Aimee Bushong doesn't need a man to get what she wants -- not anymore. Showing off her breast assets in a trio of Mootown gentlemen's clubs over the past year, the buxom blond songstress earned enough cash to finance her debut album, Bacon and Eggs. As near as Bushong can figure, in order to bring home the bacon, she ground her nether regions over the laps of several hundred men during that time.
"Me being naked in front of people was no big deal," Bushong explained. "But I knew it paid a lot. It's sales. It's just like being a used-car salesman or a stockbroker -- except that you happen to be naked."
Bushong kept her clothes on when she stopped by unannounced to give me the hard sell. A few weeks earlier, she'd mailed me a copy of her disc along with a ten-page manifesto that she'd authored; needless to say, I still hadn't listened to her disc by the time she dropped by. Had I taken a second to crack open her screed, though, I might not have felt so ambushed.
"I have found that in this business, as in any other business, face-to-face contact is by far the best way to get something across," Bushong's missive reads. "So on days that I have time, I put together several promo packs and drive all around the city introducing myself."
While the person-to-person approach may work with some folks, it generally doesn't with me. Still, I invited her into my office -- and this was without knowing she'd been a stripper! -- thinking that after a few minutes of face time, I'd be able to send her on her way. But then she started telling her story.
Now, if you side with the American moral majority (read: voted for Dubya), you may consider it obscene and exploitative to get paid to entertain the unlaid. But don't cry for her, Texarkana. Bushong knew exactly what she was doing when she started "taking it off for the music," as her paper is titled.
"At that time, I was meeting more people, playing more venues, and I knew I had to make a CD," Bushong recalled. "I didn't have any money. I was still living with my mom and making eight bucks an hour at Swallow Hill. I sent out hundreds of resumés, trying to find a job -- any job. And one night after a gig, my bass player and I went to PT's Gold Club, because we were drunk and had nothing else to do. And I was just like, 'You know what? I can do that.' So I auditioned and became a stripper."
Landing the gig at PT's was not as serendipitous as it might sound. Bushong knew she could do the job because she'd already paid her way through college in Santa Barbara working as an exotic dancer, indulging many a lonely man's masturbatory fantasies.
After college, Bushong, a Denver native, moved to Steamboat and played mostly solo acoustic gigs at various open-mike nights. "The ratio there was eight to one, eight guys to one girl," she said. "I was the only female who would get up and play. And all the guys were like, 'Oh, my God, that's so awesome."
So when Bushong returned to Mootown and put her band together, betting on skin to win one more time was a no-brainer. The job gave her more than money. Not only did it provide fodder for her material -- "Give It All to Mama" chronicles a night in the life of a private dancer -- but her time at PT's helped bolster her ability as a performer.
"A lot of the bars we play at are biker bars," Bushong revealed. "And the majority of the audience is men. So as a woman, yes, I use the sexuality of being a dancer on stage. It crosses over -- from the way that I move, the way that I look, the way that I use the microphone in my mouth -- and makes it all very sensual and sexy. You know, standing up there and strumming and not moving and not making any facial expressions, no one's going to want to get up and dance and interact. It's the same as being on stage at the strip club. If you just sit there and expect guys to come up and tip you, you've got to dance, you've got to make them want to come up to your stage."
After talking with Bushong -- appearing this Saturday, November 13, at Elk Creek Station in Pine -- I have to admit that I admire her moxie, if not her music, which is a mostly generic blend of bar-band blues and funk. But she certainly knows how to work it, and she takes her craft seriously.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Down 21, a relatively new band that I had the great misfortune of seeing last Thursday night at Cervantes'. It's a given that nobody starts off on top. You have to put in your time like everybody else. And sometimes that includes playing to ten people -- half of them members of the other band -- on a cold November night. (Hell, I've done it: Ask me about the West Coast tour I did with my band in '97. We played to beer bottles and bouncers in Reno, Nevada; Eugene, Oregon; and Ogden, Utah. Been there, have a T-shirt.)
But whether you're playing to ten or ten thousand people, you should give it all you've got. Assuming you want to rise above the Thursday-night ghetto, that is. And after seeing Down 21, I'm not sure that band does.
"We're gonna start off with a cover," said Down's frontman, standing on the stage next to his bass player. "As you can see, our drummer's not here, but he'll be here as soon as possible."
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As he strummed the opening chords to "Broken," by Seether, many thoughts crossed my mind. Thoughts like: "How about starting off with a tuner, Chief?" And: "What the fuck, dude? Where's your drummer? You couldn't wait?" And finally: "I coaxed better guitar tone out of a ten-watt Gorilla amp when I was twelve years old."
Down played two more songs before the shirtless drummer showed up. And sadly, it turned out the band sounded better without its spastic timekeeper. What's worse, the frontman actually had a pretty powerful voice, as powerful as you'd expect from any Scott Stapp knockoff. He also had a good sense of melody. But unless he and his bandmates start getting focused, you'll probably never hear them. Or hear about them.
Watching Big Green Lime, which did an outstanding job of channeling the songwriting of Kurt Cobain as filtered through Wes Scantlin, play to the same ten people was a stunning contrast, even with the technical difficulties that no one but the frontman seemed to notice. It was easy to picture this group playing to a packed house before too long.
Of course, in order to earn pole position, its members will first have to pay their dues.