It’s easy to endure a four-mile traffic jam when you can plug in your iPhone, turn on your radio, and realize that at least you’re not combatting demon-possessed orphans or gin-crazed koalas. It’s also easy when you can hear anyone from The Cog is Dead to Adam Ant to Johnny Cash, and listen to your beat-up Honda sonically morph into the bridge of the airship Calpurnia. To paraphrase Poppy Meriwether: hello there, darlings, and welcome to The Clockwork Cabaret.
This weekly podcast, hosted by DJs Emmett Davenport and Lady Attercop, showcases what they call “music ‘o gears,” interspersed with comedic dialogue from the hosts and other characters; these include Poppy and Percy, a pair of sardonic automatons, along with occasional special guests. Think of it as A Prairie Home Companion with absinthe on its breath. Listeners may not always hear music typically described as steampunk, but that’s part of The Clockwork Cabaret’s appeal—each episode redefines the genre in its own unique way. Featured artists range from contemporary favorites of the steampunk community, such as Frenchy and the Punk, The Nathaniel Johnstone Band, and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing, to icons of indie rock, swing, punk, broadway, and other genres from throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In one playlist, you might hear the Andrews Sisters followed by Tom Waits or Asylum Street Spankers, while another might feature Eartha Kitt alongside The Decemberists and Hellblinki. Some selections also highlight lesser known artists with a flair for the macabre or anachronistic, an example being Eric McFadden’s deliciously dark cover of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer.” If a song has a gothic touch, reminds you of days gone by, or is just really interesting, chances are you might here it on The Clockwork Cabaret.
The podcast’s eclectic musical palette reflects the artistry of its “Darling DJ Duo.” A savvy entrepreneur, Emmett Davenport’s DJ career spans over fifteen years, and she currently operates the Victorian-themed Café Diem coffeehouse in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Lady Attercop illustrates the witty web comic Strange Fiction, and provides much of The Clockwork Cabaret’s promotional artwork. Together, they lend their tune-spinning skills to a variety of steampunk events, including the Clockwork Ball in the Triangle area of North Carolina, and the Mechanical Masquerade at DragonCon. They also work diligently to bring alternate history to the un-steamed masses through a number of other projects, including the upcoming Youtube series Lushington’s Lounge, the only how-to show to feature puppets drinking vintage cocktails.
In addition to their other talents, our hosts display their comedic chops through their on-air Clockwork Cabaret personae. Davenport is the eldest of the Davenport sisters, traveling the world aboard the airship Calpurnia and trying to avoid trouble from the villainous organization CLANNG. Her companion, the snidely mischievous, rum-guzzling criminal Attercop, hails from a swamp-dwelling family of ruffians with more siblings than there are atoms in the universe. The characters’ continuous storyline determines the theme of each episode’s playlist. For instance, a recent episode featured songs on the subjects of crime and punishment, as well as Attercop’s anxiety over her upcoming parole hearing, brought on by Davenport’s callous consumption of Attercop’s lawyer: a sack of potatoes named Betty Sackface.
Thanks to the efforts of these self-described “professional ladies” to stay true to themselves and refuse genre restrictions, The Clockwork Cabaret celebrates what might be the greatest attribute of the steampunk subculture: its accessibility. The humor never veers into the desert of pretentiousness (where even the cacti judge you), and the diversity of the music allows a broad audience to embrace their inner anachronist. The next time you’re feeling landlocked, don’t hesitate to grab a bottle of gin and hop aboard the Calpurnia—just ignore the koalas.