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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: March 20, 2019

Art-pop duo Princess brings its sci-fi feminist rock opera to Space

Written by: Ray Routhier

Princess – a duo consisting of Alexis Gideon and Michael O’Neill – perform live, accompanying a film being played on a big screen.
Photos courtesy of Princess

On the screen are two men – sometimes wearing tutus and leotards – floating through space on their way to find a planet that’s less misogynistic than Earth. The same two men are also on stage, beside the screen, singing pop- and hip-hop-flavored songs that describe their on-screen journey.

Sounds kind of out there, doesn’t it?

Well it is, literally. The art-pop duo Princess will perform its new sci-fi feminist rock opera video album “Out There” at Space in Portland on Thursday. Members Alexis Gideon and Michael O’Neill will play and sing live against a backdrop of an hour-long video, which also features them.

The idea for a project about men re-examining themselves began around the time of President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, said Gideon, 38, who lives in Pittsburgh. The idea became more clearly focused by the time of the Women’s March in Washington a few months later.

“It was a very intense time and we felt like Trump was bad for a variety of reasons, including his treatment of women,” said O’Neill, 39, who lives in New York. “We started with the idea that it’s time for men to step aside, especially in areas of power and leadership, and make space for women.”

O’Neill and Gideon have performed as Princess off and on since around 2004. The pair said they’ve long dealt with ideas of masculinity in their music, and often dress in tutus, dance leotards or other garments more closely associated with women then men.

In the hour-long video for “Out There,” the men play fictitious versions of themselves who have decided there must be another planet that’s not as misogynistic and messed up as Earth. So they set out on a space journey to find it.

The video of that journey is frenetic and psychedelic. O’Neill and Gideon move in clipped, choppy ways, almost like they’re in a stop-animation film. During a single song the clothes they wear can change a dozen times while they don’t move. And the backgrounds switch haphazardly to neon hues of blue, purple or red at times.

The backgrounds are spacey, literally and figuratively, with some scenery looking like a space ship or a control room, and others nearly impossible to figure out. The songs range from poppy and electronic to hip-hop-inspired rhymes with heavy beats.

The characters in the video are “simultaneously gay, straight, queer, masculine and feminine,” according to press materials for the show.

The 16 songs tell the story of the men’s self-discovery. The album starts with the send-off tune “Hello (This Is How We Go)” and others include “The Times We Shined,” “Dude’s Gonna Rock,” “Time for The Men To Go,” “Rise Up” and “When We Get There.”

The men in the video think they’ve found a planet that’s utopia, then encounter other problems that prove it’s not.

“They are looking for something, without, that needs to be found within themselves,” said Gideon.

The “Out There” tour began March 1 at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and will continue into May, stopping at numerous art museums and art spaces around the country. The show is scheduled to play the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland on May 3.

‘Out There’ by Princess

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Space, 534-538 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $10 in advance, $12 day of the show.
INFO: space538.org

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