Clea Cutthroat and Mad Kate of Bonaparte (All photos by Bebe Besch)
Last weekend I took a short trip for my first time to the East Coast, and my friend decided on a whim that we should check out her favorite venue in New York City, The Mercury Lounge. Playing the quaint venue (roughly half the size of The Crocodile in Seattle) on this night was Berlin-based punk rock band Bonaparte. In no way were we prepared for what awaited us past the threshold of the venue doors.
Though The Mercury Lounge was small, people filed in near the back of the room while the front of the crowd was left sparse and easy for claiming by my friends and me. We cheered as the drummer, keyboardist, and bassist took the stage first, each dressed in vibrant costumes. Lead singer and guitarist Tobias Jundt appeared after them decked head to toe in costume himself, finished off with an overwhelming mask that he began to sing their first song, “Do You Want To Party” through. As the song progressed, new characters appeared on stage. At least 4 other members of Bonaparte transformed the stage into a bizarre fantasy as they opened with costumes inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and swapped through what seemed like at least 30 other costumes throughout the set.
The most arresting of all of Bonaparte’s members were probably the women. Clea Cutthroat and Mad Kate both owned our attention as they each displayed supreme physical condition through dance and theatrics while interacting with audience members and going through outfit changes. Clea actually grabbed my face and caressed me twice throughout their set, and eventually poured wine into my friend’s mouth. The same friend was later straddled by two of the scantily clad male band members after he was pulled backwards onto the stage. Mad Kate was hypnotizing as she moved like a ballerina in slow motion on stage with slowed and extreme facial exaggerations.
As the night continued, we saw the huge group go through outfit changes including a Michael Jackson mask, a clown, a clothes hamper, a body suit that was zipped completely past the face, a nun, QR codes, a race car driver, a horse, a bell-bottom disco lover and many, many more. Props were also introduced such as a banana that Mad Kate both ate herself and fed to the audience and a bleeding brain held by Clea Cutthroat. As Clea held the brain skyward, fake blood spilled out of her mouth to the stage floor. This would be repeated from other band members who spit the blood out onto the audience, leaving the excessive glitter that was floating in the air to land and stay glued to our bodies.
As if things couldn’t have been crazier, towards the end of the set, lead singer Tobias Jundt decided to embrace the stage with his own maneuvers. He rolled around furiously on the stage before jumping and landing directly on me in the crowd (my camera and I were alone in this area of the audience and there was no one else around to catch his attempt…) and luckily there was no damage as he maneuvered past me to take to rolling amongst the concrete floor. Other Bonaparte members on stage were visibly naked by the end of the set after stripping off the last of their costumes. The show ended abruptly, with a mic lying next to a pool of fake blood and without a single “hello” or word spoken to the crowd.
Bonaparte didn’t speak to the audience at all besides their sung lyrics at The Mercury Lounge because they choose to speak through performance. Though I attended no Broadway productions while in NYC I was still rewarded with theater, as Bonaparte’s performance was more than I would have expected from any theatrical outlet, let alone a concert. The $10 for at this show was better spent than any of my other East Coast purchases.
Jundt is the only stationary band member of Bonaparte, with up to 20 different rotating musical members and personalities to join him on stage, so no matter which of them appear for a Bonaparte performance, you’re bound for an unforgettable night. You can see Bonaparte member Mad Kate in Seattle at The Funhouse on April 1st, performing in her other band the Kamikaze Queens.