Concert Review: Poppy

Poppy at the Underground in Charlotte on Monday.

By Max Patterson

On February 10th, two of my friends and I went to see Poppy at the Underground in Charlotte for her I Disagree tour. For those unfamiliar with Poppy’s youtube presence (a surreal, ASMR-riddled experience), Poppy’s discography would be a good place to jump into the strange rabbit hole, given that it is marginally more accessible to consume. I do recommend starting with earlier albums and listening to them in chronological order as they start off, pun intended, pop-y but gradually descend into a mix of metal and electronic chaos.

Her latest album, I Disagree, is an intense mash-up of musical styles and, in my opinion, way better than music review sites like Pitchfork and Metacritic give it credit for. (You can check out WUSC’s review on the blog here.) The cohesiveness of I Disagree’s themes combined with the absolute chaotic flip-flop between intense waves of metal and almost sickeningly sweet pop measures is not only absolutely fascinating to listen to but extremely clever. Frankly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it and when it came to her live show the contrast between metal and pop really made for a dynamic and engaging experience. 

The concert itself was at a really nice venue, with stage lights and a large light-box behind the performers. Stylistically speaking, the setup complimented both performances but gave me a lot of challenges when it came to capturing photos. The opener for the show was VOWWS, an Australian Death-Pop duo based out of Los Angeles who donned outfits that vaguely resembled a cyberpunk version of Mulder and Scully. In the middle of their performance, between songs, someone two feet away shouted ‘play Freebird’ and I felt in that moment the collective internal groans of dissatisfaction from approximately 150 people. Granted, I had no idea who this band was but at least I wasn’t that guy. VOWWS had a really neat setup where one of the band members had an old-school style CB radio microphone attached to their Roland Juno keyboard and various effect pedals. 

Previously, Poppy has been known to perform with Titanic Sinclair until December of last year when Poppy split the creative duo up because of his ‘manipulative patterns.’ Despite the drama, she performed with more energy and enthusiasm than ever. One of the friends I went to the concert with, Rae Lizardi, saw Poppy a few years ago when she still toured with Titanic and noticed a contrast, saying “I’ve been to one of her concerts before and this one blew the other out of the water. She seemed like she was legitimately having fun and the whole crowd felt it.” During the show she interacted with fans by asking us to say “I Disagree” and using a text-to-speech robot voice say “Hello, I am Poppy. You are going to be okay.” This spoke to my heart in a way I never knew I needed and gave me a deep feeling of comfort that held strong through the explosive and often jarring bouts of heavy metal. 

Poppy and her fellow band mates left the stage after playing most of the songs off of the album, and just when I thought it would be over, Rae turns to me between songs and says “she isn’t actually leaving, she hasn’t even played I Disagree yet! I know she’s going to come back for an encore and play it.” Sure enough, after a solid 3 minutes of the crowd (myself included) chanting ‘Poppy!’ and ‘3 more songs!’ she came back but instead proposed a negotiation of two more songs and absolutely nailed it.