By Jessica Carreras
Detroit, be nice to Pansy Division. After their 1995 stop in Motor City while on tour with Green Day, we’re lucky the gay punk rockers are even returning.
“Every night on the tour we’d get a really mixed response,” lead singer and band founder Jon Ginoli recalls of the band’s first major tour.
“We’d always have people who were into us, and people that weren’t. But that Cobo Hall show was by far the worst response … people would throw things, and they really booed.”
Thankfully, Ginoli doesn’t blame us. “I just blame Ted Nugent. He’s an easy target.”
And now, for the first time since 2002, the band is making a stop in southeast Michigan at Small’s in Hamtramck at 8 p.m. June 19. And this time, let’s hope the only thing thrown at them will be sexy men.
The band heads to Detroit fresh off the triple release of their documentary, “Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band,” Ginoli’s memoir “Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division” and their sixth studio album, “That’s So Gay.”
Of the album, Ginoli said it’s not a far cry from their old mixture of pop-punky guitars and goofy, obscene lyrics, but it does have a more grown-up sound – even if the guys themselves still act like horny 20-somethings.
“The new record is a little more mature,” Ginoli explains. “That’s a bad word in rock ‘n’ roll a lot of the time, but – like ’20 Years of Cock,’ it’s a funny song, it’s outrageous, but it’s also a song about getting older. It isn’t about the band having been around for 20 years, but more like, ‘I’ve been having sex with guys for 20 years.’ For me, it’s actually been more than 20 years, but (drummer) Luis (Illades) is younger, so it’s an average.”
That is, except for lead guitarist Joel Reader, who is the band’s only straight member. “(He has had) zero years of cock – except for his own,” Ginoli says. “But we give him credit for that.”
And the band’s songs more than make up for Reader’s lack of man love, with titles like “The Cocksucker Club,” “James Bondage” and country-tinged “He Whipped My Ass in Tennis (Then I Fucked His Ass in Bed).”
Ginoli admits that while Pansy fans find the raunchy humor hilarious, other listeners don’t take their numerous dick descriptions and drunken sex stories so well.
On his recent book tour for “Deflowered,” Ginoli found himself doing a reading and acoustic set in a Phoenix Borders Bookstore – right next to the children’s section. On Mother’s Day. “I started playing (1992 single) ‘Femme in a Black Leather Jacket,’ which isn’t as bad, but as soon as I started playing the guitar, it was like the Pied Piper calling the children over,” he says, laughing. “It was pretty funny, but I had to stop. I’m not going to sing to 6- and 7-year-olds about guys getting undressed.”
The of-age listeners, however, will get a smattering of both sex and politics at a Pansy Division show. For Ginoli, that means just doing what they do best: pushing the reality of gay life in people’s faces with no apologies – not even to other gays. “There’s a train of thought (in the gay community) in the ’80s and ’90s that said we’ve got to behave in order for mainstream America to accept us,” Ginoli explains. “I have the opposite view, that people just have to get used to the idea that we’re there and what we do is normal. Acceptance will follow. If we’re always trying to police ourselves and placate what straight people might think about us, we won’t get anywhere.”
It’s good advice, coming from the self-proclaimed World’s First Gay Punk Rock Band. Throughout their almost-two-decade, off-and-on tenure, Pansy Division tackled a lot of gay issues. They sang about HIV/AIDS in “Denny”; they brought to light the life of a depressed gay teen in “Deep Water”; most recently, they said a big “f-off” to users of hurtful phrases on their latest record’s titular track, “That’s So Gay.”
What they really know best, though, is sex. Lots of it. And what’s more, they’re not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. Or at least into a microphone.
“The idea that (gays) really had to be upfront about the sex part of it is something that really formed the beginning of our band,” Ginoli said. “Let’s not be afraid to talk about who we are – and sex is definitely a part of that.”
And when it comes to the music of Pansy Division, it’s a big (pun intended) part.
8 p.m. June 19
Small’s Bar, 10339 Conant Ave., Hamtramck
$10 advance/$12 at the door