Madonna graces Charlotte for the first time ever tonight, but she isn’t the only groundbreaking feminist icon performing in town Thursday. Kaia Wilson, who plays Evening Muse with Lucy Wainwright Roche and Lindsay Fuller, was a driving force behind lesbian punk band Team Dresch and Durham-based rock trio the Butchies and remains an accomplished solo singer-songwriter.
Madonna was hugely important to my generation. Whether I agreed with her fashion and music decisions (those late`80s eyebrows, cheese like “Cherish”), she pushed buttons and continued to evolve. Sometimes her work was brilliant. Sometimes it bordered on silly, but I can’t imagine pop culture over the last 30 years without her.
Wilson isn’t as well known, but when the Portland-based guitarist/singer-songwriter emerged along with the Northwest’s riot grrrl and queercore movements, the number of well-known, all female lesbian groups was, well, the Indigo Girls. While there was something empowering about humorous stereotype-skewing tracks like Team Dresch’s “Song for Anne Bannon,” much of Wilson’s output I find extremely universal. She also never shied away from gender bending imagery, but her music was never presented as exclusive.
I found myself thinking the same thoughts listening to her new album “Two Adult Women in Love.” Who can’t relate to songs of love and loss? More than anything it’s Wilson’s gentle, unique vocals that draw me in every time whether she’s raging with Team Dresch, popping along with the Butchies (my favorite of her projects), or making intimate, quiet acoustic folk (featured in the above video).
While Wilson’s notoriety has been on a smaller scale than the Material Girl’s (whose hasn’t really?), her impact is comparable. Like Madonna she stood up, stood out, and did her own thing, which in turn makes being different a bit more widely accepted for the rest of us.
Having traveled to see Madonna twice - once for the momentous 2001 Drowned World Tour and again in 2004 for the disappointing (I barely remember it) Re-Invention Tour - I’m sitting this one out in part so my editor and his wife can witness the spectacle that is MDNA for the first time. But really, I don’t mind. I’d rather remember the Drowned World Tour fondly and there’s no way she’ll play “What It Feels Like for a Girl,” which to me remains one her most feminist musical statements.
Wilson’s show begins at 8 p.m. at Evening Muse (3227 N. Davidson St.) and given Madonna’s chronic tardiness you probably have time to see both acts if you’re so inclined. Tickets are $12-$15. www.eveningmuse.com