Of the three tour dates on Violet Chachki's schedule, Salt Lake City is sandwiched between Orlando, Fla., and Chicago. Considering the fact that Violet Chachki is the drag queen personality of Jason Dardo, Salt Lake City might not be the more obvious destination for a tour. But the City of Salt's drag community holds its own, with drag crews performing at Club X on Saturday nights, the Damn These Heels film festival (which goes year-round now), and that dowager queen mother of all drag organizations, the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire, now its 40th year and showing no intention of ending its reign any time soon.
But, while Salt Lake City may be a drag mecca, the surrounding countryside decidedly isn't. And rural places don't evade Chachki's radar. "It's almost more important to make sure you're showing support in those places where they may not have a queer role model in their lives," says Chachki.
Before the age of 19—and before donning Violet Chachki's Golden Age of Hollywood wig, ferocious eyebrows, hot red lipstick and cool persona—Dardo grew up in the South, near Atlanta. "I have a pretty good grasp of rural areas," says Chachki. "It's not an issue for me, because I'm from that mindset, but there are places that I can't believe [have] a gay culture, or a gay community—or a drag community, even."
Those places, Chachki says, deserve not to be neglected, because queer folk who live in small communities are often those most in need of a confidence boost.
And confidence is what drag is all about. Confidence is weaved into the messages on Chachki's debut EP, Gagged (Sidecar Records), released this summer. The dance-pop electronic erotica is simultaneously smoky, coy and energetic. Titles on the five-song EP—such as "Harlequin," "Vanguard" and "Show Off"—hide no shame, no secrets.
"My message is very clear: It's about being confident, about having fun; it's about gender expression, gender identity and gender norms," she says. Before getting into music this year, Chachki modeled and performed drag at clubs in Atlanta, going on to compete in Season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race. She won.
And, while her music is fierce and catchy, it is that confidence that really shines though in music videos. For example, take "Bettie," from Gagged: The music video for this song opens up on a scene in a quaint kitchen, with Chachki looking like a bored but sensual Donna Reed. Then, two young men come over for dinner, and the nature of the music video flips itself upside down. What was wholesome and tedious is now covered in leather and gagged.
The video is a tease—not exactly hardcore porn, but possibly NSFW. And Chachki's performance translates to the stage. Her live performances are nothing short of burlesque. In fact, you may expect to see a striptease of some kind: Chachki is working on a new piece, an art deco-inspired number she's hoping to have ready by her Metro Bar performance. "If not," she says, "I have some tricks up my sleeve."
Of course, Chachki has a flair for the dramatic, and that includes the reveal—she's not about to expose all the surprises within her set list. But for a sneak peak, fans might check out videos of Chachki's past performances, including a Halloween "Night of the Living Drag" striptease tribute to Vampira, or, in another video, an aerial-silk acrobatic dance.
She'll probably forgo the Halloween theme this time. Recently, Chachki collaborated with other drag queens on a Christmas album: Christmas Queens (Producer Entertainment Group), released this November, featuring kinked-up versions of Christmas classics. Chachki's cover of "The Night Before Christmas" turns a family-friendly feel-good poem into a dangerous and steamy tale: "'Twas the night before Christmas/ And all through the whorehouse/ Every vixen was twerking/ And stripping to Deadmau5."
In the Christmas cover, the accompaniment is sparse; for the first verse, just a cautious and subtle drum pattern and occasional piano chord-change. Further into the song, the piano picks up a noir-ish boom-chuck restlessness. Chachki's voice is as fierce here as it is in her dance-pop electronica. Even when she's talking, Chachki's voice is low, and has a sexy, almost-bored drawl with enough vocal fry to compete with a live, sizzling wire.
So look out, Orlando; look out, Chicago; look out, Salt Lake City—Violet Chachki is coming in hot. CW