The following is an excerpted feature from CREEM Magazine #002 coming Dec. 15. Subscribe now to reserve your copy.
In the backyard of TV Eye, a sleek, moody rock and punk venue in Queens, people are chatting, drinking, smoking, flitting about and fitted up—a white ski mask and sunglasses; a long, translucent red dress; a lot of camo and neon; a band tee that says “policia no me jodas”—when we hear a command over the loudspeaker.
“Everyone needs to get their ass in here right now or I will not do this fucking set. Get in here now.” It’s LustSickPuppy, directing us with a dommy growl. Everybody gets their asses into the room, stat.
“Shit goin’ happen. ’Cause that’s what the LustSickPuppy shit do, you know?” Audio of a man’s voice is playing and LustSickPuppy, a.k.a. Tommy Hayes, is on stage wearing a long fluorescent pink wig, bright green eyeshadow, a baby pink lingerie set, neon pink mesh shorts—to match the wig—and combat boots, nonchalant, hand on hip, waiting for people to trickle into the room. Someone from the crowd yells, “And that’s what Tommy fucking does!”
“EGO BRUISER” starts playing. Tommy yells, “Close that door!” The show is hot already. They start rapping over the track’s breakneck, Bugs Bunny cartoon-like beat: “Tommy, that little mommy/She freaky, she keep it cheeky/They lurking, and moving sneaky/This pussy, I keep sticky.”
“This is the only set that I have planned for this month because I was just fucking tired,” Tommy says. “So, I put my all into this set. Hope you like it.” People go wild immediately, dancing and yelling along under a UV light that’s making Tommy’s outfit glow.
The previous Thursday, in Bushwick: Tommy arrives at the Burger King on Knickerbocker and Myrtle, a campy, movie-themed ’90s time capsule with vinyl animal-print seats. Bug, the CREEM photographer, and I have been waiting in a glittery blue car booth. Instantly recognizable, tall and casually suave, in a sequin butterfly top, long, gray denim shorts, and platform lace-up New Rock boots, Tommy is coolly disarming from the get-go. Hugs for both of us and then logistics. We’d planned to hang out here, amongst the head shots and black-and-white stills of Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, and Antonio Banderas. Tommy is down, but ultimately not really feeling it. We consider for a moment inquiring about taking photos in the playroom—now, that’s something Tommy can get behind. But they’d also prefer a Korean corn dog over a milkshake and fries. In fact, they’re particularly craving a K-dog today. A Capricorn with a Libra moon, Tommy has the kind of presence in which one, honestly, tends to want to do whatever it is Tommy wants to do. Clearly comfortable with themselves, easygoing, no fuss, but like, yeah, we’re following Tommy.
So we exit the Burger King, leaving behind the checkered star-print rug and the kid dancing by the soda machine, and step out underneath the M train. We pass street vendors selling fluffy monsters and Sonic the Hedgehog bucket hats. Tommy remarks gleefully on a particularly absurd design, a backpack with a 3D-looking print of stacks of cash. It kinda cranks, we all agree, and keep walking. At the spot called Ugly Donuts & Corn Dogs, a Korean street food joint on a graffitied corner of Himrod, we order our snacks on the giant touchscreen. Doughnuts and bubble tea for us, and a corn dog for Tommy, who picks us a spot by the door.
“That show was crazy,” Tommy says after we sit down. We’re talking about a festival in July, called In Broad Daylight, that was thrown by Corpus—a label and community-oriented collective started by local hardcore band Show Me the Body. LustSickPuppy was the ninth of 20 acts performing in The Ruins, a factory boiler room–turned–outdoor event space adjacent to the Knockdown Center venue in Queens. During Tommy’s set, someone dislocated their knee and was wheeled out, biting on a belt. “Out of everyone playing, my set?” Tommy says quizzically. In an email, SMTB bassist Harlan Steed wrote that “Tommy immediately made sure the person was okay before continuing to demolish the crowd with their powerful music. It’s easy to disconnect in the chaos of a show but LSP is a hyper-present performer.”
It’s surprising to me, at first, that this is the craziest thing that’s ever happened during a LustSickPuppy performance, considering that people do go pretty damn bananas. But Tommy explains that “there’s a level of care that goes into the pits” at LustSickPuppy-type, rave-techno-hardcore shows. As opposed to, for instance, the white-male-dominated hardcore scene, which is radically different from the queer- and POC-dominated scenes Tommy typically plays for.
“There’s only so much that actually belongs to us, you know?” Tommy says of the scene, and of the one-of-a-kind merch they hand-paint, which consistently sells out. “And my music belongs to me, but it also is giving to a lot of people. I like to create art that’s like, ‘This is for you,’ and having that person connect with the art and be like, ‘I know that this is mine.’”
Read the full feature in the next issue of CREEM.