It’s not very often that I attend a concert that is markedly different than any other show I have been to. Most shows follow a similar formula, and while some stand out more than others, a true outlier is a rarity. Last night at Le Poisson Rouge, Purity Ring’s album release show was one of those moments.
At the last minute, when the sold out crowd was expecting Purity Ring to show up on stage, Headaches did instead. Talk about a lucky break: this was his first show at a real venue in the United States. Not a bad first gig! The producer played a lovely set of entrancing, experimental beats that varied from techno to R&B.
When Purity Ring finally took the stage the duo was surrounded by fans. For the special occasion, the venue was rearranged to allow for an in-the-round performance. Above and around the stage hung large glowing multi-colored bulbs that pulsed with the music, creating a multimedia experience that was largely unfocused on the performers. Headaches called them, “mutant eggs from some sort of disgusting sic-fi flick,” and they provided most of the light, often leaving the Purity Ring shrouded in darkness. They seemed at home there.
While instrumentalist Corin Roddick frantically poked and prodded his MPC and pressure-sensitive glowing bulbs, singer Megan James pranced around the stage, entranced by the darkness. The synths, large already on the record, were like enormous waves, pulling the audience in, closer and closer to the group. When James hit a large bass drum it lit up brightly, the only bit of sunshine in their mysterious world.
Aside from a few quick words before the end of the set, the duo was silent, focusing the night on their album, and playing the entire thing except for the album closer “Shuck”. The singles, especially “Ungirthed” and “Fineshrine,” drew the largest applause, but the audience was so enthralled with the duo that they didn’t have to work very hard to gain acceptance. While Shrines shows you the way down a rabbit hole of intricate darkness, their live show thrusts you right inside.