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Joined: 10/31/2015
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When does makeup become mockery?Page 1 of 1    
Anyone in here from the American midwest - there's a possibility that you have heard or seen concerts by a cover band called "Hairball"

For those who have not seen or heard their concerts - basically their M.O. is feeding on the nostalgia from the 1980's and early 90's hard rock bands famous for long hair and loud music. What they do is parade through several major hits by having 2-3 lead singers go through costume changes to mimic the leads of yesteryear- colorful spandex for David Lee Roth, a red hair wig and bandanna for Axl Rose, full black and white KISS makeup, studded vest and platform shoes for Gene Simmons - all the while singing 2-3 tunes by their respective bands. It's a fast-paced show with several changeovers, and the bassist, drummer and guitarist are on stage almost the whole time, so they have to know the tunes. A couple large video screens with pyro effects and confetti cannons give what they call a 'Bombastic' celebration of Arena Rock.

The members are largely locals from Minnesota and the upper midwest, so their performances are mostly regional street dances and fundraisers in tents in parking lots for about 2,000 to 3,000 people -- but they have gotten a few big gigs for 10,000 people or more in places like Omaha, Oklahoma City, and most recently, the Minnesota State Fair.

They have been doing this style of productions for years, and the quality (and volume) of the shows keeps getting bigger and better. I have friended them on Facebook and seen the stuff they do to train and practice to get them where they are today. The lead guitarist was gone for a time, fighting Stage 3 cancer of the esophagus - but did the State Fair show (completely bald from chemo) and did a great job of it.

In about the middle of the concert, one of the singers comes on stage wearing the frilly shirt and purple jacket and a dark curly haired wig to do a few Prince songs. The lights went low for "Purple Rain" and a several hundred people in the crowd of about 12,000 plus used their cell phones like lighters, swaying to the music. It was easily the most 'magical' part of the evening, and the reception for it was enthusiastic.

Fast forward a few days later. One of the local major newspaper runs a story saying the guy playing Prince on stage also used makeup to give his face a deep tan color. The term "Blackface" is used, and the story questioned why he used makeup. Basically, the answer was that they had ALWAYS done that, and didn't think anything was wrong since they also used makeup for KISS and the circles around the eyes like Alice Cooper. Now Facebook has blown up with all kinds of discussions and arguments and declarations that it HAS to stop.

While 'Blackface' is a term without question that has racist overtones, I always thought it meant the type of white stage performers who who did the shoe polish black and white lips and eyebrows in the early part of the last century to portray bad caricatures of black people. I took the stand that these white guys were just trying their best to represent the singers in costume and makeup, and was instantly attacked for even thinking that their makeup was O.K.

They have been doing this cover band act for something like 16 years, including dozens of shows in the immediate area around the Twin Cities. A set of 2-3 Prince tunes has been a standard as far back as I can remember. I poked a bear by criticizing the people who took such a powerful stand about 'Blackface' when I noted that nobody has ever made a stink about their act before. It's not like they are HIDING their face makeup performing in front of thousands of people for more than a decade.

While I agree there's no real reason why the guys need face makeup to play Prince - heck, in the flashing stage lighting you can't even tell what color anyone is - but this rage towards the term 'Blackface' just feels to me like it is hugely mis-directed against the band for just trying to put on a show.

The other part of this mis-direction I think comes from the untimely death of Prince - it seems on a local, Minnesota level the guy has been elevated to some sort of Sainthood and absolutely nobody can do the job he used to do. It's almost as if performing a Prince tune is insulting or damaging his legacy -- never mind the fact bands have been covering Prince tunes for more than a decade before he died, and he didn't do anything to stop them.

I love Prince music. I easily have more albums of his than any other artist. The guy was a legendary talent, and anyone who can come even close to what he could do - should be performing somewhere. I just don't get how fans seem to BELIEVE they know what their deceased idol would want - when we really have no idea.

So what do you think? At what point does makeup become mockery instead of mimicry?
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