Christeene is like the bathroom-stall love child of Iggy Pop and Peaches. No, she’s like an orphan who emerged from a hidden cave unearthed at a Blacklips Bar stage show in 1992. Actually, she’s like a teen girl from the Stone Age who time traveled to 2023 to learn R&B. A rock ’n’ roll drag queen persona developed by Brooklyn performance artist Paul Soileau, Christeene is all these things and more: a genre-bending gender terrorist who draws from a rich creative lexicon but purposely masks that sophistication by singing in a childlike tone (which she carries over into her writing and speaking on social media).
For more than a decade, Christeene has been refining her act in bars, clubs, and underground parties, performing in stringy, straight black wigs with color streaked across her face like something between a kid’s first adventures with makeup and war paint. Her wardrobe is revealing and ill-fitting, with touches of sophistication and decay—an appropriate aesthetic for a woman whose biggest single from last year’s Midnite Fukk Train is called “Lo Paid Runway Model.” It’s a Motown-tinged torch song about desperation, loneliness, and a longing to be taken seriously. “What’s it gonna take?” she wails between saxophone bursts. “What’s it gonna take?” The song forces you to consider not only the social and professional systems hemming in Christeene’s work but also your own attitudes and assumptions about her refinement (or lack thereof). How can this feral glamor gal get the rewards she desires? What’s delaying her flowers?
In a 2012 interview with Portland Monthly, Christeene recalled weathering multiple digital scandals accusing her of racism, classism, and transphobia. “Everything we get now is so cleanly packaged and apologetic,” she said. “What we’re trying to do with this juggernaut of expression and emotion is wake people up and allow people to use this character to voice their anger or their happiness, to feel beautiful against this disgusting backdrop.” Since then, she’s been celebrated for building on the output of groundbreaking queer artists such as Jayne County and Vaginal Davis. At her Salt Shed debut, she opens for Swedish synth-pop weirdo Fever Ray. It’s sure to be a raucously fun show for freaks of all kinds.
Christeene Fever Ray headlines. Sun 5/7, 8 PM, Salt Shed, 1357 N. Elston, $40-$90, 17+