“‘No Lead Belly, No Beatles,'” Grammy-winning singer Tom Chapin said, quoting George Harrison outside of the building at 414 East 10th Street. There were murmurs of approval from the crowd that, despite the freezing cold, gathered out front of this Alphabet City building today to celebrate the unveiling of a commemorative plaque that now hangs on the one-time home of the great folk and blues musician. Through stories and song, musicians, longtime fans, and historians honored Lead Belly on his birthday outside the singer’s old apartment. (That’s right, today wasn’t just David Bowie Day.)
M Lamar is a singular performer to say the least. The visual-artist-turned-opera-composer (who also happens to be Laverne Cox’s twin brother) writes and performs his own unique blend of blues, black metal, and classical music-influenced operas that grapple with the black experience in America. Radical, queer, and ever the intense performer, M Lamar brings his place in a violent, unjust historical continuum to bear on the politics of now. This performance of bits of Lamar’s “most poignant material” is free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion with Tucker Culbertson, a queer theory and law professor at Cooper Union.
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It’s an interesting experience being in a public place with M. Lamar. Even in Bushwick, you can feel every eye in the room traveling back and forth between his long, stick-straight black hair, his various spikes, and jet black clothing. The artist– who performed Destruction, his multi-faceted theatrical black-metal opera last night at Issue Project Room— is probably like no one you’ve ever seen before. For one, M. Lamar truly lives his art (which is like nothing else out there at the moment), as evidenced in his speech and appearance: he drapes himself in the darkest blacks and speaks with passionate conviction. “Lately, I’ve been calling myself a ‘negro gothic devil-worshipping free black man in the blues tradition,'” he explained. It’s actually a modest description of what Lamar’s all about.