Last night Philly’s favorite drag queen, Martha Graham Cracker, gave her finest performance. This album release show coincided with the debut of Lashed But Not Leashed—Martha’s first studio album. A concept album that captures the music from the live show created in residency at the Kimmel Center’s 2015 Theatre Residency Program, Lashed But Not Leashed is an 11-song odyssey of myriad musical styles and emotions that goes for the jugular and doesn’t let go until the final note dissipates.
Having listened to Lashed But Not Leashed numerous times, I was eager to witness the story that weaves the music together. As Martha revealed to me during my interview with her, this show is about her questioning whether or not she should abandon showbiz to become a librarian. As we entered the 627-seat Perelman Theater, I wondered how Martha’s flirtatious cabaret style would transfer to such a large venue. She’s known for sitting in people’s laps, caressing their heads, and sometimes dancing with them. It’s unlike any live experience out there, which is why she consistently sells out and entertains thousands of people year after year. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. This show was 100% Martha, replete with glamorous attire, spellbinding soul, impassioned vocals, and gut-wrenching humor. Seeing these songs performed live gave me a deeper appreciation for them, while at the same time deepening my respect for Martha as an artist and a live performer.I was delighted to realize that David Sweeny (pictured above), known to many as Johnny Showcase, played a key role in the live performance and album. He handled harmonies, percussion, harmonica, and much more. The rest of the band was equally fabulous, playing an incredibly tight set with zero discernable hiccups. Another standout performer was Eliza Hardy Jones. With her powerful and pretty voice, alongside her gorgeous piano playing, Eliza enhanced the music and took everything she touched to a higher level.I gave Martha my gratitude after the show and received a big, hairy hug in return. At slightly more than six feet tall, it’s not often that I feel short. However, in Martha’s presence one can’t help but feel diminutive. Fierce, dynamic, undeniable—Martha Graham Cracker is a special lady, and a Philadelphia treasure. For nearly 15 years she’s dazzled audiences with her vivacity and bravura. If you haven’t seen her live, do so. And if you’re curious about her album, buy it, download it, stream it. Lashed But Not Leashed is the perfect encapsulation of who Martha Graham Cracker is as a performer, and I’m glad that my wife and I had the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with the divine Miss M.