Artists of the Year

Iraq. SARS. Jay Leno, Still on television practically every night. Yeah, 2003 was about as much fun as a social disease.

Even among radicals, Venus is unique. Living in between genders, married to her hometown sweetheart for 20 years, gifted not only as a musician but as a painter, animator, performance artist, and experimental filmmaker, she utterly defies categorization. What's most striking about Venus is that whether she's performing for an audience of three or 300, making lasagna for her mom in Duluth or entertaining hipsters at CBGB, she's always completely herself. It is this stark, courageous honesty--combined with her undeniable talent--that encourages people to look past their prejudices.

Being in the audience at an All the Pretty Horses gig is one of the most hopeful experiences you can have. Look around and you see transvestites, goths, Rastafarians, heavily pierced punks, and lily-white suburbanites--"Everybody just a-freakin'," as another Uptown gender-bending rocker once put it. Because the music speaks louder than our differences.

Emily Goldberg is a Twin Cities-based filmmaker whose documentary Venus of Mars premiered in November at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam.

Aaron Horkey


Kitties and Haters

The question Who has influenced me the most over this past year? puts me in a quandary. How can one really summarize all of one's actions from a given year and then accurately point out the impetus behind each one? Damn, that's a hard nut to crack. After debating the pros and cons, making lists, checking them twice, I realized that it would just not be possible to pick one influence for all of this year's hard work. So I picked two influences:

Kitties and haters.

That's it.

Yes, you read right. The kitties part is based on the feral cat colony who live in my backyard. A few tours back, I came home and found a mama kitty had given birth to a whole lovely feline family. I got all their gonads chopped off (can't take care of too many kitties) and released them to the backyard. This makes me so happy every day when I go outside to feed my little gonadless kitty friends, and they are so happy to see me.

Well, actually they hiss a lot and won't let me pet them, unless I am offering something tasty like sardines. But I do not mind this apparent rudeness, because it teaches me this most valuable lesson...If you cut off my nuts, I probably won't let you pet me.

Did someone mention haters? Oh, the haters tried to bring me down this year. We (Captured! By Robots) had a big article in (sort of a big deal). They basically ripped us a new one, talking so much crap about how bad the robots in the band suck (which they do not), and how I am a crappy musician (which I am). I let it get me down for a day, but then the epiphany.

Anyone who has enough time to rant and hate online is not doing anything positive with his life. This has influenced me to be a better person, and not to hate as much, and to make this robotic band of mine so freakin' awesome that it will tear the haters' frowns upside down, and maybe stab them in the throat and in their eyes.

JBOT plays superior rock music and tortures and kills humans in between songs with the world's best android band, Captured! By Robots. He lives in San Francisco.



I spent a lot of time with Rjyan Kidwell this year. I guess, in retrospect, it wasn't really that much time, but living mere feet away from someone in a tour van for five weeks can feel like an eternity, especially when he's an unending geyser of nervous energy and unsolicited conversation. I wanted to stab him in the neck with a fork when he plopped his smelly feet on my shoulders as I was driving through Arizona. I couldn't believe I had to talk him out of eating a handful of pennies at a Taco Bell in Florida ("You guys never let me have any fun!" he responded). These incidents were fairly typical over the course of those five weeks, but to dwell on them would be to give you the wrong impression of my true feelings about Rjyan, the iMac- and mic-wielding juggernaut better known as Cex.

Over the course of the last three years, Rjyan has made six records ranging from violent glitch to hip hop to Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails-influenced industrial. Three of those six records were released in 2003 alone: Being Ridden and its instrumental counterpart LP, and Maryland Mansions. Having toured with Rjyan twice in the last year and a half, I have seen a spectrum of fans confused by his unapologetic genre hopping: People come expecting glitch, they get hip hop. People come expecting hip hop, they get a young man in spiky elevator boots and eye makeup screaming at the top of his lungs. While these transformations may seem like career suicide to most, they are exactly what I admire most about him. He is completely fearless as he invites us to watch his artistic growth in real time.

While I admire all of Rjyan's work to date, I feel that he is just getting started and that the best is yet to come. It is my prediction that by the end of the decade, Cex will have put Beck to shame while making us all wonder why we put so much stock in Eminem.

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