For anyone who cut their teeth in the Orlando alternative underground like me, the Genitorturers always stood as an extreme cult legend, one of those bands whose shocking early shows we always heard tales about from older, cooler friends and siblings. Well, they just hit their 30th anniversary as a band. To celebrate it, they returned to the city that birthed them and held a bash that was probably one of the biggest and certainly the most sex-drenched shows that local promoter Modern Music Movement has put on (June 2, The Abbey). Orlando is a very different place now and their show actually occurred in the heart of yuppie developer hotbed Thornton Park, but that’s the kind of delicious subversion that probably tickles a troupe like this.
Shock is an ever-moving threshold, and norms have changed exponentially since they first sparked outrage. But even now, they still do a respectable job of delivering grand sleaze with old-school underground showmanship.
And unlike the basic Halloween fashion show that some of their younger, paler shadows put on, the Genitorturers’ BDSM carnival still goes big and far with nudity, stilt-walkers, sword-swallowing and lots and lots of dildos. It’s a machine of spectacle that’s a bit like GWAR imagined by a woman. Almost no one does it like this any more. What’s more, it’s pretty original and it’s certifiably homegrown.
Just as historic, however, was the appearance by NYC underground icon Lydia Lunch. Orlando got a chance to experience her up close and personal not too long ago when she did a multimedia blitz of the city last September. But musically, that was a stripped spoken-word performance with minimal sonic accompaniment by Weasel Walter. Engaging though that was, this latest appearance was by Retrovirus, a full-band performance spanning Lunch’s many musical groups. And it was a big enough occasion to pull a visibly discrete crowd all its own.
Between the Genitorturers’ elaborate fetish orgy and the scene-goth fluff of opening duo Abbey Death, there was a particular frequency to the night’s proceedings. But Lunch and her band weren’t on it. Practically radioactive with No Wave creed and cred, they threw off pure punker-than-punk heat.
They sounded good. They sounded real. They sounded essential. Their performance and presence were so vital that there was, in that moment, little indicator of the age of the band members or the material.
This is the OG stuff. This is art as primal instinct. Unlike what their name suggests, their music is far more timeless than retro. And very much unlike their billmates, their music is the true rejection of convention.
Even with a powerful full band in tow, Lunch’s eternal snot was center stage. She commanded wine from the mic, she scowled in our music editor’s face, and she called out Gallery at Avalon Island director (and In Between Series father) Pat Greene out – that’s right, by name, motherfucker – for talking during the performance. ‘Atta way to rub your shit all over this town, something I suspect she can’t help but do wherever she goes. Forever stay hard, Lydia.