The Gossip’s music has always been as indebted to dance as it is to the blues, so when frontwoman Beth Ditto struck out on her own for an EP dynamite Nineties-tinged house jams, it wasn’t as much an uprooting of styles as it was a savvy deviation from audience expectations. “First of all, house music, especially from the Nineties, is the gayest music ever,” she told Rolling Stone at the MAC Cosmetics store in New York’s Soho last night. “It’s all drum and bass, which is perfect for parties.”
As it turns out, her foray into club music makes for an even better live show: amidst the bacchanalia of Fashion’s Night Out, Ditto’s brief but incendiary set proved to be one of the evening’s most-discussed events. As she brought the over-capacity audience to its feet, the crowd literally spilled out of the store and onto the sidewalks – endangering the odious popularity of Pauly D’s appearance at the Dash boutique a few doors down.
Before taking the stage, Ditto hinted that she was “going to have a bit of fun — kind of a karaoke moment.” Her teasing statement came into context minutes later, when she launched dramatically into a cover of Madonna’s “Vogue” — complete with a troupe of gesticulating, eye-liner-laden males writhing behind her. The response? Uproarious. Staying faithful to the hedonistic vibe she’d conjured, she then tackled Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene,” before exiting the stage with a dramatic flourish.
A little bit of Americana will always suit a homespun girl who prefers to keep Portland as her homebase. Her pre-show ensemble — a Banana Republic dress from a local Goodwill store (“See, the tag is still on it!” she said proudly) was demure, a clever disguise for the adventurous sounds and looks she was about to unleash. Though she decorated herself in dramatic black eyeshadow and liner and embellished lips for her night of MAC-sponsored glam, her inspirations remained eccentric. “I’m really into chola lips,” she noted, referring to the slang term for Latina gang members. “I tried to do that tonight.” Her sharply arched new brow shape was also a nod to the same girls: gangsters turned urban muses.
For her performance, Ditto ditched the Banana Republic garb and wore a dizzying a technicolor frock from the British designer Christopher Kane — anyone with a penchant for raver chic would recognize it. Though it remains to be seen if she’ll appear at Kane’s upcoming Spring 2012 show in London, she’ll be attending some shows this New York Fashion Week: “I’m really excited to see Diane Von Furstenburg and Ivana Helsinki,” she said. A mixture of classic Americana and a new radical spirit — just like Ditto.