Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black at the Bowery Electric

The centerpiece for the band known as The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is Kembra Pfahler, a songwriter, singer, performance artist, filmmaker and actress from Hermosa Beach, California. The daughter of surf pioneer Freddy Pfahler, Kembra started in show business as a child actress, appearing in several television commercials. Turning 18, Pfahler moved to New York City in 1979 to start her creative career, became a known figure in performance art, modeled apparel for a major clothing line and acted in low-budget horror and soft-core pornography films. After ten years of making Super 8 horror films and visual and performance art, Kembra and Samoa Moriki (her husband at the time) formed a band and theatrical troupe in 1990 as a soundtrack to their art. Entitled The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black in homage to actress Karen Black, the band has recorded three albums, the latest of which is 1998’s Black Date.

When is a concert more than a concert? When it comes with costumes and props for every song. As the show began tonight at the Bowery Electric, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black’s guitar, bass and drums team pounded out basic, driving, punk rock. Four backup singers came out wearing very little beyond body paint and large black bouffant wigs. Pfahler then made her entrance, also wearing a teased over-sized wig, blacked-out teeth, black stiletto heel boots, and black underwear, her nearly-nude body painted red. As music alone, or as theater alone, the show might have been unimpressive, but the package was more – a shock rock presentation featuring elements of hard and heavy rock, performance art, vaudeville and burlesque. In a song about cleaning out her underwear drawer, for instance, Pfaler sat on a tall bureau and reached into its top drawers, throwing underwear into the audience. How do you end a show like this? Pfaler stood on her head, legs spread wide, while one of her singers smeared lots of a pasty substance onto Pfaler’s crotch, buttocks and inner thighs. One can only expect the uncommon visual and aural assault with the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.