Quirky queer pop & comedy: one-night-only acts to catch

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Tuesday August 29, 2023
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John Cameron Mitchell with Amber Martin
John Cameron Mitchell with Amber Martin

An esoteric collection of pop acts and comedians with distinct queer appeal will make their way through the Bay Area this season. Here are some of the most intriguing.

Todrick Hall  

Todrick Hall at The Curran
Between controversies, kerfuffles and reality TV debacles ("The Real Friends of WeHo" anyone?), dancer, rapper and choreographer Hall puts his head down and werks. Regularly recording new music and constantly touring, Hall is an admirably industrious booster of queer pride and visibility. His effort shows.

The last time he played the Bay Area, at the UC Theatre in Berkeley, Hall and a phalanx of dancers put on a ferociously energetic two-hour spectacle, with polished video, pointed lyrics and fantastic costuming. After his "Velvet Rage Tour," Hall, who has done several past stints on Broadway, says he's putting a moratorium on pop shows for a few years. So catch him while you can. $36-$66. Sept. 12. 445 Geary St. www.sfcurran.com

Ryan Beatty at The Independent
Beatty, who grew up outside of Fresno, deserves your attention. The 27-year-old gay singer-songwriter has been releasing music since 2012, but his early material was polished pop, featured on Radio Disney and pointedly marketed to young girls. After a burst of bubblegum success, he fired his management, leading to legal hassles which keep him from putting out new music until 2016.

When he did so, it was as an openly gay 20-year-old whose electronically augmented, gently psychedelic ballads are a far cry from his sheeny teen beginnings. He's collaborated with hip-hop collective Brockhampton and Tyler the Creator as well as releasing three compelling solo albums, the latest of which is the dreamy Laurel Canyon-leaning "Calico." $22. Sept. 13. 628 Divisadero St. www.theindependentsf.com

Noah Reid at August Hall
The name sounds familiar, huh? In all likelihood you've only heard him sing one song though: the gentle, acoustic version of Tina Turner's "The Best" with which his character, Patrick Brewer, serenaded David Rose, played by Dan Levy, in "Schitt's Creek."

Ohhhh, that cutie patootie?! Affection for the series may be enough to draw curious listeners to hear cuts from his three strummy, affable, albums. Just a reminder; he's straight. Oct. 11. $40. 420 Mason St. www.augusthallsf.com

Jessie Ware at the Regency Ballroom
"What's Your Pleasure?" "That! Feels! Good!" Asked and answered. The two latest albums from this UK star —who has never quite cracked the American market— are lush dance floor gems evocative of Chic. This is soulful, grown-up music that will make the perfect soundtrack for a great date night. Not a first date though; maybe a third. $39.50-$54.50. Oct. 11. 1300 Van Ness. www.theregencyballroom.com

Samantha Bee at the Palace of the Fine Arts
The presence of former "Daily Show" correspondent and "Full Frontal" star Bee has been much missed. Sharp, smart and bracingly feminist, Bee brings back her sting on a new comedy tour called "Your Favorite Woman" that she's written to "celebrate the fact that women are fully f*cking cool, despite what six Supreme Court Justices and her Instagram feed seem to think." $39.50 - $79.50. Oct. 14. 3601 Lyon St. www.palaceoffinearts.com

Kim Petras at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Sam Smith swept through the Bay Area earlier this week, but autumn brings the opportunity to catch his co-Grammy-winner for their gleefully sleazy earworm duet, "Unholy." If that song was a surprise coming from smoothie Smith, whose slow walk away from his heartbroken choir boy origins has never fully taken, it's par for the coarse from Petras, the subject of a "New Yorker" profile earlier this year.

That the 30-year-old, German-born Pop Tart (Pop Strudel?) is a transwoman feels largely immaterial at this point. That she records some of the catchiest, trashiest Europop around is what matters most. Let's hope that along with cuts from her new album, "Feed the Beast," she pays plenty of attention to the craziness of her prior release, "Slut Pop," which was the centerpiece of her bonkers 2022 Outside Lands set. "They Wanna Fuck" and "Throat Goat" pretty much establish a new genre: Blissphamy. $59.50-$69.50. Oct. 29. 99 Grove St. www.billgrahamcivic.com

John Cameron Mitchell with Amber Martin @ Zellerbach Hall
Mitchell, the original Hedwig (The angry inch one, not Harry Potter's owl), put on a long, deep and genuinely thrilling show when he last played a Cal Performances show three years ago. Martin was singing backup that evening, but has since played two solo gigs at Oasis, channeling Bette Midler and Janis Joplin. She blew the roof off, like some fiery, wiry version of cabaret-era Brigitte Everett. This co-headlining show is the best blast of '90s New York the Bay Area has hosted since Kiki and Herb swung by last Christmas. $40-$110. Nov. 4. Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. www.calperformances.org

Kesha and Jake Wesley Rogers at the Fox Theater
She may almost be over, but he's only just begun. With the face of an angel, the wardrobe of Elton John and songwriting talent that bridges rock, pop and country, the gay 26-year-old Missouri-born superstar-in-the-making is not to be missed. Last time he was in town, Rogers had Bimbo's in the palm of his hand.

This time, it's the Fox. And a few years from now, I wouldn't be surprised to be watching him through binoculars from the stands of an arena. You'll be happy to say you saw him early on.

And hey, while Kesha's latest album "Gag Order" has performed pretty much per its title, there's no denying the stupid joy in singing along to the banger choruses of "TiK ToK," "Die Young," and "We R Who We R." $55-$75. Nov. 17. 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. www.thefoxoakland.com

Josh Thomas at the Castro Theater
He's queer, he's autistic and Australian. He's not Hannah Gadsby and he doesn't have a pouch. Thomas, whose two streaming sitcom series, "Please Like Me" and "Everything's Gonna be Ok" deserve to be seen by much broader audiences is a singular talent. If Adam Sandler's stage persona is aptly described as a manchild; Thomas' is a manchild prodigy. Oversensitive, immature, extraordinarily witty and slyly intelligent, he makes you want to cuddle him and pummel him in quick alternation. To pre-game, check out Thomas' semi-sincere podcast "How To Be Gay." $35-$55. Nov. 18. Castro Theater. www.apeconcerts.com

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