Anitra Warren wants to rock your world on New Year’s Eve. And she knows just how to do it, too.
With her show “Puccini Deconstructed,” Thursday night at the Guitar Bar, the veteran of the thriving performance art scenes in New York and Miami will dramatically stage a couple of classical arias – dressed in full Marie Antoinette regalia, complete with towering rococo wig – plus a few choice morsels like David Byrne’s “Psycho Killer.”
Warren, who goes by the name Anitra Opera Diva, has a three–octave voice.
She’s sung professionally, and spent four years dancing with New York’s cutting–edge Harkness Ballet company, but she prefers the shock and awe of performance art.
“I like movement,” Warren explains, “and also in performance art you can be experimental. You can do many things, not just singing but body movement.”
As Men Smash Atoms, she and her partner, Nicodemus, shook the artier clubs of Miami’s South Beach before moving to Savannah two years ago.
“In Miami, we did this one performance where we built this space station with eyes that you could open up. It was very interactive with the audience. We came out on the stage with a net, and we had bald heads. We went into this space station, the virtual cocoon. Inside, we were throwing flour, and liquids, crazy stuff. People were screaming.
“And at the end, Nicodemus takes me out of the space station, drags me through the audience in a net.”
Not the sort of thing you experience every day.
“I loved it,” says Warren, “because it’s challenging people. It’s like taking them to another space. People need to have something where not everything’s the status quo. It’s just being creative, I think.”
Men Smash Atoms shows tend to combine opera with movement, striking visuals and techno/industrial sounds – Nicodemus’ forte.
“For this performance,” she explains, “I will be dressing the stage with velvet drapes and candelabras, inspired by the scene in Roman Polanski’s film The Tenant, where he steps out onto the balcony and, imagining all the tenants are his surreal audience, throws himself off.”
The best way to describe what she does, Warren adds, is “It’s an experience. Last time I performed, people went ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening here in Savannah.’”
Anitra and Nicodemus were attracted to Savannah’s open embrace of all things artistic. Miami, she says, had run its course for them.
“It’s happening, but not in a real way. It’s very superficial. It’s just like a lot of clubs and DJs there.
“When we first moved there, it was better, we did Shakespeare on the Oval, on Lincoln Road. It was beautiful because we did a lot of theater work. All of a sudden, things started changing, they had a lot of drag queens performing – lip–synching instead of live performance. They didn’t want to hire p.a. systems or anything. It changed.
“Here, everyone’s very interested in what we do and what we’re about.”
“Puccini Deconstructed” is at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31 at the Guitar Bar. Admission $10.
Bobby Lee Rodgers plays his annual New Year’s Eve show at the Live Wire Music Hall, with an opening set from Savannah’s Wormsleow. Contrary to the advance announcement, the guitar wunderkind won’t be accompanied by the extraordinary drummer Jeff Sipe – he had to bow out at the last minute. The drum chair will be filled by Brandon Williams, with bass duties going to Neil Fountains, from Sipe’s band.
Rodgers is over the moon about the reception he’s getting for his just–released CD Overdrive, which was initially released through www.bobbyleerodgers.com. “We’re going to let it gradually catch on,” he reports. “We’re about to put it up on iTunes.
“We really have to go about it at a snail’s pace, because nobody really knows about record sales, how to sell them, any more. It just came out in Hittin’ the Note and we sold more, and we have a couple of radio stations playing it now ... everybody just loves it. So I’m just letting it kind of go on its own. That’s all I can really do right now.”
Bottles ‘n’ Cans may be the hardest–working band in Savannah. This hard–driving blues and rock ‘n’ roll outfit seems to be onstage, somewhere, every night of the week. For New Year’s Eve, the guys will be rocking the Distillery.
“We’re been trying to get some new material together,” says singer/guitarist Ray Lundy. “There’s this friend of ours, DJ Sandor, he’s a Hungarian filmmaker/musician, and he wants to make a documentary about the local blues bands here in Savannah. He wanted us to record some stuff, so we decide well, let’s get together and just make up something new. And then give it to him to use in his documentary.
“And we’re still keeping at it, keeping busy. The other guys have regular job–jobs, but for me it’s just full–time music. So I’m always trying to keep as busy as possible. We’re gearing up for next year – trying to book early, and book often.”
Sinister Moustache sets up shop at the Wormhole on the Big Night. Savannah’s resident “art metal” band is unique in its aural soundscapes and meandering, dreamlike instrumental music, counter–commercial but impossible to ignore.
“Most bands are together with like musical interests,” suggests guitarist “Super” Steve Lester, “and our guys just happen to be all over the map. Nobody’s a metal guy, nobody’s a traditional jazz guy, but everybody in the band is into everything. Except our bass player’s real into the original punk scene and doom metal ... that’s kind of his thing. But all the rest of us are pretty versatile where it comes to what we listen to. And I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Lester’s trans–consciousness guitar work echoes that of his hero, King Crimson visionary Robert Fripp. “One of the common veins is that we are all big King Crimson fans,” he says. “Definitely.”
Sinister Moustache has a devoted local following, even though the band performs infrequently. “We get regulars to our shows, but our out of town shows are usually more impressive, just because it’s a new audience,” Lester offers. “It’s difficult to explain. If we can get people there, they’re going to like us. But if they’re there already, we always get tons of good feedback and sell some CDs. And that’s all you can really hope for out of town.”
Other local music to consider on New Year’s Eve: The Train Wrecks at the Warehouse, Liquid Ginger at Wild Wing Cafe, A Nickel Bag of Funk at the Tantra Lounge, Harry O’Donoghue at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub, DJ Jake the Snake at Hang Fire and Savannah fave Jubal Kane (a blistering blues bandfrom Lizard Lick, N.C.) at the Mercury Lounge.