It says a lot about contemporary culture when the flames of defiance are being fanned by a model. We reveal more about Karen Elson and her glorious band of cheeky confrontationalists known as Citizens Band at their recent NYC performance.
Amidst the hail of news reports on ballooning unemployment numbers and skyrocketing debt, the Citizens Band, took to the stage at the Abrons Arts Center on New York’s Lower East Side to shake, (debt) rattle and steamroll over the lies and hypocrisy that now dominate our media.
The Debt Rattle mise en scene was a Depression era dance marathon, and the cast were done up marvelously in full 1930’s regalia. The illustrious performers also included, amongst others, Zoe Kravitz, Rain Phoenix, Nina Persson (of Cardigans and A Camp), and Justin Bond (of Kiki and Harb infamy), with musical direction by Spring Awakening’s Kimberly Grigsby.
Karen Elson sings during The Citizens Band's performance piece The Debt Rattle in New York City.
The show was both sweetly authentic and socially and politically biting. And as the musicians glided effortlessly from Dixieland jams to Depression style ballads, the incisive lyrics drew startling comparisons between the two greatest moments of modern financial apocalypse, with poignant lines like “We’ve got to keep up with the Jonses” and “Skin is all the universal coverage we need” effortlessly spanning the chronology (Though it may be argued that everyone now has been trying to OUTDO the Jonses.)
Elson, an equally sexy and tragic presence, world-wearily crooned, “Why are the men in suits still allowed to cheat and thieve?" Of course, eighty years on, still no one can come up with a good answer. What’s most surprising to Citizens Band newbies is how utterly professional and well done the show is, from the costumes, to the music, right on up to some impressive aerial theatrics (the choreography is charmingly imperfect). One only wishes and HBO or Showtime would have taped it for airing to a larger audience.
In one particularly poignant moment in Debt Rattle, it was posited that, “The fall of ’29 made us all more human.” Sadly, we actually now know that that’s simply a romantic notion—the idea that deep down we’re all really kinda wonderful people and tragedy brings out the best in us. Indeed, 9/11 was followed by several years of rapacious greed in New York, with an unprecedented boom in exclusive clubs and nightspots, mostly catering to the newly fabulously rich. And, truth be told, the collapse of the banking system has ruined more lives than a thousand and ten terrorist attacks.
Citizens Band may not be superheroes, but it’s good to know that someone, at least, is fighting for truth and justice.
Source & Photo Credit: Citizens Band