Perfume Genius & Parenthetical Girls on tour, played Merc & Glasslands (pics, review, setlist)
Perfume Genius @ Glasslands
Fitting for a band that shares a label with Xiu Xiu and The Blow, Parenthetical Girls are prone to theatrics. Immediately upon stepping up to the mic at Mercury Lounge, singer Zac Pennington (who wore a tight navy blue sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “Butterflies are free”) began to strike poses and pantomime choice lyrics, casting dramatic shadows onto the wall behind him where projected images of a wide-eyed Shelley Duvall only added to the fantastic absurdity.
Everything Pennington said between songs evoked a laugh from the crowd – even when the subject matter was grim. “I’ve been hurting myself almost every night of the trip,” Pennington revealed with a spastic flourish. “I think I’m going to die on this trip, so hopefully I will make it through this show.” (In Austin he wore a bandaid over a cut over his eye.)
As if testing his luck, Pennington leapt out into the sold-out crowd multiple times, dragging his long mic chord behind him and jumping onto the benches lining the sides of the venue to swing from a rafter or bang on a pipe.
Though much of the band’s music has an orchestral bent, for the Tuesday night show, they stuck to the basics, relying on the keyboard’s extra functions to supplement the absent trumpet or clarinet when necessary (as on “A Song from Ellie Greenwich”).
Though quite different in presentation, the touring mates complimented each other nicely. Where dramatic flourishes, sinister undertones, and variations in Parenthetical Girls’ discography made for an exciting and often unpredictable show; Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius only needed to lift his fingers across the keys to render the crowd completely silent.
Listening to Hadreas’ delicate vocals, I hardly dared to breathe for fear that the noise would somehow interrupt the scene. Even the venue itself seemed to participate in the reverent silence (unlike Glasslands the next night where noise could be heard coming through the wall from the show at 285 Kent next door). The Mercury Lounge A/C, which had been blasting all night, was noticeably absent for the entirety of Perfume Genius’ set.
Hadreas’ lyrics cover deeply personal terrain (addiction, body image, regret, desperation, homosexuality, and death are just a few of the topics), but somehow the nakedness of his vocals makes the sentiments and emotions he evokes feel universal. And though his songs are often filled with trauma, his music has an oddly triumphant and redemptive quality that more than borders on something spiritual.
For many musicians, writing and performing music is a cathartic experience, but with Hadreas it’s something more. He’s not just redeeming himself when he sings. Over the course of his short, 45-minute set, he took on all the pain and suffering in the room, effectively redeeming the entire crowd.
Parenthetical Girls @ Glasslands
Perfume Genius @ Glasslands
Perfume Genius Mercury Lounge set list
Take Me Home