Le Butcherettes, the Mexican garage punk band led by the phenomenal Teri Gender Bender (aka Teresa Suárez), returned to Chicago on Thursday, March 3, for a show at Subterranean. I saw this group at the same club in 2011 and at Do Division Fest in 2012. Le Butcherettes’ beautiful frontwoman strides around the stage like she owns it — rapidly changing her facial expressions from wide-mouthed, wide-eyed insanity to gentle smiles as she switched between guitar and keyboards. Le Butcherettes now have three albums — Sin Sin Sin (2011), Cry Is for the Flies (2014) and A Raw Youth (2015) — and it’s a strong collection of bracing rock song. But the live act is truly something to behold.
This past weekend’s Do Division Festival featured a strong schedule of local and touring bands. Standout performers from Chicago included Mannequin Men and Pinebender, who pummeled away at their post-punk songs. Craig Finn of the Hold Steady played a rare solo acoustic show. He’s better with a band backing him up, but the low-key format put the focus on his smart narrative lyrics. The Besnard Lakes soared with majestic guitar solos and keening falsetto vocals. And the Antlers wove intricate musical pieces together into melancholic art rock, playing a fine festival-closing set that would have been even better if they’d played more from their 2009 album Hospice.
But no one else at the festival could match the sheer spectacle of Le Butcherettes, who played Saturday night. The band’s front woman, Teresa Suaréz aka Teri Gender Bender, was not wearing the bloody butcher’s apron she donned at some previous concerts; for this outing she wore a tight dress that struggled all night to conceal her panties. Suaréz clearly revels in flaunting her sex appeal when she’s onstage, but she also sings, screams, rolls her eyes, pounds her keyboard and shakes her hair with such abandon that it feels more like some sort of punk performance art than a striptease act. In between songs, she often put her hands together and bowed, thanking the audience in a polite gesture that contorted sharply with her lack of inhibition during the songs, which are reminiscent at times of PJ Harvey during her early years. The climax on Saturday came when she crouched down behind her keyboard, then rose up to smash the instrument on the stage, stomping on it. Maybe it’s all an act, but the frenzy was visceral.
I posted photos of Le Butcherettes in a previous blog post, and another one is below. My friend Seijin Lee captured much of the performance on video, including this clip, which includes the moment of keyboard smashing around the 5:00 mark:
Photos from the Do Division Festival on Saturday, June 2.
Le Butcherettes inspired some rave reviews from people who saw them play at SXSW and Lollapalooza this year, and it’s easy to see why. The band, led and completely dominated by bloody-apron-wearing and stage-diving singer-keyboardist-guitarist Teri Gender Bender (aka Teri Suarez), plays with almost alarming intensity. Friday night at Subterranean in Chicago, Teri Gender Bender and her cohorts were in good form, playing songs that sounded at times like Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey and plunging into the crowd. Unlike the Lolla set, there was no vomiting.