On the last Thursday of every month Fête kind of looks like 8 Mile, if it had been directed by John Waters. This amazing spectacle, The Church of Providence, is vulgar and campy, a rainbow-scaled hydra of a variety show whose lucha libre-adorned heads spit dope rhymes, unfiltered sexuality and Pokémon-inspired slam poetry into the face of its audience. Its hosts, indie rapper B. Dolan and burlesque performer Madge of Honor, lord over their congregation like a couple of variety show hosts gone bonkers. It’s a show where anything goes.
“A band plays for 25 minutes on stage. Then there’s a wrestling match. Then there’s a burlesque performer. Then there’s a rap battle in the ring,” explains Dolan. “We keep the programming back and forth and it becomes a really good, chaotic thing that builds throughout the night.”
“We’re trying to build an audience that wants more from an experience than just a concert,” says Madge. “We’re hoping that we can get people to recognize Church as [a show where] something wild is going to happen.”
Church has had no shortage of wild and each month seems to up the ante. The envelope isn’t just pushed, its blindfolded and asked to stick a velcro tail to Madge’s butt with its mouth. That requires a certain amount of faith in the audience to show up open minded and hungry for whatever Madge and Dolan can throw at them. That trust is crucial, particularly when it comes to the seemingly disparate worlds of hip hop and drag, but both hosts hold their audience to a high standard of acceptance.
“Rather than assuming that people don’t want to see it because they’re homophobic or closed-minded we just assume they’d probably really like this if they got the opportunity to see it,” says Madge. “Queer performers are some of the most outrageous, entertaining and dope performers that there are in New England. We wanted to be able to bring those kinds of people together and make something that was bigger than just rap or just drag.”
“When you put them together and you get a small piece of everything, they balance each other out,” says Dolan.
As a celebration of all things weird, sexy and hip hop, Church is, according to Dolan, “keeping up the tradition of underground art in Providence.” Strange Famous Records, one of the show’s sponsors along with Revival Brewing Company, has a history of blending hip hop and performance art. Likewise fans of Beyond Wrestling – the local league that provides the ring and combatants – have come to expect a certain level of bone breaking theatricality.
Weird is gospel. Routine is heresy. To call it The Church of Providence is perverse but Madge and Dolan wouldn’t have it any other way.