Storm Large is in charge The singer on #MeToo and show­ing her throat

The singer on #MeToo and show­ing her throat

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

maybe it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise that a six-feet-tall chanteuse named Storm Large en­com­passes — metaphor­i­cally, at least — the whole wide world. Where even to be­gin? Yes, Storm Large is her given name, al­though tech­ni­cally Storm is her mid­dle name. (Her first name is the much more or­di­nary “Su­san.”) She lives in Port­land, Ore­gon, and per­forms in­ter­na­tion­ally across a broad ar­ray of musical styles, from punk rock to clas­si­cal.

Her ré­sumé is ex­ten­sive. She shares lead vo­cal­ist du­ties with China Forbes in the jazzy or­ches­tral en­sem­ble Pink Mar­tini. In her live per­for­mances, she is known for cover­ing an eclec­tic range of pop songs in a man­ner that builds upon and then ut­terly rein­vents the feel­ings con­tained in the orig­i­nals. Think Queen’s “Some­body to Love,” Bon­nie Tyler’s “To­tal Eclipse of the Heart,” and Bruce Spring­steen’s “Born to Run.” Large wrote an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal musical and pub­lished a 2012 me­moir about her life, Crazy Enough. She has also fre­quently per­formed Ber­tolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the Detroit Sym­phony Orches­tra.

Large ap­pears with her own band, Le Bon­heur, on Fri­day, Oct. 26, at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. On Le Bon­heur’s self-ti­tled 2014 al­bum, Large sings a va­ri­ety of stan­dards, in­clud­ing “I’ve Got You Un­der My Skin” and “Un­chained Melody.” Large en­joys quite a bit of ban­ter in her live shows. She’s funny and brash and she swears a lot. In fact, she swore so much in a re­cent in­ter­view that she wound up­a­pol­o­giz­ing.

“I’m just pack­ing up my ho­tel room be­fore I leave for the next place and, like, yelling at you,” she said af­ter talk­ing about the #MeToo move­ment for sev­eral min­utes. “I come from rock-and-roll and punk rock and that world,” she ex­plained. “I’ve only known how to ex­press my­self in a very raw, spon­ta­neous, in­stan­ta­neous, com­pul­sive, absolutely non-edited ver­sion. I wasn’t re­ally trained in that. I’ve just been re­warded for be­hav­ing that way, I guess. It’s not con­sid­ered very cool to be the­atri­cal, to be emo­tive. But I don’t shoe-gaze. I au­di­ence-gaze. I care about what I’m do­ing, even though it’s quintessen­tially un[ex­ple­tive] cool to care.”

"I've talked to won­der­ful man friends of mine for years about what a woman's ex­pe­ri­ence is out there in the world, and how it isn't just about equal rights and equal pay."

Her mother was men­tally ill and “locked up,” ac­cord­ing to Large, for most of her child­hood. She grew up in Mas­sachusetts on the cam­pus of St. Mark’s School, where her fa­ther taught his­tory. St. Mark’s be­gan ad­mit­ting girls in 1978, but in Large’s early years, she was sur­rounded by boys. “I grew up think­ing girls were weak, that you had to be strong and tough — and that meant no cry­ing, no let­ting peo­ple know your vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. Don’t show your throat.” When she was first singing for au­di­ences, her worst fear was cry­ing on stage. “And then I started trust­ing my­self more as a per­former, and trust­ing the au­di­ence,” she said. “The au­di­ence wants you to suc­ceed. They want good mu­sic to deliver some sort of emo­tional and sonic ex­pe­ri­ence. They need that.”

Large over­came a heroin ad­dic­tion in the 1990s and be­gan per­form­ing as a singer in San Fran­cisco. She moved to Port­land in 2002 and ini­tially flirted with be­ing a chef, but then came to re­al­ize — in the wake of the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks — that mu­sic was also a ser­vice job. “Like, cre­at­ing hap­pi­ness. Cre­at­ing elec­tric­ity and en­ergy where ear­lier there had been noth­ing, and giv­ing it freely. I started to re­al­ize that my soft­ness and vul­ner­a­bil­ity, things about me that I think are flawed — ev­ery­body has those, and ev­ery­body needs to know.”

Pub­licly dis­clos­ing trauma and abuse has be­come some­what less stig­ma­tized, es­pe­cially for women, since the start of the #MeToo move­ment in 2017, but Large has been re­veal­ing of her past for decades now. When asked if she had any thoughts on what seems to be a mount­ing sense of anger among many Amer­i­can women re­gard­ing sex­ual mores and ideas about con­sent, she did not hold back.

“You keep a cork in some­thing too long, and it’s go­ing to strug­gle against the pres­sure. A lit­tle hole got torn in the ve­neer for women — that we just have to qui­etly [ex­ple­tive] take [ex­ple­tive], brush off ad­vances and as­saults and in­sults and stalk­ing, and be blamed for all that. And that’s just how it’s been. When I was re­ally lit­tle and get­ting chased around by a pervert at a party, I tried to hide in the kitchen. I told my grand­mother why I was hid­ing and she said, ‘Don’t flat­ter your­self.’ That’s been a woman’s re­al­ity. Now a lit­tle hole has been torn in that ve­neer, and it’s just gush­ing out.

“I’ve talked to won­der­ful man friends of mine for years about what a woman’s ex­pe­ri­ence is out there in the world,” she con­tin­ued, “and how it isn’t just about equal rights and equal pay. What about don’t try to [ex­ple­tive] me when I’m walk­ing to my car? How about don’t be a [ex­ple­tive] mon­ster?” Of her 2006 ex­pe­ri­ence as a singing con­tes­tant on the re­al­ity show

Rock Star: Su­per­nova, she said she is grate­ful to have been se­lected to par­tic­i­pate, con­sid­er­ing she was in her late thir­ties and was type­cast as a hy­per­sex­ual trou­ble­maker. “They re­al­ized — too late — that I was ac­tu­ally just a ma­ture pro­fes­sional. I wanted to have a good time liv­ing in a man­sion in LA for the sum­mer — and the ex­po­sure rapidly ex­panded my vis­i­bil­ity. It was a three-month com­mer­cial, and all I had to do was not lose my mind and kill some­body or freak out and be­come the drama.”

Most peo­ple, how­ever, don’t remember Rock Star. She doubts it is a fac­tor for peo­ple who go to see the Seven Deadly Sins, and she thinks the Pink Mar­tini gig has de­vel­oped her au­di­ence far more than the TV show ever did. The au­di­ence is al­ways Large’s pri­or­ity. When she’s on stage, pro­fes­sion­ally lit and glam­orous, she is larger than life while they are to­gether in the dark.

“While they’re hang­ing all their hopes on the per­former who is on stage, they’re hop­ing you have the same chink in your ar­mor that they have. Be­cause you’re up there mak­ing them feel good, mak­ing them feel like we’re all go­ing to be OK — at least for the next 90 min­utes.”

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