"Performance poetry was very much about rules. There was a three-minute time limit, there was the no-costume rule, and, most importantly, in battle rap and slam poetry, your job is to tickle the crowd's balls and make everybody feel good. I had this yearning to make them mad, or, God forbid, make them uncomfortable. People clap no matter what — it's just a robotic crowd response for when something is over on stage. I wanted to do something that would make everybody silent."
Dolan rolled out Bombzo the Clown right around the time word broke stateside about the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. The character — something like the grotesque and homicidal Captain Spaulding from The Devil's Rejects with the political sensibility of Rush Limbaugh — emerged at a random party in a Providence art space, dragging a hooded man across the stage and screaming racial epithets. Dolan succeeded — the crowd wanted to hang him.
Bombzo surfaced every few years, sometimes out of nowhere, other times interrupting Providence fringe-rap icon Sage Francis, whose Strange Famous Records signed Dolan in 2007. In Philadelphia, the mad clown's homophobic rant got people hollering, "Go fuck yourself." At the Middle East in Cambridge, Bombzo blasted the venue as a "latte liberal commie faggot fantasia," claiming Boston is an example of "how great a city can be once you've kicked out all of the colored people."
After offending even those who were in on the Bombzo joke, Dolan decided that he'd scratched his itch to stun people into rage and silence, so he moved on. Last year, he dropped Fallen House, Sunken City on Strange Famous, flexing his poetic storytelling skills, but relying on Maine producer/MC Alias for beats that are decidedly hip-hop. At the same time, he continued to produce live spectacles that fans are likely to remember for years.
For his next three shows — one apiece in Pawtucket, Boston, and Portland — Dolan has composed his own "latte liberal commie faggot" fantasy called the Church of Love and Ruin. The politically charged What Cheer? Brigade, the 18-person alt-marching band, will blow horns in all corners of the club. Vockah Redu and the Cru, an animated sissy-bounce outfit from New Orleans, will make their New England debut, and Boston drag queen Ms. Nicholle Pride will also be in tow.
"We're pushing our fans," says Dolan. "Maybe you're okay with the heterosexual white male MC getting on stage and verbalizing [anti-homophobic messages], but are you okay with this kind of show? Can you appreciate this? It's a gamble, because if the crowd yells shit at me, I'm prepared to deal with it. In this case, I don't want people to yell. These are performers who I really respect, and now I want to see if we've produced an audience that can appreciate it like I appreciate it."
Those who arrive with open minds and dance shoes are likely to dig the spectacle — a Fox News nightmare full of hip-hop, queers, loud music, Satan, and blasphemy. Coming through to host the event will be Sis and Jamie DeWolf from the underground Oakland art troupe Tourettes Without Regrets. Known for stunts like inviting audience members to give lap dances to their grandfathers, DeWolf and Sis are icing on the strawberry shock cake, guarantors of a once-in-a-lifetime boom-bap experience.