One of the things I've been kicking myself over since going to Northside Festival in June is that I missed each of the several sets that Syracuse's Perfect Pussy played during that weekend. I was either too far away from whichever venue they were playing or just not in the mood to deal with the crowd that would turn out for such a talked about band. When I saw the announcement that Perfect Pussy would be coming to Asbury Lanes appear on my Facebook feed, I felt redeemed. I'd finally get to check out this band, and I'd get to do it at one of my favorite places.
I convinced CoolMom to join me for the evening. She wasn't necessarily sure that Perfect Pussy would be her thing. We had babysitting lined up, though; so she went with it.
I really like Perfect Pussy's debut LP, Say Yes to Love. I can see how it's not everyone's cup of tea. It's discordant. Lead singer Meredith Graves is almost inaudible above the din created by the band. It's 23 minutes long, and only about 17 minutes of that consists of what could be called actual songs. But I'm drawn to the album's aggression. It's a form of aggression, though, that's free from chest thumping violence. It's more like a geyser of rage and torment spewing from your speakers or headphones. The added physicality of the live show just turns everything up by several orders of magnitude.
Northampton, MA quartet Potty Mouth took the stage before Perfect Pussy. They did a short set featuring songs from their excellent debut LP Hell Bent. They've got a lo-fi pop, 90s-influenced sound that covers a lot of bases I really enjoy. Compared to Perfect Pussy, Potty Mouth's songs are pretty conventionally structured; and lead singer / guitarist Abby Weems has the stage presence of a seasoned performer despite being so young.
There was kind of a long time between sets. Both bands would do just under thirty minutes, so things took on a somewhat more leisurely pace than usual for Asbury Lanes when it came to changeovers. CoolMom got a little fidgety, but the break gave Perfect Pussy lead singer Meredith Graves time to move among the crowd. She made time to chat with just about anyone who approached her and was really friendly and gracious throughout the evening. I, of course, had no reason to expect anything else; but her offstage demeanor does represent a stark contrast to her performance.
When Perfect Pussy did take the stage, they played a roughly 25 minute set that was a storm of noise from beginning to end. Like on the LP, Graves's vocals are mostly buried with the exception of a few -- and I believe strategically chosen -- moments of clarity poking through the squall. Graves was non-stop motion throughout the performance, and her contortions and facial expressions got the band's full message across even as we all strained to make out what she was saying. The set was almost more performance art than simply a rock show.
As the final song ended, drummer Garrett Koloski immediately began packing up his drum set. Guitarist Ray McAndrew and bassist Greg Ambler left the stage. Keyboardist Shaun Sutkus sent out a continuous drone of sound while Graves lay on the stage touching her front teeth which, I think, she bashed with the mic. The crowd filed toward the bar or out into the night as the drone continued.
I don't think Perfect Pussy sold CoolMom, and that's okay. I'd told Meredith Graves earlier in the evening how excited I was for the show. She sheepishly told me that she hoped that the band would live up to my expectations. I hope she sees this. As far as I'm concerned, they exceeded them.
Meredith Graves proved to be one of the most difficult subjects I've ever tried to photograph, but here's what I could manage. Potty Mouth, too. More up at Flickr.