By Daniel A. Kusner Life+Style Editor

Last weekend, Madonna crashed his gig.
And his old boyfriend Michael Stipe just gave him an R.E.M. song to cover.

But electro-clash’s funniest and most dazzling visual artist is getting further away from hitting the Big Time.
And that’s just fine

Fischerspooner with Ssion perform at the Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. May 15, doors at 8 p.m. $20. 214-824-9933.

Maybe Casey Spooner is getting used to being an underground cult figure. For a while, it seemed like his rock-god status was almost within reach — especially if you ever caught a live performance of his band, Fischerspooner.

With ass-shaking electronica combined with high-gloss videos and a postmodern dance troupe, Spooner deadpanned his performances with an ego the size of Texas Stadium. But beneath that glittery façade was something irresistibly funny — like Derek Zoolander headlining at a Las Vegas casino.

Their songs fit perfectly on the dance floor. But Fischerspooner’s high-concept shows were always laced with superbly polished humor. However, that combination doesn’t fit into a predictable mold.

Are they performance art?

Are they pop?

Even though the Brooklyn-based act were on a major label for a long time, their new album "Entertainment" was released last week, officially making them indie fare. (In 2007, Capital Records merged with Virgin, and both Janet Jackson and Fischerspooner were released from their recording contracts).

"Our new tour requires so much energy. And I’m really excited because we just got a juicer for our tour bus," Spooner says on his cell phone. "It would be great if we had more resources. We’re all multi-tasking. Everyone on this tour is doing, like, four jobs because we don’t have the superpower mega-infrastructure anymore. But I’m surviving. Besides, no one buys records anymore."

On Friday, Fischerspooner returns to Dallas, for what should be an especially intimate gig at The Granada Theater.

Although the band’s profile has slightly descended, y’all shouldn’t lower your expectations. Last weekend, at a Brooklyn music hall gig, Fischerspooner had a special guest in the audience.

"Yeah, Madonna showed up," Spooner says. "Because of security issues, I didn’t meet her."

If there was a code of silence about the Material Girl’s’ presence at the venue, Spooner did the right thing — he broke it.

"The show had just started. And after a few songs, the music stops, and there’s this fill-in-the-blank moment I have. So I said, ‘We have a really super-exciting guest tonight: Madonna!’

"She kind of ducked back. I knew she wasn’t there to be photographed or studied.

She just wanted to be chill and on the down low," Spooner says. "She was with [her young Brazilian boytoy] Jesus. Madonna was sitting on his lap. And she left right before we finished, and naturally people left the room to chase her down the street."

Spooner is wonderfully candid.

In 2002, he told BUTT Magazine all about his first boyfriend, Michael Stipe, saying, "He was a good lay. He could fuck the chrome off a bumper. He definitely fucked the shit out of me."

Fiercely protective about being portrayed as a "mysterious rock-god," Stipe is guarded to a fault. Maybe Spooner has helped him loosen up. Because BUTT Magazine also interviewed Stipe, and when Spooner’s name was mentioned, the R.E.M. singer requested to talk off the record. When Stipe returned, he ended up complimenting Spooner’s "amazing ass."

Now they’re almost buddy-buddy. As a bonus track on the new album, Stipe suggested Fischerspooner cover "Fascinating," a ballad that was cut from R.E.M.’s "Reveal" disc.

"He’s great. We literally went out 20 years ago. He was my Brokeback Mountain. I was a freshman in college and he was my first boyfriend. Wow, what an incredible first relationship," Spooner says.

Many R.E.M. fans spend decades decoding Stipe’s complex, surreal lyrics. Does he think Stipe wrote any songs that were inspired by their relationship?

"I know he did. There are two songs: ‘Nightswimming’ and ‘Low.’ I think ‘Low’ is our breakup song, actually," Spooner says.

Did they go swimming together at night?

"Yeah. There was a ton of us. After we’d go out dancing, we’d all load up in my truck and drive out in the country and go swimming in a pond," Spooner remembers.

Even in this dire economy, there’s a hint of frustration over Fischerspooner getting dropped form the mainstream market. For such an explosively visual band, I ask of the band is scheduled to perform on any national TV shows: Letterman, Leno or even Carson Daily or Jimmy Fallon?

"We don’t have a TV marketing division pushing us. Anyway, I think we intimidate people," Spooner says.

"But who cares? One of the most powerful things I ever saw was Laurie Anderson on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I think we’re more like those visual art-driven performers, like Laurie Anderson and Grace Jones," he continues. "Now, when people appear on TV, it’s basically a press release, they’re promoting a motion picture or a big album. Those people aren’t on the shows because they’re the most creative and most interesting. It’s because they’re behind the big selling machine."
Spooner says he’s enjoying the vacation from commercial pop.

"I’m returning to my roots. It feels good because it’s more direct. I feel like I can be more concise," he says. "We’re getting more work done and doing it ourselves again."


PHOTO BY Andreas Konrath

Casey Spooner wanted to give a shoutout to a Texan that’s been very influential to the Fischerspooner oeuvre, K8 Hardy. Born in Fort Worth, Hardy (birth name Kate) is now a Brooklynite who works mainly in video and performance art. She’s also one of the founding editors of LTTR, a radical gender-queer-lesbian-feminist art journal.

For the new tour, Hardy had a major hand in helping Spooner create his iconic neon hat and wardrobe. Hardy says she and Spooner were inspired by old Japanese films to create the "outer-space, baroque, sports-techy" look. And they spent a year designing Spooner’s electro chapeau, which has its own gigantic traveling case. To create Spooner’s costumes, they also teamed with renowned designers — Givenchy, Gareth Pugh, Jean Charles de Castejebac and Raf Simons for Jil Sander.

This week, Dallas Voice caught up with Hardy who said, "I think that part of what makes me a good stylist is because I grew up in Fort Worth. I wasn’t surrounded with designer labels and high fashion, and it forced me to think more creatively about self-expression through fashion and clothing because I was shopping at thrift stores and mall chains."

As a video director, Hardy also works with indie music’s fiercest dyke acts : Lesbians on Ecstasy and Le Tigre.

— D. A. K.


MOOD INDIGO: Ray, left, and Saliers play the Lakewood on Wednesday.

At the 2009 South By SouthWest music conference, Perez Hilton’s showcase was arguably the best gig in town. And he kept teasing everyone with a surprise guest. Even though Solange, Yelle, Ladyhawk and Little Boots were on the bill, and Kanye West dropped in to perform at 2 a.m., Perez’s special treat was proudly welcoming the Indigo Girls.

Say what you want about Perez’s backstabbing, snarky blog. Adding the Indigo Girls to a bill that courts the freshest up-and-comers is sweeter than Joan Rivers winning "Celebrity Apprentice."

After 21 years of impeccable songwriting, gorgeous dueling guitars and harmonies richer than Simon & Garfunkel, the lesbian duo are bona fide legends. But there is something very fresh about Indigo Girls. They’re now operating as an independent act.

After being cut loose from Hollywood Records, the girls’ latest disc, "Poseidon and the Bitter Bug," was released on the band’s own imprint, IG Recordings.

They’re still going strong. On Wednesday, they play the Lakewood Theater. And any fan who’s been with them since 1987 knows that it’s almost impossible for them to not put on a tremendous show that culls from a exquisite catalog of folk, punk, bluegrass and a little bit of country.

— Daniel A. Kusner

Indigo Girls perform May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Lakewood Theater, 1825 Abrams Pkwy. $37.50.

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