Hi Tiger is a group of performing and visual artists, music producers and instrumentalists. Performances are directed by Derek Jackson (lyrics / vocals) and include fierceness by Amandaconda & Nicole Antonette, with lighting design and sculpture by PSBL. Hi Tiger performs live vocals and choreography with musical accompaniment produced by a growing roster of beat makers and musicians including Taylor Vesey aka SWIM, Chris DiRocco, James Paul Cooper, Jacob Pitcher, Remy Brecht, 32 French, Sam Lee and Jack Reynolds.
Hi Tiger's current work is inspired by science fiction, 90's advertising, queer culture, brown skin, blonde tips and current production trends in popular music. We incorporate contemporary performance techniques and stage design to create a context for sharing our synaesthetic responses to music.
A 2017 recipient of the Kindling Fund through SPACE Gallery, Hi Tiger has been featured in performances at Institute of Contemporary Art (Portland, Maine) for the exhibition Tinderbox, Brooklyn Academy of Music for EVERYBOOTY / NYC, LePetit Versailles (for the exhibition NOT OVER: 25 years of Visual AIDS), Spectrum (New York), and Portland Pride (Maine).
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Le Petit Versailles / Allied Productions, NYCSeptember 2016
Le Petit Versailles is a public community garden on Manhattan's Lower East Side presenting events as a platform for enriching the cultural fabric in a green oasis. Hi Tiger, the music based performance group from Portland, Maine lands at Le Petit Versailles in September 2016 to present their full length art punk experience.
Old Port Festival - Portland, MaineJune 2016
Time to Deliver
Hi Tiger at The Old Port Festival’s Dispatch Magazine Stage | 6.12.16
The Old Port Festival features five hours of music across six stages, but it’s hardly known for presenting experimental or boundary pushing acts. The Festival’s reputation for cover bands, mid-tier regional acts, and American Idol footnotes is well enough established and disparaged at this point that for the last couple of years Mathew’s Pub has counter-programmed with an Anti-Old Port Festival featuring a gauntlet of Portland’s preeminent noisemakers, new terrors, and old punks. Unfairly or not, the music at the Old Port Festival is regarded by many as mere background music for day-drinking.* So props to Dispatch Magazine for booking an eclectic line-up of great Portland bands, starting with Hi Tiger, who stalked onto stage for the opening noon slot.
Hi Tiger is the ever-evolving art/music/dance project of Derek Jackson. Raised in a Texas border town, Derek’s musical identity was shaped growing up during the 1980s among a community of latino teenagers obsessed with Morrissey. The Smiths’ florid melancholy and the synth stabs of New Order have influenced Hi Tiger’s sound since the beginning, but Derek’s mercurial charisma and restless creativity has led the band through a series of intriguing permutations. The first time that I saw Hi Tiger perform was at Geno’s in 2011 when it was a dance-punk five-piece and Derek’s athletically erotic dance moves and ferocious growl instantly elevated him in my esteem to Portland’s greatest frontman.
This version of the band was captured on i love music, a fantastic record that suffers only from the fact that the rest of the album can’t quite reach the towering heights set by its opening track “nukes”. Derek chronicles the death of a friend named Malcolm to AIDS, and in less than five minutes the song covers everything from joy, to nihilism, to suicide, to fucking, to final words, and even serves as an origin story for the Hi Tiger name. It’s a song that somehow finds ways to make me laugh in the midst of its tragedy, and by the end it leaves me with my heart ripped out on the floor. Plus it makes me want to dance. It’s not only one of the best songs produced by a Portland band, but one of the best songs period. **
The band effectively disbanded shortly after the release of their debut record, but Derek continued with the project, working with a changing cast of collaborators while moving towards an even more sensual and dance-oriented vision that maintained and deepened the visceral emotions of his songs. The latest iteration of the band features dancers Amandaconda and Nicole Antonette with Derek performing to tracks produced by Jacob Pitcher, James Cooper aka Fenimore, and Remy Brecht (this set also finished with a live track from Sam Lee, Jack Reynolds of Waco Sparkler, and 32 French). For the Old Port Festival performance they were joined onstage by backing vocalist Nate Harriman.
Over deep booming bass Derek unleashed his inimitable croon while gyrating in a manner that melded the snake charmer with the snake. Behind him, Amandaconda and Nicole, dressed in neon green and silver scales, performed their own hypnotic slow dance, which might be better described as a poetry of motion or a ballet of the heart.*** This was my first time seeing this version of the band, and so I was eagerly anticipating the moment that comes in all Hi Tiger performances when Derek starts to playfully and dramatically push the boundaries. In this case, it came during the second song of the set, which began with these opening lines:
Walking on the edge of an open river
Time to deliver
And deliver they did. By the second verse Derek was on the ground with his legs spread as Amandaconda and Nicole writhed out through his limbs and birthed themselves to the edge of stage.
I often don’t even know what to think when I watch Hi Tiger, but I love it. The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” might as well be the theme song for how I feel when I see Hi Tiger live.
The juxtaposition of the Pabst Blue Ribbon and wireless provider sponsor banners that hung from the stage only served to heighten the surreal spectacle. The crowd, for the most part, was confused or indifferent. Where people should have been dancing, a game of cornhole was being played out instead. A senior citizen wearing an over-sized Styrofoam cowboy hat, looking like Santa Claus on vacation, twirled in the middle of the street. Stitched on the back of his bedazzled denim vest were the words I Dance For Tips.
A few weeks earlier Hi Tiger had performed at New Fruit, a women-run alternative arts space, and Poland St, the Max’s Kansas City of our city’s punk houses. Though these spaces likely offered a more receptive audience, I am glad that I caught the act among the “dough-eaters”**** of the Old Port Festival. Hi Tiger and its members are such a unique creative force, among that special group of people that give this city its fucking pulse, that it does my spirit good to see them bathe the streets with their creative juices and bleeding hearts.
Near the end of their set, Hi Tiger launched into a cover of New Order’s “The Village”, turning one of that bands’ peppiest song (musically, not lyrically) into a romantic dirge that offered a glimpse into an alternate reality where Ian Curtis never died and was also a gay African-American. Hi Tiger covered this song in their earliest incarnation; I believe a demo version was the first piece of music they ever shared publicly, and it was a thrill to hear Derek return to this keystone song. One of the chief pleasures of following Hi Tiger is seeing how the band keeps evolving, but it is at times frustrating to see one promising path abandoned for a new avenue. But echoing across the Old Port, “The Village” never sounded better, and I hope that Hi Tiger’s current line-up won’t be a fleeting experiment, but a new birth from a long and fascinating gestation.
* I should mention that for a number of years (2012–2014) I was responsible for organizing the Old Port Festival, though not booking the stages. In general, I think some of the complaints against the Festival reveal a sneering condescension. Happy crowds throng the stages, and incidences of serious intoxication have been minimal over the last few years. Nonetheless, there is some truth to the prevailing attitude among the local scene that the Festival does not accurately reflect the full vibrancy and eclecticism of the city’s music and art communities.
** This is not hyperbole. Go listen to nukes and hear for yourself.
*** With credit due to Bill Callahan’s “One Fine Morning”.
**** “Dough-eaters” became an unfortunate addition to the vernacular during another Old Port Festival related controversy around taste and class. This article from a 2014 issue of The Bollard details its etymology.
New Fruit - Portland, MaineMay 2016
the underworld, the decay, the heavenly: BODY
a multimedia group art show featuring the works by: adelaideAlexa ClavetteAnomali Bethany LouisosBianca and Riel Brian DoodyCatie HanniganHi Tiger Jackie JonesJaime WingJonathan DownsKathryn O'NeilKatrinaKia Connolly Mindy Gabree when thinking of BODY as categorized by the underworld / the decay / the heavenly, we invite you to consider these keywords: asunder, bound, carry, cycles, decline, degenerate, devour, earth, effectuate, environment, growth, identity, illness, landscape, management, mending, nature, neutral, nurture, pain, persistent, pieces, pleasure, recovery, remains, resist, rotting, self, shadows, surroundings, survival, trauma, undone, vast Opening reception: Saturday, May 21st, 6:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. readings and performances starting around 7:00 p.m. Hi Tiger performing at 9:00 p.m. Hi Tiger is a collective of performing and visual artists, music producers and instrumentalists. Performances are conceived and directed by Derek Jackson (lyrics / vocals) and feature lighting design by Ray Littlefield, mixed media and sculpture by PSBL, and fierceness by Nicole Antonette & Amandaconda.