Concert review: Ashnikko w/ Tommy Genesis | 10.13.23, The Pageant (with photo gallery)

Photo of Ashnikko by Bryan J. Sutter

With her debut performance in St. Louis, the envelope-pushing, genre-blending artist known as Ashnikko did not disappoint at the sold out stop at the Pageant on her WEEDKILLERtour. Stimulating, direct, and a bit humorous: it was a memorable show. To see such a celebration of not suffering bullshit lightly and finding one’s own meaningful sense of self-expression on the same stage that, almost 20 years ago, the German electroclash artist Peaches apparently almost caused a small riot among some frat bros when opening up for Queens of the Stone Age makes one think that there are some aspects of the world that actually do get better over time.

The evening kicked off with Canadian rapper Tommy Genesis. Over the last few years, Tommy Genesis has been building up some remarkable buzz, and it was easy to see why. Genesis’ energy and delivery immediately put the focus on her as she bounced and crawled around the stage at the Pageant. The self-described fetish rapper titillated the crowd with songs such as “peppermint” and “a woman is a god,” which both contain lyrics that would, let’s say, make Tipper Gore very unhappy. It was, quite simply, good shit. Tommy Genesis proved to be a perfect opener for Ashnikko on this tour, and did a fantastic job getting the crowd hyped up for herself and the headliner.

Ashnikko marched onto the stage, elbows high, behind two dancers as the crowd went wild. All three were clad in matching outfits that were somewhere between army chic and Fern Gully. Ashnikko stood out in her trademark blue hair and wore a cropped tank top with the words “I Can’t Help That I Want To Be Titty Smothered” across the chest. What followed was a near-breathless performance of “You Make Me Sick!” and “Stupid” which had more swagger and bite than I had expected. The energy I felt in the photo pit coming from the stage was returned just as strong from the crowd.

This wasn’t an irony-poisoned crowd playing Magic: The Gathering during the show or any similar anti-social behavior people have complained about seeing at a recent 100 Gecs or Death Grips concert. These folks were here for a reason and they were intent on giving as much attention as possible to Ashnikko, particularly during songs off her new record WEEDKILLER like “Worms” and “Cheerleader.” However, it was perhaps her most well-known song, “Slumber Party,” that got the biggest reaction. It’s a forward and flirty bit of music that, on first listen, will probably curveball you. It’s this cleverness, the subversion of expectations, where Ashnikko’s genius lies.

Perhaps, though, what seems really radical here is maybe not the provocative and assertive music being expressed on stage, but the suggestion that what is really revolutionary is the energy we take inward to improve ourselves, as individuals and collectively. Yes, this is a pop spectacle, but I think Ashnikko deserves something more than a surface level analysis. There is a push against norms and repressive ideas, some of which may be familiar to those that remember the Tumblr discourses of yore, and what we have here thankfully avoids any of the major cringe from those days or any “progressive” new age ideals that are actually repressive and conservatively dogmatic. There were some woo woo crystal mommy vibes in the banter between songs, sure, but they seem to be in the interest of looking forward, not backwards. Ashnikko spoke of going to therapy, doing yoga, and finding herself. At one point, after being surprisingly vulnerable on stage, she commented that she had started to cry. While I was pretty far back in the room, I don’t doubt that she really was.

Though, as she spoke to her demidemons about these things, I thought to myself that this focus inward is maybe because that’s the only element we really can change anymore. While this could be seen as cynical and selfish, this centering on the self, for many it is the only game in town as we stare down an increasingly uncertain future.

It is best, perhaps, that we should let all these young folks have their fun while there are still so many good reasons to laugh, dance, and be weird. | Bryan J. Sutter

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