While waiting around midnight for my festival hook-up, I poked my head into The Iron Bear (the gay bar where Unicorn Booty held its “Friends With Benefits” South By Southwest party) and holy shit! I saw a shirtless man in a silver mankini, hotpants and a rhinestone-studded face mask singing sleazy electro-funk songs while his backup dancers — scantily clad in gold g-strings and see-through catsuits with the titties exposed — mounted, kissed and felt each other up.
By the end of the performance, the singer onstage had all but gotten naked — he’d also shot more than one confetti cannon from between his legs onto his dancing audience — and I’m pretty sure I almost saw his backup dancers’ buttholes as they dry-humped on the sweat and glitter-covered floor.
It wasn’t an orgy, and it wasn’t just a party or a music show: it was Tickle Torture, the Minneapolis-based brainchild of music producer Elliott Kozel, a musician who was once a vocalist and guitarist with Sleeping in the Aviary, an alt-rock band that for all its press acclaim sounded a bit generic.
“I got sick of having a band. It’s like having five girlfriends,” Kozel told the Star Tribune. “The band was going bad and I decided to make music I could make by myself and I always had that idea of combining R&B with noise music.”
He initially went solo, performing at bars with an MP3 player and releasing Tickle Torture’s first EP, Spiritual Machine, in 2012. But now, he’s got a band again (featuring a guitar, drums, and synths) and is growling out sexually-charged dance music with ostentatious self-made costumes covered in full-on glitter, chains, feathers and other ornate excess.
In 2014, the band released the album Spectrophilia and while its songs include titles such as “Fuck Me With The Lights On” the sexual swagger belies a screaming plea for contact and connection: It’s not just about fucking at the bar, it’s about the passion and energy behind it, an energy that Kozel and his crew put on display at every performance.
“He’s usually naked by the end,” a woman standing next to me said. This time around, he kept his dick in his pants, but after their set ended, Tickle Torture had put me well in the mood to meet my hook-up and let my dick out of mine. We made out while dancing, got naked and eventually shot off our own cum-fetti cannons — now that’s good music!