Try saying that ten times fast. It should be noted that JD Samson is not in fact, a cartoon character. She is a real-life human cartoon character. Did I just confuse you more? Well you see, you need to experience JD Samson & Men in order to fully grasp the totality of what I am saying. Armed with Lorna Krier on keyboard and Hirsute co-founder Michael O’Neill on guitar, Samson donned her faux 3D retro pants that made her resemble a larger-than-life lego character or a live action Luigi (or perhaps a combination of the two). Getting the picture yet?
A bit of a backstory: JD Samson first came to prominence as the projectionist and slide show operator of “underground electro-feminist performance artists” Le Tigre, before joining them full time in 2001. While that group was on hiatus, she and Fateman started MEN as a DJ, remix/production duo. Then Fateman had a child. Meanwhile Samson was also working with another group – Michael O’Neill and Ginger Brooks Takahashi – as Hirsute and recruited them to perform as MEN live. Takahashi subsequently left and was replaced by Tami Hart, who contributes on a part-time basis along with artist Emily Roydson and Fateman. Samson has spoken about the radical potential of dance music and says that the music of MEN speaks about “issues such as wartime economies, sexual compromise, and the demand for liberties through lyrical content and an inventive, high-energy stage show“.
In addition to their live, mini-rave-like dance parties, JD Samson & MEN have also become outspoken advocates on a number of issues. Samson has spoken out in support of LGBTQAI+ and feminist causes. (Side note: as their is “debate” or “controversy” about the accuracy of LGBT, I am advocating that the terms “Fabglitter” and “Quiltbag” become more common. Maybe Dan Savage can help out with that). She has also become a leading voice in the Free Pussy Riot movement and wrote a song and subsequent music video entitled Let Them Out Or Let Me In. They have also collaborated with Christina Aguilera, and Samson has written songs for Aguilera, Cobra Starship, Junior Senior and Bitch the Ferron, among others. She also performed keyboard for Peaches’ live band and appeared in the movie Shortbus – directed by John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame.
The show itself was fem-tastic. A small but devoted crowd – of which I was perhaps one of the few straight, non-lesbians in attendance – popped their heels at the cobalt and got jiggy with JD’s quirky-but-laid back style and her socio-political lyrics set to dance beats. The songs run the gamut of issues in today’s society including economic hardship, transphobia, inclusivity, coming out and much more.
Samson’s roots, unsurprisingly, are in punk (She was in Le Tigre after all). But more than anything else, she is political. She grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and came out at 15 and always involved politics of some form in her writing. Dance and electro-based music has been around for a while, but it really seems to have been gaining steam within the last five years or so. Particularly the radical dance music scene that JD Samson are currently a part of. One of most original, transformative bands I have come across in recent memory, this group of activists will hopefully open the door for radical, political dance parties everywhere while continuing to fight for freedom for everybody.
JD Samson & MEN’s 2nd album Labor was released October 22, 2013 on their own independent MEN Make Music label.
Video for their single All The Way Thru:
FREE PUSSY RIOT – Let Them Out Or Let Me In: