The Theatre at Ace Hotel; Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Stephanie Riesco

I wish every warehouse rave I went to had the same joyous, uncontained energy of a Perfume concert. The veteran J-pop trio’s show at the Ace Hotel in L.A. this past Friday was more than just an augmented reality laser light show, a relentlessly thumping techno set, and a Top 40 sing-along rolled into one. It was one of the most life-affirming performances I’ve ever seen, seamlessly folding its progressive, forward-thinking style of dance music into a collectively welcoming package, as pure and accessible as it was completely out of this universe.

As we waited for the night to start, the excitement in the room was palpable: Audience members were clapping in unison, the line for the merch booth stretched all the way from one side of the venue to the other, and the line to get in was even longer. When the lights finally fell, computerized voices started to glitch and ricochet throughout the room, as we were greeted with multi-layered digital projections, plunging the entire room deep into hyperspace before the show had even begun. By the time a-chan, KASHIYUKA, and NOCCHi finally took the stage, my brain had already been so scrambled that the opening guitar notes of “Future Pop” — from the eponymous album, one of our favorites from last year — practically felt like a gentle welcome back down to Earth.

It didn’t take long to rocket back up from there though; while the early part of the set leaned heavily on their newer, more EDM-leaning material like “Let Me Know” and “If You Wanna,” Perfume dipped more and more into techno-pop as the evening went on, hitting an unbelievable stride as they zipped from the spiraling arpeggios of “Butterfly” to the speaker-destroying bass of “Secret Secret” to the glorious maximalism of “Pick Me Up” (probably the most rapturous moment of the entire evening).

If their futuristic visuals and throbbing lasers weren’t enough, just watching Perfume dance was hypnotizing in itself, purely for how different it was from most American pop shows I’ve seen. Whereas someone like Ariana Grande or Beyoncé would probably be rolling on the floor and kicking their legs into the air, Perfume’s moves were an exercise in precise minimalism, all coordinated shoulder movements and tick-tocking head nods. The crowd even had specific dance moves prepared for almost every single song, and not even the older members of the audience (of which there were a surprising amount) turned down a chance to lose their shit at any of the evening’s relentlessly uplifting bangers.

The whole show was done by 10pm, and yet I was glowing for the rest of the weekend. It’s so rare to find artists who push at the cutting edge of extreme electronic music while also cruising through the mainstream, acknowledging the ludicrous celebration of dance music rather than trying to wrap it up in some moody package for social status. Perfume may be going on 20 years as a group together, but their music still feels undeniably like a working model for building a better, more ecstatic future.

Photos: Stephanie Riesco

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