Silver foxes

Over a quarter-century, Erasure has grown from pop wunderkinds to senior statesmen

A LOTTA RESPECT º Andy Bell, left, and Vince Clarke of Erasure have earned their places as music legends and queer icons, but look forward with a refreshed sound and tour that hits Dallas on Sunday.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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ERASURE
With Frankmusik.
House of Blues, 2301 Flora St. Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. $39–$65.
Sold out. Ticketmaster.com

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There is an almost jaw-dropping effect to the idea that it has been 25 years since the world first heard of Erasure. Andy Bell’s distinctly boyish voice was theatrical with the heartbreak and optimism of youth. Vince Clarke joined Bell as a veteran of Yaz and Depeche Mode, but with Erasure came a sense of ebullience those bands never possessed. Bell and Clarke might be pop music’s most perfect marriage.

As music icons, they have actually relinquished control of their upcoming album, Tomorrow’s World, which drops in October. Interestingly, soon after the group marks its 25th year with its 14th studio album, its producer, Frankmusik, will celebrate his 26th birthday.

“It turns out his mum was a huge fan of ours,” Bell laughs.

Being a contemporary of your producer’s parents is the least of Erasure’s concerns. Bringing Frankmusik on board is both a blur and a blessing to Bell. As a producer, he has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Erasure contemporaries Pet Shop Boys, and brings a freshness to Tomorrow’s World that hasn’t been heard in the last decade. Still, the sound is distinctly them.

“Nobody knows quite how it happened, but we had this instinctive feeling about him,” Bell says. “He was championed by our more fanatical fans and they made a really good choice. I don’t know how those straight boys can do it but he’s embraced that synth genre and loves that metrosexual culture.”

When Frankmusik was asked if he was intimidated by working on this album, his appreciation of Erasure is fully relayed.

“No, no. It felt like my calling, it really did. I felt like I needed to make that album — for me and for them,” he told QSyndicate earlier this month.

Both acts are on the road touring together, as if Erasure is somehow passing the pop torch. No need to call this a farewell tour, though: Bell doesn’t feel like they are going away anytime soon.

“You don’t take it for granted at all,” he says. “We’re almost halfway through the American tour, but we are looking forward to the end of this tour, but at the same time we’re loving it. It’s been great fun. It’s a lovely thing to have a great job.”

Erasure has released many gems over the years that have also become signature hits. “Oh L’Amour,” “A Little Respect” and “Chains of Love” are just a sampling of their mark on the industry. But among that huge foundation of songs are some Bell wishes had become bigger hits.

“Sure, you get disappointed when certain ones aren’t played on the radio, but you can’t have that all the time,” he says. “I loved ‘You Surround Me’ and ‘Rock Me Gently’ a lot. Unless we feel strongly about something, then the label chooses. At some point, we have to realize its true worth.”

Erasure comes to the House of Blues Sept. 25 to an already-sold-out venue. Clearly they have not lost their drawing power. Bell says Dallas has always been good to the band despite some of the not-so-approving denizens Texas is sometimes known for.

“We love playing there because we’re have this really great fan base in Dallas and it’s continued over the years,” he says. “I do get fed up with these ‘pray away the gay’ folks who wage warfare on young people. Those closet cases always have their hidden agendas and just take it out on other people.”

After 25 years, it would appear Bell still retains his sass, only now it’s more like a guided missile.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Denim ’n drag

How do the hyper-masculine world of leather and the camp of female impersonation find common ground at the rodeo? With surprising ease

Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins
NOT THEIR FIRST TIME AT THE RODEO | Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins, better known as drag maven Donna Dumae, are the seemingly unlikely grand marshals at the TGRA’s Big D Rodeo this weekend. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

In Texas, cowboys are known for their 10-gallon hats. And drag queens are known for the  10-gallon wigs.

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s (TGRA) Big D Rodeo 2010 kicks off this weekend in Alvarado, Texas (midway between Midlothian and Cleburne along Highway 67), and as always, there’s a fun mix of boot-stompin’, calf-ropin’ and dress-wearin’ — all in the name of charity.

But the event also highlights a unique confluence of gay culture. This year, the two grand marshals are Don Jenkins (aka drag diva Donna Dumae from the United Court of the Lone Star Empire) and Robert Cantrell (aka Cleo), one of the founders of the Firedancers.
For anyone unfamiliar with the gay rodeo, the mix of drag and cowboys may seem a little counterintuitive, but to co-director Dan Nagel, the Big D Rodeo is the perfect marriage of camp and cattle needed to raise money for local organizations.

“Drag is a huge part of making those charity dollars,” he says. “TGRA is honored to have the support of so many of the other organizations and clubs in Texas, such as the UCLSE. We could not do all the good that we do with the support from our brothers and sisters throughout our communities working together as a team for a common goal: Charity.”

According to Nagel, some of the biggest crowd pleasers at gay rodeo are the “camp events,” which include competition in goat dressing, steer decorating and the ever-popular wild drag race (one rope, one steer and a man in drag — what could possibly go wrong?).

But the Big D Rodeo also features plenty of serious competitive sports you’d find at many traditional rodeos, including bull and steer riding, team roping, barrel racing and calf-roping on foot. And the skills it takes to succeed don’t depend on sexual orientation or dexterity with a curling iron.

In his 13 years with the International Gay Rodeo Association, six of which he’s worked with TGRA as well, Nagel has participated in six to eight gay rodeos per year on both sides of the proverbial fence, with a hand in everything from rough stock and speed events … and his share of camp demos, just for good measure.

“The rush you get is incredible,” he says. “Like any sport, the thrill is to compete and compete well.”

“We have a great lineup of live music, from Nashville and Texas both, a vendor market, great food, beer, and cocktails,” Nagel continues, “and cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country.”

So pretty much, something for everyone.

“It’s a party-like atmosphere with western lifestyle and heritage that come with all the rodeo hype,” he says.
And the fact the leather and drag communities come out for it proves that the stereotype of the dour, hetero Texas cowboy is just that.

Yup.

— Steven Lindsey

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Big D Rodeo calendar of events

Friday
9 a.m, — Horse stall check-in begins
Noon–3 p.m. — Barrel exhibition runs
6–9 p.m. —Registration
6–10 p.m.: Diamond Dash Jackpot Barrel Race
8–11 p.m.: Diamond W Expo; Homo rodeo.com meet and greet; live music and entertainment.

Saturday
9 a.m. — New contestant registration
10 a.m. — Rodeo performance
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon — Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
7 p.m.–? — Expo, with live music by Weldon Henson and James Allen Clark

Sunday
10 a.m. — Rodeo performances
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon: Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
8 p.m. — Expo; dinner and awards.
Diamond W Arena, 8901 E Highway 67, Alvarado. 214-346-2107. TGRA.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas