When you write for Bucketlist Music Reviews, you often find yourself at gigs that otherwise you would have never heard of. It is one of the biggest perks of being a Buckethead! Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed on for the show featuring Poptone and Geneva Jacuzzi. Infected with a case of the Sunday-night blues, I was perfectly content to make some tea and vegetate for the night. Ultimately, I trekked over to Cabaret La Tulipe and I am so glad that I did! I was treated to one of the strangest, yet memorable concerts I have seen all year.
As soon as I walked into the room, I was greeted by a giant, greenly lit inflatable ball in the middle of the stage, which seemed to be voiced by some kind of singing robot. It took me quite a while to realize that there was a grown woman crouching down in there in a nearly full-body zebra suit. Her name was Geneva Jacuzzi, and she might be one of the most fearless performers I have ever seen. Her act was half musical performance and half performance art. The music itself was hook-driven electro-pop that was reminiscent of Grimes, but really it was the way she moved on and off the stage that was the selling point for me.
The ball might have been her main prop, but she had no problem bursting that bubble. At one point, the lights went out and she magically appeared in the audience very close to where I was standing. I actually let out a yelp, which was pretty embarrassing. She was just so fast and quiet that I had barely seen her move! She then proceeded to sing an entire song on the floor level. As she did, she shone nothing but a flashlight, all while scurrying around like a cat. She often unflinchingly looked people right in the eye as she sang. Some people got in on the action and some people awkwardly stepped aside. It was such brilliant entertainment!
Now that I was no longer feeling the Sunday night blues, I was pumped to see what the rest of the night had it store, but I couldn’t help wondering, “Who the hell is going to be able to follow this?” Poptone might not have been as showy as Geneva Jacuzzi, but they had style, experience and musicianship busting out the wazoo. They basically consist of Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins, two former members of Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets, and Haskins’ daughter Diva Dompé on bass. Their goal is to revisit the discography of these two punk legends, add modern flourishes, and potentially create new music in the process. Mission accomplished, because they fucking kicked ass! They definitely nailed the late 70s/early 80s post-punk aesthetic, yet made it sound a bit more familiar to more contemporary audiences.
Everything about their set was stylistically perfect, and the chemistry between the three was immediate. I was hooked as soon as I heard their downright gothic rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel.” It was almost unrecognizable due to Ash’s wiry vocal performance, Dompé’s aggressive but groovy bass lines, and Haskins’s booming 80s snare. Some might accuse this arrangement of lacking the soul of the Elvis version, but I actually think Poptone’s approach added a much more urgent, menacing tone to the lyrics. Elvis made heartache sound sexy, whereas these guys actually make it sound dangerous. This edge defines them as a band and they stayed true to it. During only one song, Ash wailed on saxophone like a demented Clarence Clemons, yet even that didn’t seem out of place. No matter which artistic choice they made, everything fit with who they are.
All their songs had the crowd jumping like coked-up bunnies, but it was clear that the band saved the best for last. They opened up their first of two encores with Tones on Tail classic “Go!” and shit got crazy! A hole in the ceiling caused an outpouring of rain to form a puddle in the front of the crowd, which was then splashed around as drunken fans danced. It was the best unintentional special effect we could have asked for. Even the always cool Dompé couldn’t help but flash a smile at all the fun we were having. As Ash’s masterful finger-picking rung into the air, we all sang along to “Sweet F.A.,”. No one could have asked for a better goodbye. I found myself not wanting to leave. Never have I been happier that I didn’t stay home on a Sunday night!
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Lia Davis