Tag Archives: Stoic Violence

LIVE: Perfect Pussy, The Bootleg, Los Angeles, CA

By Gabriel Mathews

Having already seen Perfect Pussy pretty recently, I needed to come up with reasons to do so again. It wasn’t hard: in the intervening months, the band’s profile has expanded exponentially. Their full-­length debut, Say Yes To Love, came out the day before this show. It would be an opportunity to see them at a real venue, on a stage, as opposed to the floor of a DIY garage space with no PA (It’s worth noting that they played that same garage venue again the night after the Bootleg show. Punks for life). And plus they’re just an awesome live act and so why the fuck not?

The last time I saw a show at the Bootleg was four years ago, the first time I caught Titus Andronicus. That was a truly life­ changing experience, a night full of narrative ups and downs, and I went into this show hoping for something similar. The Bootleg has a few different rooms, however—when I caught TA, it was in the more traditional venue space, as opposed to this show, taking place in the theater, which is typically used by the multi­ purpose establishment for putting on plays.

After watching a bit of Big Trouble in Little China projected onto a wall, my Concert Going Companions and I moved into the other room. I wished I’d waited. Big Swamp Thunder are a perfect illustration of a really unfortunate phenomenon in music at the moment. Consisting of one shirtless dude flailing his fingers on a bass and one dude in a shirt triggering drum tracks and bellowing, BST are a noise act who seem to exist purely for shock value (and their own amusement). The problem is that nothing they did is shocking anymore. Yes, at one point, this vaguely ­structured noise, played so physically and violently was novel and thrilling. But that point was about thirty years ago. Back then, it wasn’t important whether the music was actually good or not, just that the conventions were being broken, the boundaries were being pushed. If you’re going to make this kind of music now, you have to do it well. You can’t simply coast on a wild stage presence and excessive volume. Watching these guys, I had to wonder who decided that they merited a slot on the bill, or any bill, and based on what criteria. When the only melodic element to your music is a guy who is basically doing what Flea does but with vastly less talent, you should really reconsider what it is you’re going for.

The second act fared significantly better. G. Green is a shaggy pop ­punk act from Sacramento, who played a fun set of pleasantly loose songs. I can’t say anything they did was super thrilling, but drummer Liz Liles anchored the band with some serious pummeling, and guitarist Mike Morales snuck in some of the weird funkiness of his other band, Baus, who I caught and loved a couple weeks ago at Pehr:space. Both of these bands are definitely worth checking out.

Stoic Violence, who opened for Perfect Pussy the last time they came through town, benefitted in an odd way from the theatrical setting: in a black box theater, their throwback leatherhead hardcore felt elevated to the level of performance art, in spite the utterly sincere 80’s meathead haircut of the frontman. This set wasn’t quite as fun as the last time I saw them, though, simply because said frontman didn’t spend half their set bleeding from the face.

One song in, Perfect Pussy frontwoman Meredith Graves made a half­ audible apology. “We’re trying so, so hard, really. I’m just so fucking sick.” Apparently afflicted by a bad sinus infection (I can relate), Graves was big less energetic this time around, and she seemed to be shouting a bit more quietly than usual. I say “seemed” because, contrary to my expectations, the existence of an actual PA and an actual soundman didn’t do much to improve Perfect Pussy’s live intelligibility. While guitarist Ray McAndrew didn’t sound like he was playing out of a cardboard box this time around, Graves’ vocals were perhaps even more buried than at their E. 7th Street show, when she sang through a guitar amp. Plus, layered atop the songs was so much feedback and deliberate noise generated by keyboardist Shaun Sutkus that even recognizing the fact that these were individual songs, as opposed to several distinct two­ minute blocks of noise, was difficult. The only songs I could actually pick out and point to as one I knew were “I,” off of last year’s amazing demo I have lost all desire for feeling, and “Interference Fits,” which should have been easy to spot due to it’s relatively subdued sound, but which I only recognized halfway through when the band dropped out for a split second and Graves shouted “SINCE WHEN DO WE SAY YES TO LOVE?”

I understand that it’s part of Perfect Pussy’s deal to be cloaked in earsplitting noise at all times, and that Graves’ lyrics are unintelligible by design. I understand that all of this is part of the thrill of seeing them live. But, having bought and listened to Say Yes To Love after the show, I feel these songs, their words, their melodic underpinnings, deserve better. One of the best and most interesting things about Perfect Pussy on record is the audible struggle between tunefulness and noise, between clarity and obfuscation. It’s this contrast that makes them stand out. At the Bootleg, the latter elements dominated so completely that anyone who hadn’t heard their records would leave with no real incentive to do so.

All of that being said, I had an excellent time for the 20­ (at ­most) minutes PP took the stage. The crowd wasn’t full of super stoked kids like at E. 7th, but the eight or so dudes in the pit were all fully committed to maintaining the exact right violence­to­pain ratio, and I left the show exhilarated. Walking out of the pit, I encountered one of my CGCs, who said “Well, that was dumb.” I agreed, grinning. Dumb, yes, sure. But also a fucking blast.

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LIVE: Perfect Pussy, E. 7th Punx, Los Angeles, CA

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.

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