ArtsMusicTheatre

Trixie Mattel kicks off Stampede as one should — with country music, comedy and drag

You know it’s time for Stampede when you start seeing hay bales, cowboy hats, country bands and … drag queens? This year country music fans and drag fans alike will be treated to a Stampede kick-off like no other: Trixie Mattel, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, winner of All Stars 3, and an acclaimed folk/country performer in her own right, will be performing with local country sweethearts Nice Horse and Mariya Stokes at The Palace on Thursday, July 4.

For those unfamiliar with drag, it may seem odd combining it with country music, but according to Trixie who grew up on country and folk music, it’s not that much of a stretch.

“What is a cowboy? You’re wearing ornate jewellery – essentially you are a drag queen. If any style of music is about costuming it’s country. Early Loretta Lynn and early Dolly Parton had more hair and makeup than I have on.”

She also sees her personal style of drag being a good contrast to what would normally be expected for this type of music. “It’s actually a great pairing for Trixie, because Trixie’s sort of the blonde, caucasian caricature of capitalism and beauty, and you’re pairing it with folk music (which) is inherently honest. People think of folk music and they think of family, home, religion and tradition, and it’s fun to do something that’s so honest and close to everyone’s heart, but do it in a costume, a candy wrapper that’s not taken so serious.”

The performance in Calgary will see Trixie backed up by local country acts, Nice Horse and Stokes. Having them to perform with is a bit of a departure for Trixie, who usually performs solo on her tours. Playing with the locals she feels will be great, but will also bring in a whole other element to the show.

“Listen, I’m a drag queen, I’ve got to look out for myself, I don’t want to put myself next to a bunch of women who are thinner, shorter, prettier, and probably play their instruments better than I do … but they are so adorable, I’m so honoured. They took time out of their schedule to learn some of my songs … what an honour, you know? I never write any of my music to sell, I write it for fun, so you know, it’s so cool that they’re learning it.”

Aside from the musical component of the show which will feature some classic country covers as well as some originals, can we expect the standup that Trixie fans know and love?

“Of course!” she exclaims. “I mean listen, you cannot put me in a wig in front of an audience of straight people and expect me to not! I feel really proud to be doing drag at a time where I think drag is seen as something that’s like fetishy and sexual and perverse, and I think that straight people in the rest of the world — it’s like they’re looking under the bed to see the monster and they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ I mean, drag is just costuming, and Stampede is all about costuming. I’m sure the girls in the band will have lashes on and makeup, I’ll just blend right in, you won’t be able to tell which one’s the drag queen,” jokes the six-foot-five artist.

And we’re lucky to have her, considering her insane work schedule these days. Hot off the heels of two touring shows last year, Trixie is also working on a book with Katya (“We are advising on homemaking and beauty and style and relationships, and who better to prepare people for the real world than a crackpot team of two drag queens?”), filming episodes of their YouTube series, launching her own cosmetics line and having to write both her next album plus a touring show for 2020. This lady is busy.

“Oh I want to die at all times. Actually doing drag and being on stage … I do less of that than you’d think. Ten years ago when I started doing drag it’s not because I thought there would ever be an industry for it or because I thought it would ever be lucrative, so it’s all a really wonderful surprise.”

But Trixie is excited to be performing in Calgary for Stampede, describing it as the “most pro-Trixie city” she knows. “There was a time where I thought doing drag would be the reason I would never get invited to do things like this, so it’s very cool.”

It would also seem that sharing her music with audiences that might not be as open to her drag is a way to bridge the divide. “What I love about country and folk music is that it’s intellectually digestible, it’s easy to listen to but it’s emotionally intelligent, and anybody with a heart and two ears we can all listen to it and have the same experience — it’s very unifying. I mean, when you look past the costume I’m just a light-skinned guy playing a guitar, it’s not as alarming as you think, it’s only shocking because of the costume, but the costume is part of what makes it fun. 

“The truth is I think part of the message of drag is no matter what wig we have on we’re all a lot more similar than you think.”

Trixie Mattel will perform with Nice Horse and Mariya Stokes at The Palace on July 4.

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and continues to work within the Calgary arts & culture scene to promote the city’s numerous and varied events. Contact her at kari@theyyscene.com.

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