Triple Bill Cohesive Despite Stylistic Differences


Clover Linh Tran

Syracuse, NY, punk band Perfect Pussy delivers a passionate, experimental performance at the ’Sco Monday night. Frontwoman Meredith Graves, center, provided politically charged vocals that unified her band’s sound.

Danny Evans, Arts Editor

Perfect Pussy, Fielded and PWR BTTM each appeal to very different audiences. Perfect Pussy, a punk band from Syracuse, NY, has earned comparisons to everyone from hardcore icons like Earth Crisis to British singer-songwriter Kate Bush; Fielded, the solo project of Lindsay Powell, offers a glitchy interpretation of electronic pop music; and PWR BTTM, who met at Bard College, has risen to prominence recently thanks to irresistible indie-rock songwriting. Clearly, formidable stylistic dissimilarities exist between these three artists, yet they managed to piece together a remarkably cohesive show at the ’Sco on Monday night.

The artists’ common sociopolitical views contributed to this sense of unity, as each act included anti-patriarchal content. By the end of the night, the pairing of a experimental punk outfit with an electronic pop project and a two-piece college rock band did not feel remotely forced. Rather, due to the radical thematic messages each artist presented, Fielded and PWR BTTM seemed like the only musicians that could have done Perfect Pussy’s opening slots justice.

Perfect Pussy’s performance barely reached the 20-minute mark. However, the soundscapes crafted by frontwoman Meredith Graves, guitarist Ray McAndrew, drummer Garrett Koloski, bass guitarist Greg Ambler and keyboardist Shaun Sutkus resulted in a sense of removal from time’s normal flow. Every time the band seemed close to walking off the stage, another surprising musical moment would occur. However, the set never dragged.

This feeling of timelessness came partially from Perfect Pussy’s constant dichotomy between two seemingly opposed musical ideas: breakneck punk outbursts and feedback-drenched interludes. The band never let audience members stay comfortable by sticking to memorable grooves or repeating sections within songs. Rather, it challenged listeners by switching from one side of its sound to another whenever a musical idea came close to losing momentum or overstaying its welcome. This stylistic choice was highly effective, and ’Sco-goers appeared absolutely enthralled with the set from front to back.

Graves’ performance deserves special attention. Her staccato howling served as an intense counterpoint to the band’s fuzzy sound. Known for her highly publicized choice to mix her own menstrual blood into 300 special edition LP copies of Perfect Pussy’s 2014 debut full-length, Say Yes to Love, Graves managed to cut through the hazy wall of sound Perfect Pussy forged throughout the show. Her vocals are, in some sense, the centerpiece of Perfect Pussy. Ironic lines like “Support your brothers, disregard survivors, close your heart forever, what else can you do? / There’s no room in this world for people who hate men” from “IV” are uniquely contemporary and subversive, yet solidly grounded in snarling punk rock tradition. This aspect of Graves’ lyricism perfectly mimicked Perfect Pussy’s musical content, which could perhaps be described as relatively traditional hardcore punk filtered through a layer of abstract, postmodernist noise. Anguished yet emotionally nuanced shouts lent the more punk-influenced segments a certain gravity they may have lacked on their own, while vocal gestures that bordered on spoken word poetry matched the heavier sections beautifully.

Graves’ lyrics echoed sentiments imparted by PWR BTTM earlier in the night. PWR BTTM, whose fun yet thought-provoking lyrics focus on issues of gender identity and fluid sexuality, got stranded at Oberlin after their rowdy headlining set at the ’Sco last Saturday. The garage rock-influenced two-piece was then added to the Perfect Pussy bill at the last minute to the visible excitement of audience members. PWR BTTM’s set Monday did not have the same level of unstoppable energy the band exuded last Saturday, but it was still very enjoyable. Frontman Ben Hopkins’ performance on the guitar was admirable, especially on songs like the immensely catchy “Ugly Cherries,” which features shreddy riffs in open-G tuning that wouldn’t sound out of place in a heavy metal track. Drummer Liv Bruce, who also plays guitar and sings on a few songs, such as “I Wanna Boi,” also performed excellently.

Second opener Fielded, an electronic solo act with infectious stage presence from Brooklyn, NY, fit the other two artists well. Like Graves, Hopkins and Bruces’ set, Fielded’s music was full of subversive content. Powell sang lyrics like “And though I love you madly / Baby, I got nothing left” ( from “Madly,” off of her new EP Boy Angel) over rhythmic, experimental beats. Including lyrics and vocal stylings that seemed similar to old-school pop music in such a unique musical context came off as subversive in and of itself.

Powell refused to adhere to assumptions about her music, employing both strange beats and relatively traditional vocals. In this sense, her performance was a sort of microcosm for the show as a whole. PWR BTTM, Fielded and Perfect Pussy all offered the ideas — both musical and ideological — they wanted to. They pushed against expectations set by the very power structures that work to make life difficult for non-male performers to get exposure to this day — and rocked hard at the same time.