Stimulator Jones at 529 (Atlanta, GA) 10/24/18: Real Fake Sleazy
It began with a Hendrix-style guitar solo. In many other circumstances, I might have found it to be an egregious violation of decorum. And I did find it sleazy, yes, but it worked for him. Stimulator Jones doesn’t solo to get pussy ala some Wayne’s World character; he solos because he has the technical knowhow and stage presence to embody the sleazebag who solos to get pussy. Maybe. He’s one of those performers who so brilliantly embody their stage persona that it’s difficult to tell if it is indeed a persona. It is impossible to discern the line between the man and the mask. I’d compare him to Andy Kaufman, but I don’t make it a goal of this blog to conjure up wet dreams for art boys. He is meticulous in his encapsulation of the R&B so particular to the 90s, which was left behind come Y2K but has come to be aesthetically digestible in the current cycle of taste. Stimulator Jones is able to capture the essence of a waterbed so perfectly, it’s like you can smell his cologne from across the room, over the smell coming from the dude vaping weed right next to you in the crowd. That White Boy Rick accent has got to be an affect, you begin to think, but then you wonder at how much of an anthropological marvel it would be if you are witnessing the last vestiges of a persona that can only emerge from a bottle of mountain dew and a can of dip while standing outside a suburban gas station. You watch him shred and exercise his virtuosic falsetto range, all the while humping the air and leaning into a Freudian interpretation of the guitar as a phallus, and you wonder: where did all the waterbeds go?
Throughout his entire performance and up until just about thirty minutes prior to the writing of this piece, I was operating under the impression that Roanoke-based Sam Lunsford, the artist who performs under the name Stimulator Jones, in fact took the stage name Simulator Jones. It made sense to me, with the way his body language felt almost like as if Patrick Bateman were trying to make it as George Michael rather than as a Wall Street executive or whatever the fuck his job was in that movie. The way Stimulator Jones said, “A man who likes to party, that’s right!” as he coerced the crowd to clap felt like such an imitation of what a 90s R&B artist should say that I shifted my feet and scanned the crowd to see if they were riding the wave or shared my skepticism. They, and I as well, seemed to be skeptically riding the wave and enjoying it for its absurdity. Or maybe because it’s just good babymakin’ music--ice-cool eroticism a unifying link between Stimulator Jones and Prophet, Kiefer, and Jerry Paper, the other artists belonging to the Stones Throw label who performed that night at 529.
I had quickly jumped to the assumption, on the basis of the name I believed to be Simulator Jones and his unsettling, robotically embodied 90s R&B stage persona, that Stimulator Jones belonged to this particular class of asshole which I like to refer to as the Simulacrum Bro. The Simulacrum Bro has read (or watched a YouTube video about) Baudrillard and Marshall McLuhan, and wants you to know. He uses the idea that nothing is real to adopt a new persona, often that of a sleazebag, so that he can dismiss his questionable behavior and comments as “an act”. In “reality”, he’s really sensitive and thoughtful, he implies. A friend of mine knows a guy, the textbook Simulacrum Bro, who self-published the shittiest book of poetry under the pen name Ariel Samuel Ackrum (a pun on “a real simulacrum”). When my friend pointed out that pun, I threw the book; I practically threw up. A visual on “Ariel”: the kind of dude who shows up at your door zonked out and wearing a camouflage hat post-ironically, tells you look nice in a negging way, and pays way too much for an eighth. He briefly flips through a book of someone else’s poems (he rarely touches the poetry of others because he wants to keep his poetry “pure”) and declares, “I won” because his self-published shitbook contains more poems.
But that’s “Ariel”, and this is Stimulator Jones--who, unlike “Ariel”, is enormously talented and (contrary to my initial assumption) does not rely on his stage name to tell the audience that he is indeed the real fake sleazy. “I’m not thinking about it a lot from any conceptual angle,” Stimulator Jones said in an interview with Weirdo Music Forever, on the precision of his authenticity to 90s R&B, “It’s sort of like method acting - trying to see how deep I can get into that form.” Although I do doubt that Stimulator Jones’s act has the philosophical backing of Baudrillard and McLuhan, I cannot help but consider the significance of the extents to which Stimulator Jones goes to embody a very particular moment and why his particular brand of sleaziness is so appealing. In truth, even though the Summer of Sleaze has come to a close with the breakup of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, its vestiges linger on in my heart. I’m sure there’s some kind of shameful pseudo-Freudian speculation I can give as to the appeal of sleaze--a (not-so) buried eroticism for what I find repulsive?
Regardless of why Stimulator Jones’s sleazy persona struck a chord with me, this aspect of his appeal doesn’t translate entirely to his album Exotic Worlds and Masterful Treasures. Performing live, he riffs and embarks on elaborate vocal journeys atop a recording of his previously arranged music. Listening to his album, what is left after the visual persona, vocals, and egregious electric guitars are removed is merely a vestige of the 90s which appeals to its audience’s nostalgia for 90s youth signifiers. Beneath that? An interesting back beat and vague, empty platitudes about some girl. So hollow, accurate to its model but lacking much substance beneath its veneer. I never thought I would be let down by not hearing a guitar solo.