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Running with the Devil : Boyfriend Hits the Tip for the Washashore Music Festival

by Steve Desroches

It would be fair to say there is a certain amount of divine inspiration in Boyfriend’s work. The singularly named camp, cabaret-rapper has a “love/hate” relationship with the institution of Christianity. The imagery, iconography, and mythology can all hold something special within. But there’s much that’s toxic, too. It’s complicated. Born and raised in Nashville, Boyfriend grew up in the Church of Christ, a conservative thread of Christianity in which much of life is strictly gender segregated on a rigid binary. She’d often go to visit her respective grandparents, one in Georgia and the other in Alabama, both extremely rural areas with churches with “fluorescent lighting, drop ceilings, and about 38 people,” says Boyfriend. While the Church allowed singing, musical instruments were forbidden.

“My Dad rebelled by joining a Christian rock band,” says Boyfriend. “My grandmother cried for days and days. So we have a lot more ways to go to hell than others do.”

Boyfriend could talk about her experiences with religion forever, she says. And in her performance work it’s a consistent theme, sometimes explicitly so and in others as a thoughtful rebellion of her own. She recalls as a young teenager going to a Christian summer camp where boys and girls could not swim together, and in particular, not be seen by each other in swimsuits. One day she stepped out of her cabin in a new Calvin Klein bikini and noticed a boy she had a crush on coming up the path. She lingered until he saw her, and in hindsight she realizes she did it on purpose. She felt “cute and tan,” and what’s more natural, and innocent, than a teenager wanting to be noticed by someone they like. But at this camp, it was a sin. A counselor bellowed at her “What do you think you’re doing?!” and she was made to feel ashamed of her actions and her body. She admits that in the moment there was no philosophical realization that this was all “bullshit”; it would be more of a slow burn.

Part of that smoldering thought process as to how to respond to patriarchy and religious conservatism includes the choice of her performance name Boyfriend, which she laughs about in recognition that in the Internet age it doesn’t have great search-engine optimization. But she chose it because of the unintentional oppression of the way her friends used the term. When receiving unwanted attention from a man many women will say, “I have a boyfriend” to make them go away, whether or not they actually do. This always troubled her as it should be enough to say you’re not interested or go away, but saying you have a man that’s claimed you is what other men respect and accept. And in addition, her lyrics as a songwriter and style as a performer, which mixes comedy and burlesque as well as an overt sexuality, make Boyfriend the master of her own fate and a clarion voice for full expression. While born in a major music hub like Nashville and then studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, it was her move to New Orleans that led to Boyfriend.

“I think New Orleans is more playful,” says Boyfriend. “It’s not as industry-focused as Nashville or Los Angeles. My interest wasn’t necessarily professional at first, so I could experiment. I had confidence that I was good, but I was at first interested in the playfulness of performing. There’s such a costume culture here in New Orleans. I was able to really explore here. I don’t know if I’ve become like Boyfriend or if Boyfriend is actually me, but the difference has started to fall away. That was something I needed.”

Over the past decade Boyfriend has distinguished herself not only as a dynamic performer, but also as a songwriter and producer. And this weekend she’ll make her Provincetown debut as part of the Washashore Music Festival, something she says she thrilled about as she’s been trying to get to Provincetown for quite some time now. While she’s performing in Provincetown solo, throughout her career she’s collaborated with a variety of musicians like Big Freedia, Cindy Wilson of the B-52’s, a star-making live performance with Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Chance the Rapper at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, and most recently with the punk activist band Pussy Riot with the single “Dance With the Devil.” Boyfriend and Pussy Riot have a bit in common with their take on religion and offering critiques and lampooning inherent hypocrisies and oppressive dictates. Three members of Pussy Riot were of course arrested and charged with the vague crime of “hooliganism” in 2012 for a guerilla performance in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral protesting religious patriarchy and the government’s partnership. And their collaboration embraced a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor with lines like, “Holy Spirit, Holy squirt, Take communion, Quench your thirst.” While challenging to do well, Boyfriend says a bit of comedy is always worth it as you can more easily talk about the darkness without useless and sanctimonious finger-wagging that no one really responds to anyway.

“I get to be around all kinds of people, all kinds of performers now, and the people that I encounter at this point that I get the most nervous around are comedians,” says Boyfriend. “I now see them as messengers for our culture. They’re really more like philosophers.”

Boyfriend performs as part of the Washashore Music Festival on Saturday, October 7 at 9 p.m. at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St. Drizzy Bravo is the opening act at 8:30 p.m. and will be followed by Mattachine, an after party with John Cameron Mitchell, at 10 p.m. Tickets for all of Saturday evening are $65 and are available at the box office and online at, where a full listing of the festival can be found as well as weekend long passes that range in price from $135-$200.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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