Along with the festival-sized finger Life Is Sh*t gives to more mainstream music events that may or may not take place on the same weekend, it never fails to deliver a sh*t ton of talent, too.
Homegrown acts like Black Camaro, Ted Rader’s Magic Family, Illicitor and The Acid Sisters have played, as have British punk icons The Vibrators and indie LA surf band SadGirl.This year marks the 10th edition of the DIY punk rock festival produced by founder Jack Evan Johnson and Bad Moon Booking’s Tsvetelina Stefanova and James Howard Adams, and the first in-person version of the event at the Dive Bar since 2019, following two virtual installations.
It’s not sh*tty news by any means, and neither is the bill, which includes 14 wonderful acts. One such marvel is Evelyn Scythe (Instagram @evelynscythe)—an electronic darkwave project in the vein of Boy Harsher—led by trans artist Shiloh Shaddix, who first played LIS in 2019 with shoegazey outfit Laabradoor.
“I was very early in my transition, so I was a little nervous, but it ended up being one of my favorite experiences,” Shaddix says. “If I hadn’t played that, I don’t know if I would have gone on and played other gigs, met more people, and gotten used to where I am now. I’m very grateful for being able to be part of what Tsvet, James and Bad Moon all put together.”
Shaddix performs as Evelyn Scythe alone, but her stage presence can fill a whole room. Up there, she’s all feral energy and contorted form, her vocals haunting and resonant, echoing through her machines like a digitized siren song.
“I’m really inspired by artists working now like Arca; she’s like the next Björk to me. I love electronic artists who just have a big case, and it’s just full of all kinds of gadgets … and there’s cables spilling out. That gets me really excited,” she says. “Over the years, I have been trying to collect as much as I can and learn how to make my little synths talk to each other, get some noise going.”
The multi-instrumentalist uses a Roland JD-Xi synthesizer with a built-in drum machine for her loops, and a Roland SP 404 sampler pad to incorporate movie dialogue and samples from favorite video games like the horror franchise Silent Hill, which has greatly influenced her aesthetic.
“Games have had a very big impact on my art,” says Shaddix, whose band name actually came from the Victorian game Bloodborne. “[Silent Hill 2] is such a Twin Peaks fever dream. It’s so good, and I really resonate with all the stories around trauma and giving yourself peace.”
The artist grew up in a heavily Mormon family in Utah, but moved to Las Vegas during her freshman year of high school in 2011. She soon dropped out. “Schools have always been really rough for me,” says Shaddix who struggled with dyslexia and ADHD. “And then, also being closeted queer for a long time, that was a huge part of it.”
Five years ago, she began transitioning. And though Shaddix says that decision caused a severe familial strain, it helped her become the person—and artist—she had always wanted to be. “Once I was feeling a lot more free, as an individual, as a woman, I got really into women who are into synthesizers,” she says, discovering pioneers like Wendy Carlos, the trans musician who scored The Shining and Tron.
That appreciation for women like Carlos, and the intricacies of analog, took Shaddix’s music—which originally had more of an acoustic folk flavor—to new heights. She says she’s inspired to incorporate all styles she loves, including shoegaze and slowcore, into her upcoming album. Evelyn Scythe is currently recording two tracks, which Shaddix hopes to release next month. Bassist Julian West of Luxury Furniture Store (another 2022 Life Is Sh*t act) is also working with her.
Though she’s proudly out, and sees being visibly trans “already activism enough,” Shaddix admits it’s still scary as a musician. But being true to yourself is imperative.
“Pursuing art, I think, is the most beneficial thing you can do in this experience. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t pouring my heart out into my instruments or into whatever I write,” she says. “It’s good to keep your head on your shoulders, keep encouraging yourself that you can accomplish your goals and also look hot. It’s really important to find the self-esteem within you.”
LIFE IS SH*T September 17, 4:20 p.m., free. The Dive Bar, badmoonbooking.live.
Amber Sampson is a Staff Writer for Las Vegas Weekly. She got her start in journalism as an intern at …
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