The electroclash artist explored sexual tropes at a sold out Music Box last Friday accompanied by an all-woman troupe.
“I’m an everlasting iconoclast,” raps Merrill Beth Nisker--Peaches--on her most recent release, Rub (2015). It’s a bold claim, but a well-deserved one. Peaches has made performative sexuality her signature for over 20 years now. For much of that time, she was dismissed as a gimmick by the mainstream, despite amassing a huge cult following. But now at 50, she’s an icon, celebrated internationally as a pioneer for her brazen attacks on society’s stale sexual norms.
Last Friday, Peaches brought her act to The Music Box Village in the Bywater, using the venue’s signature musical architecture less as instrumentation and more as set design for her army-sized dance troupe. Led by local choreographer Chanice Holmes, her dancers hung from scaffolding and glided through the sell-out crowd like fleshy specters, reveling in the orgiastic frenzy.
Their costumes were persuasively perverse, including anatomical anomalies of every size, shape and color. Peaches wore a Bowie-style hairdo and heavy purple makeup, invoking the rock muses of yesteryear. Throughout her set, she donned various jackets, one black and spiky, another covered in rubber breasts.
The set was mostly comprised of material from Rub, starting with the electrifying album opener, “Close Up,” followed by the title track, an ode to clitoral stimulation. Peaches then forged on into further celebrations of the female anatomy such as “Vaginoplasty,” on which she raps, “My pussy’s big and I’m proud of it / You can dig, did, dig in and out of it / Make a crowd of it / Bow down to it / Won’t be long ‘til you drown in it.”
Peaches was joined Friday by an impressively motley crew of Louisiana’s countercultural elite, including an all-female band that featured Sean Yseult of White Zombie, Tif Lamson of Givers, and a full brass section. Her most prominent special guest was local legend and Music Box staple Delish Da Goddess, who joined her at center stage dressed as a giant, fuzzy, penis monster during “Dick in the Air.” The song is a direct and simple gender role reversal, embodied by the lyric, “We’ve been shaking our tits for years / So let’s switch positions, no inhibitions, no fears.”
“I know it’s not subtle,” Peaches admits in the song’s second verse, before launching into the bridge: “Balls and dick, two balls and one dick / Balls, balls, dick, dick, balls and dick.” It’s crude but effective, satirizing the objectification of women’s bodies that’s been taken for granted since the dawn of pop culture. As a standalone song, it’s catchy as hell.
After “Dick in the Air,” Peaches gave Delish the stage, and she didn’t disappoint, unmasking for a fiery trap anthem that left the crowd wanting more. When Peaches returned for the final portion of her set, Delish joined the dancers, mingling with the awe-struck audience and rapping along to every song. An up-and-coming transgressive figure in her own right, Delish clearly admires Peaches’ groundbreaking work.
The set reached its climax when Peaches played her “Fuck the Pain Away,” the song that made her a household name (or cautionary tale, depending on the household) in 2000, and has remained her calling card ever since. It seemed like a fitting end to the show, but she wasn’t finished.
After disappearing briefly in a whirlwind of synthetic genitalia, Peaches and her posse returned to sprint their victory lap, a triumphant rendition of "Boys Wanna Be Her,” a guitar-driven glam rock jam that proves Peaches' volatile vocals will sound good over just about anything.
The set was a resounding success. It not only demonstrated Peaches’ stunning showmanship, but also revealed The Music Box’s untapped versatility as a venue, a magical musical shantytown where anything is possible.