MusicThatMadeWE #23: Anja Keister

1 hour, 41 minutes (audio only version)
2 hours, 16 minutes (Patreon exclusive version)

Released: May 21, 2022
Recorded: February 13, 2022

The New York Times called her the Sexiest Nerd in NYC, she’s won Silver Tusk Awards for Backstage Mom, Geek of All Media, and Makeup Maven. Anja Keister has shown grace and range on stages from The Invisible Man to Dolores Umbridge to the Virgin Mary to Cthulhu.

A natural 20 herself, she is the fearless leader of the great D20 Burlesque in New York City, and has been around North America as an ambassador of the geeky, the nerdy, and the sparkly.

Listen to this episode:

On today’s edition of The Music That Made We, Viktor talks with Anja Keister, performer, producer of D20 Burlesque, and winner of The Silver Tusks for Backstage Mom, Geek of All Media, and Makeup Maven.

“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago
Anja says: “I grew up in a household with a lot of classic rock. I played saxophone during junior high, high school, and college… So Chicago is music I always like to listen to because for rock it was a little jazzy and this was a song we played in marching band… It’s just a song that always gets me excited. I love rock that incorporates horns in anyway.”

“Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks
Anja says: “I chose this because I think people who know me would not think I would listen to this music. Until you actually sit down and look at it… I had this album memorized, but when I sit now and listen to the lyrics, in retrospect, I can see this as ‘Hi, I’m this small town girl from a farm in rural Pennsylvania and I need to get out of this small town where I don’t know I’m gay because I don’t know anybody who is gay. I need to go and do stuff because I can’t stay in my hometown.’ And now here I am, pink haired, very queer, in New York City. So I got my Wide Open Spaces.”

“Tank!” by SEATBELTS
Anja says: “I’d be remiss if I didn’t fucking throw some fucking anime in here… Actually when I went to school for my undergrad I got a BFA, but my minor was in jazz vocal… so I was like really into jazz. To this day, Cowboy Bebop was lifechanging for me. If I hear this music I cry a lot of the time. I’ve gogo’d to this track multiple years at different nerdy things. It’s just a bop.”

“Both Hands” by Ani DiFranco
Anja says: “I got really into Ani DiFranco through my sister. My sister is six years older than me, she took me to Lilith Fair, we see the trajectory I was on…I got really into Ani DiFranco and all that stuff and I wasn’t out yet but obviously to fall, and I was taking guitar lessons. I just went in with printed out tabs from the internet of Ani DiFranco songs and this is what I learned…This was one of the first songs I practiced on guitar when it came to finger picking.”

“Breathe Me” by Sia
Anja says: “This song I first heard as the ending track to Six Feet Under… I got really into it and I looked up the lyrics… I don’t know, this is a song that’s just so vulnerable… When I was an art therapist, this was often a song I put on when I was doing addiction groups… I put this on, and would have them draw or create art about how the song relates to them and how they feel and if it relates to anything in their own history and things like that… I think it’s a song of ultimate vulnerability. Of just saying that, ego aside, you need other people to help you through the hard times.”

“This Year” by the Mountain Goats
Anja says: “I had to put something from the band The Mountain Goats on here. They have been a larger part of my later life. Through things, I have become friends with the lead singer John Darnielle so I always love including him in things… This song itself is a song about being in abusive relationship and trying to find pleasure and joy and escape where you can… It’s a song that has guided me through a lot of hard times. ‘I’m just gonna make it through the year.'”

“If You Call” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Anja says: “This track in the history of Anja Keister, is my first burlesque act… I started going to New York School of Burlesque, and this was right before they were about to rip down the old Slipper Room, and Jo said ‘OK, we are gonna have one of our final student showcases.’ and I said I got to get in so I can say I performed at the old Slipper Room.”

“Samson” by the Vitamin String Quartet
Anja says: “This song is here because it was supposed to be my wedding song. This was supposed to be my walk down the aisle song…At the end of undergrad my friends got really into [Regina Spektor] and they all had houses in college and would go over and listen to her albums…and sing through her discography all night…Me and [my wife] met around 2005 and got together May of 2007. But she was at these things. She was at these singalong for Regina Spektor. This goes back from before we were even together…So, when we were trying to think of songs to walk down the aisle to…we found the Vitamin String Quartet version [of this song] and I was like this is very pretty, this is very beautiful, this is a song that has meaning to us and everybody else and it’s just a pretty arrangement. This ended up not getting played. At my wedding at Coney Island on the boardwalk area, it was loud and it was in public and you couldn’t control a lot of that and I forgot to pack a Bluetooth speaker. So there was no music for the ceremony. So I always say that this is our wedding song because it is, it is the song me and my wife decided on as our wedding song. It’s just that no one heard it except us in our heads that day.”

“The Seed (2.0)” by The Roots
Anja says: “This next track is a track that to me is living in New York City. This is the track that when I’d be coming home late from gigs or be walking around in my neighborhood in Brooklyn late at night, I’d just put it on and I can’t not strut to it…That is this song for me.”

“Mamma Mia” by ABBA
Anja says: “6 or so years ago, my wife who is a philosophy professor, had been asked to speak at a conference in Helsinki… So we did a month long jaunt through Europe… and we are going on this trip and we get to Stockholm… There is this whole island that is just museums… and [my wife] says ‘There is an Abba museum.’ … and I say that we have to go… I love Abba. I absolutely love Abba… We had been together for multiple years and she had no idea I was so into Abba… So we get our tickets, we walk into the door, get through the first thing, and I hear the music and just start bawling… and afterwards my wife was like, ‘OK, I learned something about you on this trip.'”


– The Music That Made WE is a creation of WEBurlesque Podcast Network, produced by Viktor Devonne.

Anja Keister on WEBurlesque:

Anja on IG: @anjakeister

Anja Keister links:

[Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act in 1976; Allowance is made for “Fair Use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All rights and credit go directly to its rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended.]

– Produced by Viktor Devonne, reigning Mr Hollywood Burlesque


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