Perfect Pussy With Potty Mouth, Stymie and Orgullo Primitivo Three Links, Dallas Thursday, June 5, 2014
No one should've come to a Perfect Pussy concert expecting it to last very long. A scorched-earth approach is just the commodity this Syracuse band trades in. But what was unexpected about their visit to Three Links on Thursday night was why it ended when it did. For all the bile that singer Meredith Graves spews out in her performances, she saved an especially withering critique for the end of the concert that was aimed squarely at the night's show flyer.
"I am not stoked," Graves declared, her words pouring out in a quick but calm stream. "We shouldn't have to feel uncomfortable," she added, referring to herself and the ladies of the all-female opening band, Potty Mouth. "Just because you come to a hardcore show, you expect to see tits."
It was a remarkable speech and certainly an unexpected way to end a show that had only lasted for 20 minutes. Needless to say, the crowd was more than a little surprised by the sudden turn of events, not least because the flyer in question -- which depicted two topless women in bondage, strung up by their wrists -- had been removed from the venue prior to the show, reportedly at Graves' insistence.
To call the episode a rant, however, would be unfair, and also miss the point of her anger. "I feel things in here," Graves said, pointing at her heart. "As women, we're taken less seriously at the work we do because we work hard. When you see tits on a flyer you feel lonely, weird and isolated."
From there, she made the disquieting connection with the horrific murders that happened recently in Isla Vista, California, saying that "men feel so entitled to women's bodies" that they'll "kill them" in order to feel like they're in control.
If ever such words felt like they had real conviction, this was the time. For those brief 20 minutes that the band had been playing, Graves' performance was one continuous burst of rage, though in this instance rendered close to futile: As a matter of course, she wrings her entire body for every ounce of effort she can muster, but her vocals were almost completely drowned out in the mix last night. Only her highest-pitched screams made an audible sound over the thrashing of her band mates.
In many ways, that's the point: Perfect Pussy's live show is such a mess of noise, so hellbent on assaulting the audience, that picking out songs is next to impossible. It's also perhaps the band's major shortcoming, because musically speaking the loudest, craziest components aren't terribly interesting. It seeks to destroy, but doesn't. The only truly menacing part of it is the bleating, droning keys of Shaun Sutkus.
And so Graves is left to sing over it all -- or more accurately, fail to -- which is where the real spectacle comes in. The thrill of seeing Perfect Pussy is just that: seeing it happen. Here's Graves, her eyes rolled back in her head, sweating and turning bright red, hunching over towards the floor with her loose arm twisting behind her back. Moments later she's smiling (sometimes while she's still screaming), swaying and shimmying as though the racket behind her is somehow soothing.
The apparent disconnect is that Graves is, well, normal-looking. She has short, bleached blonde hair and last night was dressed in a not-at-all-punk-looking shorts and striped shirt that was tied off at the bottom. To some there may be no outward reason for her to be an angry person, a dissonance she no doubt plays off of. But that fact may also add to lingering questions around the band's authenticity, as though the salacious name and pent-up posturing are mere ploys.
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Had it not been for the way the night ended, there could still be room to give credence to that idea. Yes, it was just a flyer. But what Graves was talking about went much deeper then a flyer, deep than some show promoters or a bar in Deep Ellum. It went deeper than the hyper-masculine culture of hardcore music, too.
What Graves was speaking about was a certain kind of rage (and fear) that only a woman will know. It's the same rage that's not only a part of Perfect Pussy's music but its very being. They may not be a great band and you may not be able to hear much of what she says. But when you can, it shouldn't fall on deaf ears.