He emerged like a half-remembered American nightmare—striped tights over black Speedo, leather jacket, cap and bowtie, “Hunx” scrawled in pink lipstick across his chest, penciled-on mustache à la John Waters and pitch-black hair—and led his Punx into the garage vérité of “Hey Rocky,” a song you think you’ve heard before until you realize who the object of affection is. And for a few seconds, nothing seemed amiss. But no, this was not the real Hunx! This convincing double, this faux Hunx, sang a few verses, up through wanting what’s in Rocky’s pants, and then introduced the true, nearly identical Hunx, only distinguishable based on his hairier chest and upper lip and his nasal twang. This Hunx emerged like a nightmare, too.
But the majority’s nightmare is always some minority’s fantasy, and Minneapolis’s gay and garage-bred populations assembled last weekend in the dark Entry, where the Id could safely come to dangerous life. In the time of mainstream pop music’s casual equation of homosexuality and hedonism, Hunx presents a nice alternative: wanton, yes, but honestly and unselfconsciously so, and still innocent in his pursuit of the Original Teenage Love, hereby reclaimed as the new gay. Beyond some pronoun swapping and intermittent excavations of an earlier era’s impounded sexual matter, his songs aren’t especially novel and could pass any social code. New LP Too Young To Be In Love goes even more archetypal than the punkier, more definitively gay Gay Singles, with songs like the title track (a slow dance) and “Lovers Lane” (a mid-tempo shuffle).
Fine as these songs are on record, in concert they become mostly an occasion for a lurid extra-aural experience, of a kind that John Waters might admire, for reasons beyond the mustache: dim lights scattering through a dense, sweaty fog, glittered faces and beer foam showers, tossed away shirts and other glimpses of skin, a stolen kiss between Hunx and an observer, despite the girlfriend at the recipient’s side.
But, for all that, it was still the scratchy guitar and skittering drums and ooh-wah-ooh’s that got the audience all agitated. It’s heartening to remember that people still like to dance to 50s-style rock ‘n’ roll, or to guitar-based music of any kind. If we sometimes forget that much of our greatest dance music comes from the 50s, it’s because we’re stuck with tame recorded versions and don’t have immediate access to those hot and heavy rock ‘n’ roll nights of long ago. Or we aren’t playing it loud enough. Hunx & His Punx played hot, heavy and loud, but we dared not think where our libidos would have taken us if they’d been Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard.
Before leaving, Hunx announced the band’s intentions of taking a trip to the Mall of America theme park the following day, and I imagined them in tomorrow’s afternoon light like some stateside British Invasion group, seeing the sights and being seen. Hunx would lead the way, pursued by screaming fans, and the Punx would… follow obediently?
The Punx in question are all women, on guitar, bass and drums, who for all their raw power remain a bit effaced behind the effrontery of Hunx. It was nice that they got to keep their clothes on, and that the males were the only sexualized objects on stage, but it was not as if they, the possessed Punx, had put Hunx on display. Their sexualities were sidelined, and they could only pretend an interest in Hunx’s, which, for all its all-inclusiveness, is not theirs.
So it was some surprise that one of these ladies leads her own band, openers Shannon & The Clams, with a whole lot of personality and swagger. Her band’s sound is mostly indistinguishable from Hunx’s, but no one can claim ownership of a sound. In music, we are all equals! Or that seems to be what motivates Hunx and Shannon to sing songs about young loves along lovers lanes, etc. You might suspect an element of parody in their music, but given the scenes they describe, the subjects and objects of their songs could be anyone.
Bonus: Hunx seems to have sprung directly from an era of jukeboxes and 45s, and owes nothing at all to the way music was heard in the 1980s (sample lyric: “You like Morrissey, you like U2 / What the fuck is wrong with you?”), but it was a night of all-things-vanished-are-here-again, and cassette-only label Burger Records was on hand selling their tapes. I scored the new Devon Williams album, and it’s a thing of beauty. More about that soon.