Last summer, a friend of mine got into a long weird argument with an American man she didn’t know, after he heard her describe a tall building as ‘phallic’. He was absolutely aghast: how could a building be like a cock? Why did feminists have to twist everything? In a moment of pure stress and confusion about what possible alternatives there are, he shouted, ‘Must we live ‘neath the GROUND like MOLES?’ I hope for his sake that he never sees Cuncrete.
Rachael Clerke’s drag king punk band show shoves Thatcher, brutalism and gender roles in a cement mixer to see what comes out. Cuncrete is furious and loud and aggressive, and Clerke herself, as god-like architect and lead singer Archibald Tactful, is cocksure and hypnotic, a monster in a concrete-grey suit and shrapnel wings.
Tactful and his band, the Great White Males, are men who do things. They achieve. They are men in the City: bankers, politicians, property developers. They decide what to build and who for; they decided the future was building up instead of out, they built the high-rises, they gave us Milton Keynes, because it was them – them and men like them – who decided what the future should look like. They own the direction of advancement and they own the skies and they decided to fill them with concrete, because the order of the day is cheap to build, expensive to own, and always money, money, money in their pockets.
Drag kings – at least in this context – feel worlds away from their female counterparts, from the loud celebratory joy of queens. I met my first drag queen when I was 15 and tentatively eating shots of vodka jelly in a bar, but kings are fascinatingly different; there’s a lot of noise here, but this isn’t a fucking party. Cuncrete is furious. Men like this, it says, are to blame. Men like this have all the world and they’ve built it for themselves and for each other.
Strangely for something so politically vital, watching Cuncrete is sickeningly exhilarating. I suppose that’s because of the music, which sits somewhere between a howl of rage and a rallying cry, and because of seeing how these women hold themselves when they’re men. The Great White Males are establishment figures, they don’t belong in a punk band, they’re all suits and slicked-down hair and moustaches that have spread across their faces like a slow grey mould, but they act like they’re the fucking Sex Pistols. After all, think these men, why shouldn’t we be sexy? They get to decide what sexy is, just like they’ve decided everything else, because everything is up to them and theirs.
And as you watch these women you think: imagine being able to do that. Imagine being able to feel like that, act like that, to be a cunt like that, in that way, like the men who own everything can be. Cuncrete wants to tear it all down, but it also wants to show you these men, and say: see. That’s why they do it. That’s why everything’s fucked.