all photos: Priscilla De Lima
all words: Marcus Dowling
Toronto, Ontario’s Peaches, by virtue of constantly setting forward the concept of exactly what a musical heroine can be, has ascended into the realm of stardom and legend. An underground stalwart for so many years, if we look at the visual portrait of mainstream female musical success, in 2009 Peaches is often imitated, but after watching her performance on November 12th at Sonar for the renowned TaxLo dance party, there literally is no duplication.
There were the pre-requisite 15 + costume changes. There was her outfit involving a glowing orb-like structure apparently attached to her vagina. There was her attempt at playing a flourescent light saber like a guitar, alternating with flailing it about like an enormous glowing penis. She also crowd surfed while standing, depending on her throng of loyal fans to keep her standing upright, a middle school trust activity gone surprisingly right. But it’s not so much in the chicanery as it is in her commitment to the entertainment that makes her a success.
For two hours, Peaches experiences music and throws that energy, once flowed through her, back to the audience. Far more than any recitation of lyrics or earnest attention being paid to instrumentation, you watch Peaches to a) feel completely at home at her show, and b) watch Peaches. Far more important than creating songs like “Fuck the Pain Away,” “Fatherfucker,” and “Shake Your Dix” are to Peaches’ iconic status in the gay, lesbian and alternative music communities, its in her willingness to exist as a performance art piece committed to the freedom of expression that makes her status what it is. On this night, the connection and sheer admiration of the entire venue was unquestioned.
Ponytail, Baltimore’s present darlings of the blogosphere gave a solid accounting of themselves in an opening set. Lead singer Molly Siegel is a cherubic faced youngster with energy to burn. She sings with the glee that all young lead singers in rock bands should, feeling as though she’s achieved a life goal by being allowed to sing her band’s songs onstage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people. Ponytail’s brand of sugar jolt rock, replete with thrashing drums and rapid fire guitars is not reinventing the wheel, but, they play with force, velocity, hope and talent. Force and velocity to aim towards so many art house punk bands that influence them, hope that the crowd really likes their sound, and talent for days, as in this particular genre and style of rock, they are clearly at the top of the line.
MEN, featuring Le Tigre’s composed and vitriolic JD Samson as lead, hit the stage next with a set of fun electro rock that won over the TaxLo crowd with its messages of free love, gay love, and, yes, free gay love. Samson, who is familiar with headliner Peaches from touring with her backing band before the present Sweet Machine, The Herms, is a feminist electropop firebrand. The set was rife with political messages, from members of Ponytail holding ten foot tall fists with forearms in the air that had “BOOM” inscribed on the forearms, for “Boom Boom” a track clearly describing the nature of protesting for equality. As well, at various other points, banners inscribed with “Silence = Death,” and fingers, well, aligned in a manner that someone would digitally copulate with a partner inscribed with “Fuck The Best” and “Fuck Your Friends” moving in an intentionally suggestive manner back and forth, advocating freedom from sexual compromise. If you don’t mind far left politics and gay propaganda with your pop music, definitely check the MEN remix project, as when Samson screamed “This song is about making gay fucking babies,” the crowd exploded as if watching Barack Obama proclaim “Yes we can” in 2008. Not for everyone, but at a Peaches show, possibly the perfect lead-in to her highness, the royal uberbitch leader of the alternative universe.
Peaches’ set was an homage to the power of music and suggestion. A one woman machine of sonic propulsion and physical devastation, Peaches’ entire discography, by being in play, means that you’re likely to get the most hard hitting and evocative of all musical styles at all times. Her rap duet with former Yo! Majesty emcee Shunda K, “Buck You Like a Billionaire” hits like a hurricane, as Shunda’s trademark bluntness and lesbian take on crotch grabbing Too Short pimp talk, when combined with Peaches’ up front attitude makes for a winner. Most of 2009’s incredibly fun I Feel Cream release eschews the forthright sex talk for electro explorations piloted by Simian Mobile Disco. This fits well into the show given this is a crowd perfectly okay with unusually extended sprees of groove riding, but that’s just the lettuce and tomato of the sandwich of this show. The meat comes from the thrashing punk riffs, her flirtations with industrial sounds and boom bap hip classic hip hop, and the sheer pop/rock energy of her performances.
What takes Peaches from the realm of being Madonna to the realm of aiming just a bit campier, just a bit lower, and opening a door completely wide open for the likes of Amanda Blank (who tours internationally with Peaches in 2010) and yes, on many levels even Lady Gaga, is her attention to the entertainment quotient of her show. She gets the concept of having fun. Molly Siegel, the lead of Ponytail, exclaimed in her opening set that “I can’t believe we’re opening for PEACHES!!!!!” as if her career could be done within 30 seconds of getting offstage, a career goal completed. Peaches has that effect on people.
She’s recorded with pretty much anyone she’s ever wanted to based on having a persona and style so clearly her own that it takes an established artist’s creation to the next level from her just being there. Fashion wise, who wouldn’t want to copy her on some level. Every girl wants to wear the same jeans and lip gloss as the most popular girl in high school, and Peaches is that girl.
By existing in her own universe, and not compromising a thing, Peaches is one of the best to ever create and perform. Seeing her live is a joy unto itself.