Whack Job

Brigit Brat's 2007 B-2 Bomber
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“Come see a seven-foot-tall transvestite play heavy metal guitar” is how one poster announced a show for San Francisco/Los Angeles performance artist Brigit Brat back in the ’90s and 2000s. Brigit was an underground guitar player from San Francisco who performed both as a solo artist and with her band, God’s Girlfriend, at clubs like the Bondage A-Go-Go, Club Makeup and the Klubstitute Cabaret. Her show was wild and the music super-heavy, with an industrial-goth tinge highlighted by crazy dark guitar playing and singing. Brigit’s look was half of the appeal. Thin, with long blond hair, and standing seven foot four in her stage pumps, she looked otherworldly, almost angelic. Prior to transitioning, Brigit was a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy. In addition to making music, she recycled and repaired old bikes that she gave away to neighborhood kids. To complete her stage look, she would often design and build her own guitars for any given gig. The B-2 Bomber shown here is one of her many original builds.

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WEIRDO FACTOR

Even stranger than the B-2 Bomber’s shape is its size. It measures 42 inches wing tip to wing tip, which, incidentally, is also the exact distance from the end of the headstock to the afterburner behind the bridge. One would have to be as tall as Brigit not to look dwarfed by it. But shape and dimensions aside, the B-2 Bomber is a straight-ahead rock-and-roll guitar, bearing one humbucker, a set bridge and volume and tone knobs. What more do you need?

PLAYABILITY & SOUND

Brigit was an accomplished guitarist (she had a stint teaching music at Stanford University) and needed a good-playing guitar, which is exactly what she made. The aftermarket Epiphone-style Les Paul maple neck sports 22 frets on a nice slab of rosewood. The body is made from a thin piece of light wood, possibly cedar, and while the guitar is big, it weighs in at just about 8.5 pounds. Used with distortion, the B-2 Bomber screams like a dirty Gibson. I didn’t try it out with a clean tone because, well, why would I? Brigit didn’t.

VALUE

If you were to buy the parts and rattle-can a finish, it might set you back a couple hundred bucks to build your own B-2 Bomber. The pickup is the most valuable thing on it. But the fact that Brigit built and used this instrument in her shows makes it invaluable.

WHY IT RULES

Brigit died suddenly from a heart attack in 2011 and her belongings ended up in a locker. After her estate was settled a couple of years ago, her longtime friend R.C. Williams gave a bunch of her gear to legendary guitar builder Ronni Dinette. Ronni knew I was a fan of Brigit’s and gave me a box of her guitar parts. San Jose luthier Paul Connett put the B-2 back together for me and made it rock! And that rules. Long live Brigit Brat and her rogue renaissance spirit!

Thanks to R.C. Williams, Ronni Dinette and Paul Connett.

Have you got a “Whack Job”? Get in touch with me at rtcarleton@gmail.com and it could be featured here.

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