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Posted: 12:24 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Christeene is tearing up Europe (naturally) 

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By Deborah Sengupta Stith

While the rest of us stew in the summer heat, Austin musician/performance artist Christeene has been tearing up Europe. Not surprising. Self-described as a "sexually infused sewer of live rap" Christeene's live shows are dirty, dangerous and incredibly compelling. 

Christeene hit London in late June and in no time was kicking it with Boy George and packing the house at the Soho Theatre.  

In July she hit the continent for quick stints in Berlin and Paris before returning to England where the Soho Theatre added a string of extra dates due to popular demand. Next week she heads to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for most of August before closing out the summer at the Noorderzon Festival in Amsterdam. Christeene will be back in Austin on September 12 to play the inaugural Stargazer Festival at Carson Creek Ranch.  

Intrigued by the above video to "African Mayonaise" (the first time we saw it we played it on loop at least three times) we hit up Paul Soleil, the artist behind Christeene for a brief chat before South By Southwest 2013. Here's a reprint of that interview:

"I've always been a big old gay theater kid, " explains Paul Soileau, the performance artist behind Christeene. Soileau, a New Orleans resident who landed in Austin post-Katrina, also performs as Rebecca Havemeyer, a kind of new-money society girl who hosts faux-swanky events around town.

But there's something about Christeene, a rough-looking cross-dressing character that Soileau says was born out of a mixture of things, including "the stress and emotions from Katrina, the basic anger of being ripped up out of your comfort zone by a damn storm."

In the PJ Raval-directed video for "African Mayonaise, " Soileau's Christeene sashays through her adopted city clad in a ratty black wig, stiletto boots and a roughly stitched rag that serves as a largely ineffective mini-dress. She talk-raps manically over a weirdly ominous but infectious electro beat. The effect, equal parts indictment of post-Internet celebrity culture in America and offbeat love letter to Austin, is riveting.

The video, which includes footage from Dobie Mall, Fiesta Mart and the Scientology headquarters on the Drag, was filmed in a guerilla-style shoot that aimed to capture the energy of a Christeene live show. Also, to get in people's faces and challenge their ideas about celebrity.

For the most part, Austin was quizically amused.

As for the energy of a Christeene live show, Soileau describes it in near-ritualistic terms, using "raw energy" multiple times.

"Christeene kind of dies for you onstage, and whatever problems or happiness or sadness you bring to the room you're going to be able to pretty much deliver it and watch it go up in flames. Whatever you need it to do."

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Deborah Sengupta Stith

About Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith is a music writer for the Austin American-Statesman.

Connect with Deborah Sengupta Stith on:Twitter

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