When Casey Spooner set out to create Fischerspooner’s new album, Sir, the frontman designed it to be “aggressively homosexual”—an intention that played out in full unabashed force during the electroclash duo’s comeback performance this weekend at Brooklyn Steel. His live show fused the hyper-masculine sex appeal of leather bars with the electric flamboyance of raves, but Fischerspooner productions have never been mere flashy parades with no tact. They’ve always offered informed, critical observations, and this one felt no different.
Throughout his music career, Spooner has taken on various characters, for years using costumes as a vehicle to comment on Madonna-level pop shows with his own over-the-top looks and ambitious stage performances. But once that model became exhausted by contemporary mainstream acts—Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj—the queer performer realized he needed to come back this year with something new for Fischerspooner’s latest effort.
“Everyone in show business has a colored wig and a freaky outfit, so how the hell am I going to evolve now that that thesis has been absorbed and exhausted?” Spooner told OUT this summer.“Well, I can be older, I can be gay, I can be a man and sexual, which you don’t see. We’re living through a sexual revolution in the gay community. It’s a generation that doesn’t have fear of HIV for the first time, so I think there’s a type of sexual freedom I’m experiencing that is connected to this type of ’70s image.”
With his tanned, muscular physique, handlebar mustache and shoulder-length hair, 47-year-old Spooner has fully realized the archetypal leather daddy—a sexualized character you’d see in Tom of Finland’s illustrations or some ’70s hardcore porn. The familiarity of this look provides a strong backbone for Fischerspooner’s forthcoming Michael Stipe-produced Sir, which sees Spooner blurring the lines between character and self through songs about sexuality—not only the erotic rushes, but the low blows that left Spooner homeless, broke and lost in NYC over the past few years.
The Friday show began with Spooner’s lone voice, sent through a vocoder he calls “digital butch,” recounting a childhood memory where he’d frequently visit a store selling Bruce Weber’s photography book of half-naked men in Rio De Janeiro. This monologue ushered in an hour-long performance that wrestled with sexual frustration, discovery and libration, opening with an ominous track called “Strut” that pounds like Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” and sees Spooner screaming a double entendre on the chorus: “This is not not love!”
When a man dressed as a leather-clad police officer emerged, Spooner dropped to the floor, clinging onto his leg in boyish submission for an emotional song called “Stranger Strange.” Porn star and photographer Tayte Hanson was on stage, as well, shooting Spooner and his group of barely-dressed back-up dancers. Wearing only a thong, Hanson became part of the stage show, grinding on dancers with his camera pointed and helping Spooner change costumes throughout, at one point using his teeth to rip off a full-body suit.
As this ‘70s leather daddy archetype, Spooner was the night’s natural ringleader—an object of desire for more than 20 extras to surround, flexing their sculpted muscles and flaunting their sexuality like a stylized circuit party. Audience members became voyeurs for Spooner’s fantasy, with a dark, electronic soundtrack to amplify the erotic experience. On the slow-burning Sir highlight “Discreet,” Spooner assures a lover that “no one needs to know;” on “Butterscotch Goddamn,” the frontman begs, “Won’t you love me back?” before demanding, “Kiss me,” above grinding synth production; on “Everything Is Just Alright,” Spooner revels in the mediocrity that often comes with drunken hook-ups: “I’m kinda buzzed, you’re kinda dumb, and everything is just alright.”
Although it was met with the crowd’s screaming delight, this level of brazen male gayness reportedly became a point of contention for the Brooklyn venue, which was worried before the show about on-stage nudity. Speaking with Spin, Spooner said he felt like he was directly dealing with conservatism and homophobia. “You don’t believe it until it’s happening,” he added, despite successfully pulling off a show that amplified sexuality and, by the end, offered an important political statement about the LGBTQ community in President Trump’s America.
“Emerge,” Fischerspooner’s biggest song to date, brought out the night’s full cast, holding picket signs that underlined pressing queer concerns: Fascism is a LGBTQ issue, Racism is a LGBTQ issue, Medicare is a LGBTQ issue, among other bold declarations. This collaboration with activist group Rise and Resist brought back an alarming sense of reality to Spooner’s surreal on-stage performance, much like a cold morning shower after a steamy night of drunken thrashing and hazy escapism. At the end Fischerspooner’s sexual display, the duo’s final message was clearly defined, calling for protest and championing community.
Speaking with OUT, Spooner said performing on stage is a religious experience. “It’s holistic—really mind, body, spirit,” he said. “All of you is required. It needs to be intelligent, you need to speak with clarity, but then you’re physically giving everything you can and sacrificing your body on a daily basis. When it’s good, the audience is in a similar space, having a mind, body, spirit connection.” With a show that simultaneously aroused, inspired and, finally, propelled change, Fischerspooner’s comeback spectacle wasn’t just “good,” but the perfect trifecta.
Fischerspooner’s fourth studio album SIR is scheduled for release early next year. Watch “Togetherness,” featuring Caroline Polachek, here.
Photography: Tayte Hanson