It’s Thursday night, and somewhere between work and writing that essay which was supposed to be done a week ago, I dragged my roommate away from our television and convinced her that taking advantage of the Orange County Museum of Art’s free Thursday night admission was a better use of time than procrastinating on her work as she waited for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to start.
Upon arriving at the museum, we toured the exhibits, browsing a combination of modern minimalism and some laughably stereotypical Orange County art. While most pieces were impressive and insightful, I had to pause and smirk a little at the closet on display, complete with bedazzled clothes and decorated shoes, and I thought to myself, ‘Only in Orange County.’
To be honest, I was not expecting much from the performance we were there to see. My Barbarians, a Los Angeles-based performance troupe, promised a show of pop music and improv, and based on the performance art video running in one of the gallery rooms, I expected a postmodern acid trip set to music.
My Barbarians began their show, titled ‘California Sweet,’ as six cloaked figures appeared on stage on the outdoor patio of the museum. According to the playlist handed out to the audience, the first act was titled ‘As We Look About Us.’ Apparently, as My Barbarians look about themselves, they see that ‘Things looks worse / Than ever before / And we do not / Remember the rich days.’ The chant continued through a seamless transition to the next song, ‘Gomorrah,’ in which the female lead of My Barbarians sings about being given a golden goat.
The song went on to feature details about the ‘rich days’ mentioned in the opening, accompanied by keyboards, drums and triangle, building to an almost unbearable pace and a fairly incredible display of musical talent.
Just as I was beginning to think that these performance troupes were a little beyond my realm of artistic comprehension, something strange happened. All the lead singers began to remove their cloaks and eventually their sweaters, shirts and pants. Remaining on the stage were three very uncovered performers, singing their hearts out wearing nothing but underwear.
At this point in the show, a little old lady wearing a beret sitting in the next row began to look worried. The audience was a little taken aback at this development on stage. My Barbarians had established themselves as very artistic, and after that, nothing in their show was shocking. It all became a collection of amusing acting, folk singing and unexpected lyricism.
The performers, Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Jimi Hey, went on to perform a total of 12 songs. They were engaging, outrageous but entertaining and almost shameless in the amount of fun they were having expressing themselves. There were tambourines, wigs, costume changes, songs about San Diego, an American flag painted to look like it was burning, a song about a ‘Gay Shaman’ and an almost constant stream of