Live Review: Perfume Genius at The Bodega Social Club – 15/05/11

The dusty and scuffed darkness of Bodega had been completely transformed by the warm candlelit atmosphere for the musician known as Perfume Genius. It seemed as if each individual had stumbled upon a secret member’s club beneath the sea; lost souls sat at the tables spread across the small of the floor, faces flickered in the candlelight, and aquamarine halos created by the lighting, hovered above heads.

A strangely beautiful androgynous male with cropped hair swept onto the stage; the epitome of wide-eyed shyness until he began to sing. The piano loudly reverberated throughout the room as the simple repetitive chords from each song were met with stunned silence and tilted heads.

Hailing from Seattle, solo artist Mike Hadreas’ melancholic quivering voice teamed with the sadness and strangeness of his poetry, which were even more gripping live. The lyrics of his songs – which deal with a number of emotional issues such as lost lovers, of suicide and substance abuse – stood out  even more so in person, and his emotions were clearly genuine as they flashed across his face.

Each song was short and ended rather abruptly with Mike Hadreas leaping up unexpectedly to change between the piano and guitar. Playing through his debut album ‘Learning’, as well as some other material, it was the beautiful ‘Your Drum’ which stood out amongst the spectators as a favourite, and even succeeded in a solitary cheer from the shadows of the audience. All were fixated by this particular song, as Mike Hadreas and the other half of his live act sat side by side on the piano stool, both absorbed by the music, fleetingly glancing at each other’s face and hands.

His voice and music were honest, and the fragility, which is captured on record, was even more stunning and addictive on stage. On the few occasions in which he spoke to the audience, he giggled that he could only see the faces of those in the front row.

The simple melodies, the unique voice, the genderless face and the mysterious quality loitering in the air captivated this timid Bodega audience. As I left, I couldn’t help feeling that I had just been shipwrecked upon some rocks in a stormy sea, while an ethereal mermaid sang to me and me alone.


Martha Kilpatrick



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