The combination somehow seemed perfect. The Sin City Circus Ladies, the infamous Big Eden nightclub, Evil Hoodoo night. But first, I had no idea what hoodoo was, so I had to do some research. According to expert Catherine Yronwode, hoodoo “consists of a large body of African folkloric practices and beliefs with a considerable admixture of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. Although most of its adherents are black, contrary to popular opinion, it has always been practiced by both whites and blacks in America. Other regionally popular names for hoodoo in the black community include ‘conjuration,’ ‘conjure,’ ‘witchcraft,’ ‘rootwork,’ and ‘tricking.’ The first three are simply English words; the fourth is a recognition of the pre-eminence that dried roots play in the making of charms and the casting of spells, and the fifth is a special meaning for a common English word.”
So, with a full understanding of the sort of magic I was to be subjected to, I set off towards the Ku’damm on a warm spring night with high hopes and great expectations. In the end, there was no disappointment.
First, I have to say that, to my knowledge, the Sin City Circus Ladies have never played a bad show. Even when I saw them for the first time at a dorfdisco anniversary party a few years back, where the drunk sound man was doing seemingly everything he could to fuck up Shambhu’s vocals, the Ladies managed to turn in a star quality set.
Upon my arrival at Big Eden, the crowd was lax for a Friday night, with nearly everyone sprawled out around the tables by the bar, sipping their drinks and lapping up the brilliant ’50s trash-a-billy that the DJ was spinning like a madman. Yes, the music was the source of the madness throughout the night. That much was made clear as soon as the Circus Ladies hit the stage, when the empty dance floor immediately filled up with the previously subdued guests. Call it evil hoodoo, call it sexmagick, call it whatever you want, the fact remains that the Circus Ladies electrified the entire club with their sound and their endearing collective presence. I was up front the whole time, so perhaps I felt it stronger than most, but I was dimly aware, through the jolt of adrenaline that was surging through my body for the duration of their set, that the people standing around me were shaking their asses just as hard.
The sleazy company regaled us with all the faves. Both the vocal and stage presence of gravel-throated hot-blooded super-aggresso trannie wonder Shambhu and the smooth-voiced blonde Betty Boop bombshell Trinity makes for an elegant live contrast; while Trinity shook her tambourine, Shambhu spent much of the set crawling on the stage, spitting at the audience, and inviting us for a fuck in the toilets after the gig. Tom Schwoll’s jangly honky tonk antics, up and down the neck of his guitar, made me worry that he’d lose control and shred the goddamn thing into pieces; by the end of the set, he was rocking out so hard, I wondered how it was possible for him to hit every chord perfectly; nevertheless, this balancing act of destructive energy with stunning musicianship and creative control is what holds the entire band together, from Shambhu’s infamous runny make-up to Lloyd Clark’s slap-happy bass.
The Sin City Circus Ladies are the epitome of everything that I imagine Berlin was in its decadent glory days. Whereas much of the current music scene has been homogenized with stupid trends and fake categories of “new music,” the Circus Ladies are unique for their unwillingness to conform to other people’s ideals, their unjaded youthful punk appeal, their classically trashy sexiness, and their old-fashion devotion to simply playing great music and having a fucking good time.
By the time the final encore had come to an end, I was covered in sweat and sore all over. The Evil Hoodoo had shaken my entire body, so I nursed the comedown with a beer at the bar. The ground stopped moving beneath my feet, and I realized the spell had been broken. At that point, I made my escape through the fluffy doors of the Big Eden, disappearing into the drunken Friday night crowd on the Ku’damm.