Writer: Mike Thomas.
The cover art for Damn the Witch Siren’s latest release, Red Magic, is a vision straight out of Nicolas Wending Refn’s Neon Demon. Photographed from the waist up, singer Bobbi Kitten stares provocatively into the camera’s lens, bare-chested save for a generous application of crimson glitter paint.
This, combined with track titles such as “Sex U Up,” “F--k Me (Like We’re in Love)” and the delightful single-entendre “Feeling Myself,” and the project of this release seems clear enough: a shame-free celebration of sexuality driven by tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.
Spacebar was packed to capacity, a sold-out crowd having gathered to celebrate this latest release and accompanying tour from Columbus’ favorite electro-pop duo. Working the group’s merch table in a skin-tight sequined dress, Kitten stood out starkly from the masses in all her glam-rock glory.
Mingling with the commoners did nothing to lessen her mystique, and a seemingly endless procession of fans lined up to have their photo taken with the artist. She enthusiastically obliged countless concertgoers in this manner, before slipping past the throng to the bar in the back of the venue sometime near the end of middle-billed power-rock duo Betsy Ross’ set.
It is around this time that the unmistakable clack of a stun gun sounded out over the din of the crowd, emanating from somewhere near back of the room. Kitten has apparently produced a taser from her bag–a prop for further fan selfies–and holds the flashing prongs of the device up to her tongue in a cunnilingual gesture. A more perfect metaphor for the group’s intermingling of sex and danger could not be asked for.
As Damn the Witch Siren prepared for its performance, Kitten was joined on stage by her partner and musical cohort, Z Wolf. Unlike his companion, Wolf exudes an approachable techie-charm, dressed simply in jeans and a vintage Bowie t-shirt, an homage to one of the group’s known influences. The pair spent an almost interminable amount of time running countless cables to and from the various keyboards, synths, laptops and other arcane pieces of equipment used to generate their upbeat, dancy pop.
A light bar was planted behind the setup, drowning out Spacebar’s unassuming Edison bulbs with near seizure-inducing waves of multicolored luminescence. Once everything is in order, the duo took to the backstage for a brief huddle before reemerging in a cloud of smoke-machine fog. Wolf has now donned his trademark werewolf mask and red leather jacket in the style of “Beat It”-era Michael Jackson. Kitten looks exactly the same, which is to say, beyond stunning.
The performance that followed was chock full of the hypersexual yips and moans that are the hallmark of Kitten’s vocal stylings. “Yas, queen” was uttered on no fewer than 20 occasions, including, at Kitten’s insistence, during a call-and-response with the crowd in which the phrase (as instructed) is to be moaned out in the most orgasmic manner possible. This was repeated for good measure at the conclusion of the performance.
Musically, the duo’s sound moves fluidly between electro-tinged indie in the vein of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Artpop-era Gaga or techno-leaning Britney, with even a little Prince thrown into the mix, especially in a closing number reminiscent of “Purple Rain.” The enraptured crowd, ever hungry for more, was blessed with an encore because, as Kitten puts it, she doesn’t think everyone has been left “wet enough.”
Sex sells, and in the case of Damn the Witch Siren, it sells in bulk. In delivering the most overtly-sexualized performance in the city this side of annual fetish party TRAUMA, the duo seems to highlight the absurdity of our culture’s still puritanical leanings through an almost grotesque display of unfettered eroticism.
Through all the moaning and complete lack of subtlety or innuendo, Damn the Witch Siren lays out a challenge to the listener to stop taking sex so damn seriously and to let loose in an orgasmic “Yas queen” of liberation and freedom.