Perfect Pussy
Beat Kitchen; Chicago, IL

Photo: Amanda Athon

“Grandma likes an early show,” Meredith Graves told the small crowd assembled at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen. It really was early as shit. Originally booked at Thalia Hall, the Syracuse five-piece got bumped in favor of Dave Chapelle, and the doors at their new venue opened at 5:00, which might as well be, like, 6 a.m. in rock star time. But the Kitchen had another show scheduled for 9 that night, and Graves was adamant about making sure their new location could support the all-ages crowd who bought their tickets.

The earlier slot probably made things doubly difficult on opening act Fielded, but if Lindsay A. Powell (whom I did not, at the time, realize used to be Ga’an’s frontwoman *total geekgasm*) was put out by the inconvenience, you’d never know it to look at her. Armed with her laptop, keyboard, and one hell of a set of lungs, Powell presented a surprisingly eclectic set. You can hear echoes of Ga’an in some of her quasi-medieval, synthetic compositions; my mind went immediately to the similarly strong-voiced Zola Jesus, circa-Conatus. Later songs added new layers to her sound, though, with twinges of hip-hop and R&B creeping in along the edges.

Photo: Amanda Athon

Perfect Pussy, by contrast, struck like some sort of natural disaster. Within seconds of Ray McAndrew striking the first chord, my hearing was shot. Everything was just a blur of noise punctuated by the occasional vertigo-inducing squall of feedback. The band ripped through song after song like a bunch of kids with a stash of Halloween candy and no grown-ups in sight to tell them it’s a bad idea to eat it all in one night. Bass player Ali Donohue played the majority of the show with her back to the audience, as if communing with drummer Garret Koloski in a secret language that only the two of them could hear. All by his lonesome, Shaun Sutkus fiddled away at his electronic rig, adding layers of noise to the already dense cacophony the rest of the band was making. And, of course, there was Graves, gliding across the stage, her body a ragdoll buffeted by the music, her breathless stream of lyrics a barely audible murmur over the din.

I had trouble discerning most of the tracks they played, but I did pick out “Driver” from last year’s Say Yes to Love. They also tried out some new material with us, a pair of songs named “The Women” and “Joy,” the latter of which had never been played by the whole band together. It was tough to pick up a ton of nuance in that setting, but the new material seemed of a piece with what has come before it.

Winding down with “Advance Upon the Real,” Perfect Pussy slunk quietly off the stage after a set that could scarcely have lasted more than 25 minutes. Under other circumstances I might have felt short-changed, but they packed a whole lot of intensity into that sliver of time, and, heading into my mid-thirties, I’m beginning to appreciate the virtues of a concert that wraps up before seven. A show for all ages, indeed.

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