Let’s Talk About Perfume Genius

I caught Perfume Genius’ show last night at the Black Cat in DC and it was one of the best shows I have ever attended. 

perfume genius

The cover of Perfume Genius’ 2014 album “Too Bright”

When Perfume Genius’ album Too Bright came out last year, I was floored by it. It was one of those records that comes around every few years that takes the breath right out of you. It was released during a fairly precarious time in my life, which is certainly a critical component of my attachment to it, but it is also an incredible, raw, virtuosic album. Very few people make or can even attempt music like this. Please watch the music video for “Queen” and tell me that the line “no family is safe when I sashay” doesn’t slay you.

During the performance, Mike Hadreas and his band, including his friend Alan who, at one point, played a stunning piano duet with Hadreas, were able to create the kind of atmosphere that is often sorely lacking at Black Cat. If you have ever attended a show there, you know that the sound is often terrible and that the shape of the low-ceilinged upstairs room and the odd placement of lights at least, in my mind, make it difficult for the performers to grab the audience. With the exception of the few punks shows I have been to, this is a chronic problem at the Black Cat. But Hadreas, with his open-heart singing, screaming, sashaying, red lipstick-wearing persona, coupled with his tender speaking voice, had us all under a spell.

There were two moments that stood out most clearly to me. The first was his rendition of “My Body.” There were so many cathartic moments during the set, but this was the clear stand-out. The video in the link does not do the live performance justice. The second was his performance of the song “Fool,” easily my favourite from Too Bright, and how he held out during the middle eight section; his voice a clarion call. A call to tenderness, to loneliness, to empathy.

I know I am on the verge or, really, way past the point of gushing here. I can’t help myself. I hope beyond hope that I will be able to create even one thing that matches the level of this record and this performance. I believe, down to my core, that art is successful if the artist is able to communicate their intimate knowledge to just one person. If what is being expressed is both recognized and natural to the recipient; if it’s an experience that they know in one form or another, but it is brought to them in a way that is profoundly new, then that is a true moment of revelation. Every once in a while, it happens to you. This was one of those moments for me.

If you have the chance to see Perfume Genius, don’t let it go to waste.

xox J

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