Perfume Genius at Glasslands was going to be one of those tender moment shows, one where people vertically spoon their significant others and loners stand to the side, quietly flicking tears from the corners of their eyes. The heart-melting music was there, as were the couples and the single soldiers. “Hood” supporter Michael Stipe was even in the room, his mere presence upping the sensitive, brooding nature of the night tenfold. But the bands playing next door at 285 Kent took a chisel-tipped black Sharpie to this peaceful picture by rattling the walls of Glasslands with drum-heavy freakout sounds and chirpy electronic squiggles that could only have come from one villain: Dan Deacon.
Deacon was playing next door with his Pardalince Bird project, along with Dan Friel, Doomsday Student, Ramble Tamble and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. I probably would’ve liked that show under normal circumstances (normal = being in the same room with him, with me as an audience member), but it was pretty damn annoying to have the unwelcome sounds seeping into the Perfume Genius set. “It doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother y’all,” said Mike Hadreas at the helm of his red Nord keyboard.
“It bothers me!” shouted a guy in the back.
“Yeah, it bothers me too,” Hadreas admitted, following later with a gently voiced threat to Deacon: “I’m gonna have to have a talk with his goofy ass.”
Hadreas, supported by two others on synthesizers, drums and guitar, sat at the piano for most of the night, singing songs from 2010′s Learning and this year’s Put Your Back N 2 It. He was like a pretty, nervous bird, wide eyes darting from keys to audience to band members while his voice came out in soft, feathery tufts. I could see from my balcony spot that a lot of his songs favored the black keys, and he played them with his fingers flat and high up on the piano, close to the control panel. His piano parts were uncomplicated—his version of showboating was playing arpeggios—making room for his vulnerable, damaged-man lyrics: “Take me home/Tend to me/Baby, lay me down easy/For I have grown weary on my own.”
Hadreas’s songs are dominated by a simultaneous longing for and unworthiness of companionship, and it’s this back-and-forth confusion that makes his music so poignant. He creates such heavy sentiments with light, simple sounds, and the guy must have extreme willpower not to crowd those open spaces with another synth line or a bigger drum fill. His frequent exercises in restraint make his few climaxes feel so gratifying, and he gave us all at least one with “Hood.”
The rumblings of 285 Kent had stopped by the time he got to “Hood,” which was funny because this is one of Hadreas’s few loud-ish tracks and maybe the only one that could have sort of competed with exterior noise. “Hood” was the closest Hadreas got to joy, at least instrumentally, with an upward-swinging, four-note piano line leading to the night’s most solid drum sounds and driven piano chords. The moment, both live and on the album, is a brief one, but it’s enough to show that beneath Hadreas’s quiet, somber…OK, yes, sad bastard performer exterior resides a little bit of lightness, maybe even hope. But a minute later, he started on the opening notes of “Sister Song,” and its sad prairie-tune melody plunged us all back into the dark.