Tourettes Without Regrets is subtitled on their website as “the fightclub of underground art”, which, believe it or not, is totally appropriate. For ten years they have been pulling acts, centered on spoken word and rap, out into the spotlight in shows that teeter on the brink of chaos. Currently they take the stage every first Thursday of the month at the Oakland Metro (630 3rd St. Oakland CA). The show I saw was at the Michelle Brother’s O’Farrell theater in San Francisco. This was the second time they’ve talked this historic strip club into letting them use their film screening theater for their Tourettes show, which for me adds the right amount of novelty to the well trodden path of a sub-culture performance/art show.
Slam poetry always has that same cadence, that same rhythm. It gets hard to swallow, like listening to comedians from the fifties doing one liners. It is easy to call it art, but entertaining? Crowds seem to go for it. It bores the hell out of me. My mind usually doesn’t follow fast enough to sort the deep meaning out of the stack of mixed metaphors. So the promise of some nudity definitely helped get me excited for this show.
And luckily, Torrettes Without Regrets is fun. The organizer, impresario, and master of ceremonies, Jamie Dewolf, is not shy. Immediately you get the impression that he wants something big to happen. He is not sure if it will, but he has lined up enough variety with a bit of wiggle room so that if life was going to spring forth it has a chance. So the whole show teeters on abandon, searching for openings within its own set up through which it can burst out, and let life fill the stage. The art-of-the-moment we see at every “underground” street culture event (beat boxing, hip hop, rap battles, etc.) works here as a platform for something more.
In Thursday’s show it happened a few times. When the audience members strip totally naked even when they didn’t have to, when they wouldn’t get off the stage, when straight men had to touch flesh to flesh. When the lap dance overwhelmed the beat boxer getting it, and he stammered and went flush. When the Emcee tried to wrangle a bit of game show out of the over enthusiastic volunteers from the audience with Penis Pictionary, or bare-assed Musical Chairs. And the spirit was in the air throughout, as everyone is made to play, get silly, and the acts fall apart and the plan is lost for a second, and nutty life springs out. It works less when the acts suck, which was the case a few times Thursday. And when that happened, you could watch the hardcore porn that was playing throughout the show on the big screen. But this is a variety show and the acts change all the time. The spirit of the thing is the constant.