Stepping into the Fonda Theatre on Friday night felt like entering an alternate universe, one where dimensions collided and where dystopia and utopia coexisted – a true reflection of Poppy’s mastermind. To the naked eye, Poppy’s music would appear as a mere compilation of happy accidents, the continuance of sounds that aren’t compatible on paper but somehow all fit onto a jigsaw puzzle. Experiencing Poppy’s performance firsthand, however, made it distinctively clear that every color and detail she paints is done with deliberate intention.
Her opening song, “Concrete,” for example, kicked off with air raid sirens coupled with a heavy metal guitar riff and repeating whispers of “Bury me six feet deep, cover me in concrete.” Within seconds of the song, it transitioned into a high-tempo, dreamy tune accompanied by her innocent lyrics,“Chewy chewy / Yummy yummy yummy / Sharp and pointy / Yummy yummy yummy.” This cheerful moment brought back the childhood joys of bouncing on a Dance Dance Revolution machine at the local arcade, a time that was carefree and devoid of obligations. It prompted the crowd to let their guards down and dwell in the sunshine and rainbows that lavishly filled the sonic space. But just as the familiar sound started settling in, the dusk of “Bury me six feet deep” forcibly crept its way back into the room; Poppy’s fairytale fantasies were confronted by the dark realities of the world.
The abrupt yet relatable nature of Poppy’s music was what catered exhilaration to the crowd the entire night, keeping everybody on their toes. She not only went back and forth between pastel euphoria and organized chaos, but also included a few screams (screamo) in her set to vitalize mosh pits in the floor section of the venue. At one point, she even reciprocated a crowd-surfing fan’s hand heart by forming her own hand heart, a gesture that undoubtedly made the fan’s night.
With constant tempo changes and orchestrated mood swings, Poppy’s energetic show ultimately came to a hush, as she sang her final song “Don’t Go Outside.” The song was stripped down to the core of her soul, and her raw vocals brought out a third facet of her artistry: vulnerability and honesty. For the first time that night, Poppy’s voice was unsupplemented with multiple layers of thunderous production. She was there in utter sincerity, telling the world that “everything will be okay, [and that] we’ll be safe and sound when it all burns down,” a heartfelt message that left the audience at ease and brought the breathtaking triathlon of a night to an end.
Words and photos by Enoch Chuang