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Pistol Pete & Popgun Paul make light of life's woeful moments … not that there's anything wrong with that.

Two Smoking Barrels

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Pistol Pete & Popgun Paul absolutely love their new press photo, in which they're wearing gowns and serenading a gritty industrial scene.

"It's vaguely old-timey and vaguely post-apocalyptic at the same time," Pete says gleefully.

Musicians wearing satin dresses and pearl chokers, and playing music in a bleak factory town aren't necessarily gay, but Pistol Pete & Popgun Paul proudly are. They also are veteran performers and musicians.

The two met seven years ago this month. Pete was already a seasoned songwriter and performer, busking on the streets of New Orleans and writing songs from his massive stack of journals. Paul was dying to become a musician. Since then, the two have been touring together four to five months a year.

"At this point, we sort of live on the open road," Paul says. Their latest outing hits Richmond this Wednesday, April 25, at Hole in the Wall, where they've performed twice before.

Paul continues describing the picture: "I'm the cute one," he says. He's the group's keyboard player and backup singer, on the right. Pete is the group's primary singer and songwriter.

Pistol Pete & Popgun Paul come from New Orleans, and so does their music. Like New Orleans, their sound is eclectic: The whole is made up of many parts. They play all types of popular American music — folk, rock, blues, etc. The lyrics contain hints and allusions to the gay lifestyle. But being gay is not the focus. Sure, they ham it up onstage in dresses, superhero costumes, faux snakeskin and the like. But as a writer, Pete is more interested in reflecting humanity as a whole.

"I've nothing but tales of woe," he writes in one song on their latest album, "Son of a Gun." "The Party Zone," another song, is about living from dusk to dawn night after night in a substance-abuse-induced haze. It opens with "My friend Twinkie took a head-first fall/ Down 15 stairs at the local dance hall." But we learn it's not that easy to stop partying all the time, and poor Twinkie promises to return the next night as the medics carry her away.

No matter how rough things get, Pete and Paul's sense of humor always comes to the rescue. "We try to lighten pain," Pete says. "We try to lighten the load of things that happen in people's lives."

Sometimes it's hard for audiences to tell whether the two are being serious or funny. Pete points to "San Francisco's Not to Blame" from the same album. "It's a sad, depressing song about a codependent relationship," he says, "and it's amazing how often people will giggle all the way through it."

Well, it's hard to take a tune about codependency too seriously when the guys singing about it just dashed onstage in their gay-superhero

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