here the phrase “get him while he’s rimming you like he hasn’t eaten a meal all week” was used, which was one of the highlights of the night) and blackmail the object of his affections in order to fund his post-graduation fabulous gay nightlife. I only wish I’d had access to such wisdom when I was in high school.
Following this came a music video made by their road manager, Sarah Adams, entitled “You’re So Awesome,” all about the complex emotions that arise when you think someone is awesome and you just want them to think you’re awesome as well. This might sound like an overly simple concept, but it was in fact an unparalleled work of genius, if only because it utilized murkinis and anything with murkinis gains instant genius status.
Sara Seinberg read an excerpt from her novel which retold Pandora’s Box in modern-day Brooklyn, and Rhiannon Argo read a story about two lesbian skaters in San Francisco, while simultaneously showing a colorful slideshow of pictures depicting many different queers eating orange creamsicles. Kirya Traber delivered two excellent slam poems—the rare kind that are actually impactful enough for that “slam” title. It’s hard to pick favorites, but Traber’s intense, precise performance and the sharp lyricism of her words (the subjects in question were body hair and romantic love) probably made the biggest impression on me.
Michelle Tea read from an upcoming novel about a teenage self-proclaimed “post-gay” gay and her gender-confused partner living unhappily in San Francisco. Tea’s reading style was funny and spontaneous—she would occasionally pause in her reading to explain something in an offhand manner: “Oh by the way, this takes place at the end of days when the oceans are all polluted.”
Ariel Schrag read from her comic “Potential,” about teenage girls trying to figure out whether lesbian sex counts towards losing their virginity—and she provided a killer musical soundtrack for the comic as well. SLUG’s own Princess Kennedy discussed her experience of going on The Jerry Springer show, and the Sponge Bar’s local comedian Karen Bayard gave us stand-up comedy about how to date cheaply during this economic recession. The last performer was Beth Lisick, who was late because she’d only just barely flown into Salt Lake. She read an excerpt from her book that chronicled her attempts to follow the techniques of various self-help gurus, gracing us with a vivid description of exercising with Richard Simmons on one of his cruises.
It’s an incredible treat to have an act like Sister Spit come through town. Salt Lake City’s own queer community is thriving but still relatively small, and we’re still mostly occupied with political survival and carving out a “gay ghetto” behind the Zion curtain. We don’t yet have the decades of rich queer culture and camp tradition that San Francisco can claim, nor do we have anyone quite like Michelle Tea to rally the troops around a vibrant queer literary scene. I’m greedy for any and all of the Bay Area’s cultural exports, and I especially appreciated getting to see this tour.
Sister Spit: The Next Generation