Martha Wainwright Warns Men Against Buying Her Underwear

Photo: Diana Sabreen

The “surprise” guests at last night's Martha Wainwright show at Highline Ballroom — to the surprise of no one familiar with this American-Canadian folk-pop dynasty — were brother Rufus and mother Kate McGarrigle. (Earlier, we spotted Roof sweet-talking a bouncer into adding his boyfriend’s name to the guest list.) Before mother, son, and daughter performed a beautiful rendition of “Don't Forget,” a treacle-free paean to unconditional love, Kate McGarrigle, at the piano, chided her kids for whispering conspiratorially: “Don't forget about me — I'm here, too!”

For fans of Martha, who is very much her own entity, this might sound like inviting your best friend to an intimate dinner only to have her bring, well, her family. But the Von Trapp–esque cameos showcased a freakishly talented gene pool — and never took away from the headliner. Martha has a much more direct, forceful voice and persona onstage than what comes across on her sometimes arch, precious albums; many of last night’s arrangements emphasized her more robust alt-country leanings. And she staged the same Judy Garland séance that she hijacked Rufus's Carnegie Hall Judy tribute with a few years back, delivering a scorched-earth rendition of “Stormy Weather.” (When is this lady going to record some pop standards?)

And the merch was simply saucy. Her last album’s most brilliant song inspired “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” underwear; the latest panties are emblazoned with her new disc’s title, “I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too.” (“I'm maturing slightly,” she said.) As for all the gays she noticed snatching up pairs, she warned: “There's no room in there for your balls!” For her, we were willing to take our chances. —Justin Ravitz