One of my bands, Lexie Mountain Boys, is an all-female, all-improvised performance entity that has taken myriad forms since its 2005 inception. We often used beards during our performances, initially as a goof of metal dudes for a piece called “Headbang The Rainbow” in which we all wore beard/ mustache combos (some made of our own hair), jeans and white t-shirts. The performance culminated in head-dunks into rainbow-color paint buckets, then hair thrashing onto a white bedsheet. Through hundreds of performances we’ve allowed people draw their own conclusions about our work; we tend not to issue statements as to the purpose of any particular piece nor do we assign specificity outside the action itself.
The beardwork expanded to suit full-drag performances; I would mascara my natural mustache and facial hair, dress in a jumpsuit, wear men’s shirts and stuff in a beer belly. Many of my personal favorite Mountain Boys shows involved beardwearing: leaping into a pool at a SXSW house party, performing with Akron/ Family with beard as merkin under white shorts, slumping on a couch drinking beer and doing calisthenics opening for Celebration at 2640 in Baltimore, long white beards with tie-dye and third eyes for Baltimore Round Robin tour 2008, construction helmets, goggles, beards & day-glo vests in Manchester UK 2009.
During that same 2009 tour of Europe/ UK/ Sweden, we brought our beards in addition to an elaborately sequined getup as comfort-food option, a backup to wear when we felt that the more complicated costumery would render us somehow vulnerable. The beards became a point of reference for our work; journalists would often ask “What’s with the beards?” The broadest conglomeration of answer to this question might sound something like: They both protect and empower us. They enabled us to divorce ourselves from traditional patriarchal judgement of the female form in music and entertainment by rendering our activity as confounding and genderless. The beards were ceremonial masks, a conduit through which our everyday selves could transcend and perform without fear. They made us feel hot and powerful.
These days, my stage beard smells lightly of soured milk and has plastic flowers deeply embedded in its curly knots. I wear it occasionally as a hairpiece. My actual human face is covered in thick hair and I’ve waxed my unibrow into oblivion: it won’t grow back the way it was! From my days as a large hairy teen keen to bleach to my adult years where I tend to the growth with razor and wax, I’ve always fought my true mustache because it is so large and dark and I’ve justified the carnage by leaving my armpits unshaven as a concession. I enjoy the option of having it both ways; my hair grows so quickly and so thickly that within days of shaving, waxing etc I’m back on my way to square one and I enjoy occasionally removing my eyebrows to distracting pencil-thinness. Eventually, though, I’ll tire of the effort put towards keeping the thicket at bay and spend my remaining days braiding all of it together, top to bottom.