red lights

Concert Livewire
basement tapes concert reviews cd reviews interviewsticket swap music news

"Almost" sex and the "nearly" violence

Mondo Lucha
Turner Hall
Milwaukee, WI
April 25, 2009
Mondo Lucha Mondo Lucha

Story by Thomas Culkin
Photos by Lynn Allen

For those of you not in the know, Mondo Lucha is an annual event that takes place in Milwaukee which packs Mexican "Lucha Libre" wrestling, Burlesque Dancing, Sideshow acts, and a Milwaukee band of note all into one night. The show made it's second appearance at Turner Hall on April 25th. Returning from last year's event were Lola Von Ella, the Brewcity Bruisers, Gravity Plays Favorites, and the truly awesome KGBeast. Joining this cast was the excellent Milwaukee band Maritime, playing intermittently throughout the night.

It flows from reason that the sheer amount of different ingredients in the show should sink it, but the event's organizers must be keenly aware of the element all good art or English teachers stress the most; composition. They kept the show moving quickly, and split the action up while developing a few storylines. As far as I can tell, the event went off without a hitch and a good time was had by all. What follows is a far more in depth review, if you can call it that. Believe it or not, this is what I was thinking about while sipping down a couple of beers during the duration of the event, here and there in between the "almost" sex and the "nearly" violence.

Entertainment Value
For a lot of people involved in rock bands, or art in general there's been a rise of a kind of iconoclastic anti-entertainer class through out the past two decades. I can't empirically prove it, but there's definitely a ton of anecdote out there. And while that brand of amateurism (faked or genuine) has a certain charm, those charms have a way of becoming an irritation quickly. I believe it flows from the idea that the division between performer and audience needs to be challenged. An idea which by all accounts is noble, but at the end of the day it tends to have the unfortunate side effect of relieving some people of the task of putting any effort into their performance.

Mondo Lucha, (and by extension the different players involved) seems to me like a generational backlash against that. It's the antidote of the anti-climactic. The entire show is a cavalcade of younger folks fully schooled on how to entertain, even if some of it comes off clumsy. That's what I was initially struck with, that every element of the night, be it wrestlers, burlesque dancers, the creepy Elvis Clown hybrid, Maritime... all of the nights performers were focused on fun. It seemed like none of them were demanding us to except what they do as art. Though it'd be hard to deny the level of "craft" in these forms.

The Sociological Implications of Ass and Body Slams
On one hand Mondo Lucha is a sociological smorgasbord of issues related to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, the construction of good and evil, and how we render these ideas into narratives for entertainment. On the other, it's body slams, pole dancers, and Pabst Tall-boys, none of which were ignored by your faithful reporter. So it's an event definitely playing both sides of that high art/low art line, if you're one to even differentiate between the two anymore. Simply put, it is a bunch of stupid fun that is completely self-aware.

Now, I don't want you to take my pseudo-academic analysis too seriously though, it was a shit ton of fun. All of that high-minded non-sense is worked out by the organizers so we as the audience don't have to think too much about any of it. Though some of us will inevitably try. And because I went to both last year's and this year's event I can with confidence tell you that the second year hands down was executed more expertly than the previous year in as much as they kept the tempo of the show a little higher and weeded out lag time. Though it is true that you never forget your first time, and the sheer shock of awesomeness at last year's event may ultimately be the hardest to top for some. Like the first time you saw your favorite band and then on the next tour they were just a little bit better on the technical end of things.

Sexism Shmexism
For all points and purposes, the idea of male dominated violence, briefly interrupted with girls taking their clothes off should be extremely sexist. I mean, if you were to make it into an algebra problem, you know what the results "should" be. But that would be ignoring the recent movement of our liberated sisters directly into things like burlesque dancing, as if to claim a new kind of ownership over femininity, one which includes a self-aware intellect and humor as well as killer ta-ta's . Show-stealer Lola Von Ella is probably the most easily recognizable embodiment of this ethic. Not only is she one of those "hot burlesque girl types" but she is also a true entertainer, quick on the draw and a well-controlled singer. I'm sure some would argue with me over this manifestation of feminism, but it's the position a lot of folks take, as I understand it.

Which brings me to my second point, during the show we are treated to a rematch between the KGBeast (the Stalinisticly masculine badboy), and the Brewcity Bruiser girls from last year. This segment had all of the potential to become, well...played out. The girls fight the big dude, and then we're supposed to believe a 110 pound women knocks a 6 foot 200 something pound man down with an elbow. Cute, but on the verge of shattering our suspension of disbelief. The match rides that line, but thankfully doesn't cross over, I mean, we're "pretending" it's all real. Although for some it's probably most empowering to see a woman strike against this form of masculine evil, it's when the girls are body slammed and dropped that to me the women involved (and not the characters) show they're true toughness. As if to say " we came into this, and trained how to be thrown to the mat without being overcome with fear." If that doesn't win your respect, I'm not sure what will.

Believe me, the ladies loved the show just as much as the guys, and in many ways that's the genius of the thing. It's a pretty broad demographic that the show is aimed at (well...maybe not the faint of heart). It's as if the organizers said to themselves, "we need to bring something of pure entertainment into the city that combines all of these elements, the wrestling thing, the burlesque thing, side show acts, and tie it all together with local faces (bands, 91.7, Roller Derby) to place it in the city properly... then we need to get some sponsorships so we can pay these bills." I mean, it's the most insanely logical formula devised yet, and Milwaukee is all the better for it.
Mondo Lucha Mondo Lucha
Mondo Lucha Mondo Lucha

What Do You Think?



City & State:

e mail:

Here's Your Chance to.... Respond!

Your feedback will be featured on
Rant or Rave within 24 hours.

Return to Reviews
Return to Menu