Among our sixteen Late Night shows for Riot Fest 2022, there’s a one-of-a-kind event that’s a perfect pairing with this year’s very-goth lineup: a gothic burlesque show. A first for the festival, Obscura is co-produced by local goth pinup icon Sio Bast and Dannie Diesel (known widely as Danielle Colby, of American Pickers fame); it’s a no-brainer for any fan of My Chemical Romance, Bridge City Sinners, and the goth aesthetic in general.
The show kicks off at Chicago’s Empty Bottle on Friday, September 16 at 11:00 p.m.; tickets are available here. Ahead of what is sure to be a wickedly unforgettable show, we got Bast and Colby on the line to tell us all about Obscura (and how their fates collided).
RIOT FEST: Tell me about the show itself. What is Obscura? What were some inspirations for the show, and how did it come to be?
SIO BAST: Obscura is a love letter to all things goth, industrial, and obscure, through the eyes of a Latinx woman and through burlesque. The inspiration for the show comes from my love of everything goth and burlesque. I’ve been drawn to the goth aesthetic and genre for as long as I can remember, and it’s a huge part of my identity. I’ve been a burlesque performer for 8 years, so that part seemed like a natural fit.
DANIELLE COLBY (AKA DANNIE DIESEL): Goth has always been a huge influence on the music and art scene. They kind of feed each other. Sio took the opportunity to produce the very first all goth burlesque show in Chicago. Everybody has fallen in love with this production because of the vast array of talent that is showcased… there was not much in the way of Gothic Burlesque, especially in the Chicago area.
SB: I noticed that we didn’t have anything like this in Chicago, so I set out to change that. It’s a space to witness a variety performance art show with award-winning performers from all different types of backgrounds, skill sets, and body types… and if that wasn’t enough, Danielle Colby from American Pickers is a co-producer and performer for this September show! It’s been so fun to collaborate and learn from such a renowned performer.
Tell me about your backgrounds in performance art. What drew you both to burlesque?
SB: Like many artists, I’ve had the performing bug from a very young age. As a young adult, I decided to learn different types of Latin dance for fun…starting with Salsa. That quickly turned into performing at clubs and other opportunities. Eventually, I started teaching alongside performing. Once I got invited to a burlesque show, the rest was history. Burlesque drew me in because I felt so much control over how I could represent myself as an artist; I also love the sensual aspect of it as well. Growing up as a Salvadorian/Mexican/Catholic and feeling intense disappointment in the very thing that is supposed to save you, I decided I wanted something more true to me, something rebellious. I want to show everyone that taking your clothes off is an art form (try it, you’ll see what I mean), and that it can be healing, fun, and very powerful in its vulnerability.
DC: I was never a theater kid growing up—being homeschooled, that wasn’t really an option. I loved to dance on my own in my bedroom and had always been drawn to music however I was not active in extracurricular activities. Later in life, about 15 years ago, I was inspired by Chicago burlesque. Chicago Burlesque is different than any other in the world. I think each city holds a special type of soul that is translated through the arts and the Chicago art and performance scene is definitely not to be missed. Burlesque, Drag, ballet, hip-hop, ballroom dance… Chicago does not disappoint.
How did you two meet, and what made you want to collaborate?
SB: I love telling this story, because it’s a testament to manifestation and dreams coming true!
DC: During my time studying and learning in Chicago there was a beautiful black-haired vamp that would pop up everywhere, her name was Sio. She would always come up and talk to me at the bar, always so sweet, endearing and lively!
SB: I was working at a restaurant downtown and had just started my burlesque journey when a coworker mentioned a friend that also performed, and suggested we meet each other. What he didn’t tell me was that it was freaking Danielle Colby! She was so kind and sweet, and I remember thinking “I’m going to perform with her someday.”
DC: Sio has always had a bubbly personality that can fill a room and that is perfect for Burlesque—so as you can imagine, we continued to grow on the same trajectory, with interest in performing and producing.
SB: Over the next year, we just kept running into each other. I went to the dance shoe store, she was there, I went to an art show, she was there, to the point where I was worried she would think I was stalking her! Then the cherry on top, our mutual friend Hot Tawdry (producer over at House of Burlesque for House of Blues) asked me to be in a show and guess who else was in the line up?! We’ve been friends ever since, and now we are producing a show together… what is life?!
DC: When you work in the same city you learn a lot about each other and I learned that I love working with Sio. It was easy to transition from performing shows together to producing shows together. I wish I had Sio’s organizational skills and I’m always in all of her talent on stage.
SB: I’m really looking forward to bringing Obscura to the Empty Bottle and having a bigger, broader audience. To say I’m excited is an understatement!
DC: The Empty Bottle holds a very special place in my heart, as does Riot Fest; I’m sure you can only imagine that Sio and this incredible cast do also. We handpick the cast together, and both of us are waiting with bated breath for the evening we can all come together and celebrate this beautiful art form in the only way Obscura knows how… wantonly, weirdly and with wild abandon… we look forward to leaving you slack-jawed.
You can catch Sio Bast, Dannie Diesel, and the cast of Obscura (and official Riot Fest Late Night aftershow) performing their gothic burlesque show on Friday, September 16 at Empty Bottle. 1035 N Western Ave. 21+, 11:00 p.m.; get your tickets here.