By Gabriel Mathews
Given all the hype surrounding Perfect Pussy—when was the last time a band blew-the-fuck-up on the internet off an incredibly low-quality demo tape?—I’m a bit surprised that on what I assume is their first LA visit, they’re not playing a real venue that charges more than six bucks. Like, okay, maybe not the Echo, but The Smell, at least? When this show got moved from newly minted Hippest Place Ever The Church On York in Highland Park to a weird, mysterious warehouse venue across the street from the downtown Greyhound Station, I became a little bit worried that I’d get knifed at this show. Their facebook page features exclusively Gothic-fonted, black-and-white posters for bands with frightening names and military-style logos.
Turns out E. 7th Punx is actually a really awesome little spot, with a great community of kids drinking forties, dressed in leather and denim, buying vinyl and (even better!) cassettes. It’s hard to actually call it a warehouse—the place is more like a garage, with no stage, and a few little lofted areas where people obviously live. Eavesdropping evidence suggests that the crowd was actually maybe split down the middle between people who were here for Perfect Pussy (in from Syracuse) and kids who just show up every time there’s a show here for the local punk acts.
These local punk acts broke down as follows: Stupid Life were a few scrappy kids playing straight hardcore, with a tiny frontman in nothing but a huge t-shirt and boxer briefs flailing around manically. They closed their set with a cover I didn’t know, and I saw Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves singing along excitedly at the edge of the crowd. Doses, the only opener here that merits more attention, were a guitar/bass/drum machine act, very clearly inspired by Big Black, who played Kanye samples and airhorn noises between each caustic blast of a song. I just downloaded their debut LP for free (while you’re allowed to pay, Doses tell you not to) on their Bandcamp. You should, too, if this sounds like your cup of tea. Stoic Violence were a band I didn’t think would exist anymore—leatherheads wearing studded gloves, hanging their jackboot-adorned banner behind them before a screed of thrashy hardcore that bloodied the singer’s face. The dude in the G.B.H. shirt was really into it. Then there was High-Functioning Flesh—two dudes who were essentially Wham! post-possession by Satan. Crappy 80s synths abounded, as did lone dangly earrings and silly haircuts. None of these sets lasted more than fifteen minutes.
Perfect Pussy stuck to the short-and-sweet formula as well. They may have made it to twenty by playing six songs instead of the four on their tape, but it felt like about five. I attribute this to the fantastic energy on display. The band thrashed about, guitars set to “maul” (Seriously, I don’t think less attention has ever been paid to amp EQ.) Graves, in a velvet dress and silk shirt, no less, bounded around, fist-pumping and screaming her head off. Not that we could hear her. Singing through a guitar amp, it was hard to tell if her mic was even on, and the lyrics were even less intelligible than they are on record, if possible.
Which reminds me—the record. Perfect Pussy’s tape, I have lost all desire for feeling, is one of the more fascinating listening experiences I’ve had recently. You read the band’s name and think, “Oh, okay, this will be a fun little joke.” You read the tape’s title and think, “Okay, maybe a sort of nihilistic, mean joke.” Then you listen to the four songs on display (titled “I”, “II”, “III”, and “IV”, respectively), have a blast with Perfect Pussy’s noise-punk screed for 13 minutes, and walk away a happier person. You come back to their bandcamp page and realize you can read the lyrics, which only come through in fits on your headphones. Then your entire opinion of the band changes: this is a rape reaction EP. Or if not rape, then serious sexual abuse. These lyrics are furious, they are dark, and they make you read the name “Perfect Pussy” with significantly more shame and fear than you did the first time around. At the same time, you realize that Graves is the victor in her story, and it’s only more apparent seeing them live that when she screams, “I am full of light / I am filled with joy / I am full of peace / I had this dream that I forgave my enemies,” at the end of “I”, she really means it.
Graves, and the rest of the band, seemed to be having an absolute blast the entire twenty minutes of their set. I definitely recognized “I” and “IV”, and I think “II” and “III” were in there as well, but I was too busy moshing to pay much attention to the setlist. Even on the floor, surrounded by a bunch of the men she professes to hate on “IV”, Graves seemed 100% in her element, having already forgiven these potential enemies. It was an interesting experience, being in a pit where no one is singing along. I’m used to punk shows being full of upraised fists and shouting mouths, but this was just people touching people they don’t even know, yo, to quote Craig Finn. At the end of the last song, Graves sat down, the guitarist barreled his way into the crowd, and some dudes hoisted the bassist into the air, where he proceeded to rip all his strings out. Then, after the feedback died out, the over-equipped keyboardist led us all in a little Fun With Arpeggiators groove, which, for all I know, continued for hours after I walked out of E. 7th and onto the cold streets of L.A. in December, appropriately drenched in sweat, full of light.