PHOENIX — Just to the south of downtown Phoenix sits a section of the city that predates the State of Arizona. It is known now as the Warehouse District, but it started life as Chinatown around 1870. Over the years, it became the beating heart of Phoenix, as the location next to the railway was the perfect place to set up shop to sell items like cotton and produce. Toward the western edge was a warehouse that housed a long since vanished business called “Arizona General Electric Supply.” It also housed a printing press, considered to be one of the best in Phoenix at the time the building opened in 1920.
Phoenix grew up. The new warehouses became old, some being demolished for the shiny and new. For 100 years, the exterior of the building on the corner of 5th Ave and Madison did not change. The inside did. The new and the old met, and out of this marriage came the concert and event venue that is now known as The Pressroom. In this historic warehouse, an eager crowd gathered to see Poppy, who was joined by VOWWS. Poppy, much like the warehouse, has changed from the first time the world was made aware of her presence. We met Poppy as she sat in front of a camera eating cotton candy, we watched as she talked to a plant, we listened as she sang “Lowlife,” a song that has a bit of a reggae-meets-pop sound to it. Her first tour was, in a word, bizarre.
The night started with VOWWS, an Australian death pop band taking the stage at exactly 8:00 PM. Death pop and goth rock are siblings, if not twins, and VOWWS is an excellent example of the genre. VOWWS is a 2-person band, co-fronted by Rizz on the synth/keyboard and vocals and Matt James on the guitar and vocals. They are unique in how they play live shows: The stage stayed far darker than normal, bathed primarily in red and blue lights. It was a bit disorienting at first, but it fit beautifully.
What the set lacked in energy, it made up for in catchy beats and incredible harmony between Rizz and James. The sound is both new and familiar, reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Rizz wore white facial makeup with black around her eyes, hunched over her keyboard and swaying to the music. At one point, she stepped away to join James while singing on what looked like a handheld trucker mic, with the setup giving her voice a bit of distortion. James is an excellent guitarist and vocalist, moving very little in the space around the microphone. But much like Rizz, he obviously enjoyed playing the music just as much as the audience loved hearing it. VOWWS has collaborated with Gary Numan – one of the fathers of industrial music – and have worked with Chino Moreno from Deftones on a song and was asked to play the Dia De Los Deftones festival. Unlike the stage they played on, they have a bright future ahead of them.
Chants of “Poppy” were heardas Rizz and James cleared the stage of their equipment. As soon as the siren that precedes the song “Concrete” started, the entire crowd exploded in cheers and screams.
When the world first met Poppy on YouTube, the videos were bright, her dark hair was bleached to a near incandescent blonde, the background was white, and the pastel colors around her came across as brilliant. Her first EP Bubblebathwas composed of bright, airy music that had some deep lyrics. Over the last 4 years, her sound and persona evolved, starting with Am I a Girl?, culminating in her current albumI Disagree.
Before this tour, she split with her creative partner Titanic Sinclair for reasons that can be found here, releasing a music video that was the exact opposite of her first music video, black and white, with harsh electronic music and biting lyrics: “Sorry for what I’ve become, because I’m becoming someone.” As she took the stage, it became apparent that the Poppy that the world got to know 5 years ago is long gone, and before us stood what can only be described as a force to be reckoned with.
It would not be accurate to say that “Poppy walked onto the stage,” as it was more of a march of an artist who owned the stage and knew it. She climbed the steps to face what looked almost like a giant cell phone, the reflective surface allowing her to look at the crowd with her back turned to them, giving some in the audience their first look at her dramatically different style. Gone is the long blonde hair; it was up in teddy bear buns and was now her natural brunette color. What hadn’t changed was her sheer talent.
“Concrete” is best described as a rollercoaster ride of a song. From the wailing siren, we are transported to screaming guitars, followed by a few dashes of kawaii metal ala Babymetal thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the song, a mosh pit had formed, someone was crowd surfing, and shortly after, someone else was holding a shoe over their head that they had just found.
There are many shows that tend to work their way to surreal; a minute and a half through the first song found us standing knee deep in surreal – and not a single person in the crowd seemed like they wanted it any other way.
There are still traces of what some may call the old Poppy: at one point while addressing the crowd, she spoke in the voice that first captured the attention of the internet. An outsider who had never watched any of her YouTube videos would likely have been momentarily confused by this, as it now seems so out of character. However, much like the building she stood in, the old and the new co-exist in a symbiotic relationship, the new only existing because of the old.
While surreal, it was also apparent that Poppy is here for the long haul. She owns the stage as if she’s been doing this for a decade or two. She has been writing thought-provoking lyrics that cut deep for some time, and she is just extremely talented overall. As an example, while singing “I Disagree,” it became apparent that the lyrics are likely rather personal as her voice took on an edge and she let out a scream that would make Lacey Sturm proud. She also had a downright spectacular cover of the t.A.T.u. song “All the Things She Said.” While this tour finished the US leg in LA on 2/21/2020, she is returning to Phoenix on August 4th, opening for Deftones in a show that should not be missed.
PHOENIX – Arainy Valentine’s Day evening in Phoenix, Arizona – what a perfect night for one of the most bizarre acts to come through town. Moriah Rose Pereira, who goes by the name Poppy on the internet, is a multi-talented internet phenomenon. A young veteran in dancing, singing, acting, and creativity, Poppy was able to bring her peculiar act to the desert. Fans and onlookers of all shapes, sizes, and types gathered together at the Crescent Ballroom to see the internet come to life and behold the spectacle that is the “Poppy.Computer Tour“. It certainly did not disappoint.
What Exactly is Poppy?
Believed to be an android by many, acult leader by some, and an all-around weirdo by “normies” on the internet, Poppy found massive notoriety over YouTube after releasing her infamous video “I’m Poppy,” which can be viewed here. Produced with the help of Titanic Sinclair, another well-known internet phenomenon, musician, and director, Poppy was quickly able to gain the attention of the modern world, mostly through her series of outlandish videos.
She eventually turned this YouTube sensation into an effective tool in the pursuit of her ultimate dream: becoming a pop star. In fact, Poppy even won a Streamy Award in late 2017 for “Breakthrough Artist.” However, it would likely be more apt to label her an anti-pop star, as her work seems to revolve around calling out the absurdities of contemporary popular culture, pop music, and fame in the modern world.
While Poppy originally claimed not to be in a cult a little over a year ago, with Titanic Sinclair vouching for the accuracy of this claim, the “Poppy.Computer Tour” seemed to prove otherwise. This humorous take on possibly spinning criticism on its own head and turned it into another powerful tool in their digital and cultural arsenals; Titanic Sinclair and Poppy seem to embrace this cultish mentality, and they certainly took it and ran with it.
This cultish theme led to some fabulously interesting and entertaining moments during the show; from the computer-renderedspeech synthesis-style narration, to fans “drinking the Kool-Aid,” this cult-themed joke certainly balances itself on a thin line between satire and reality. Nonetheless, the screaming fans—aka “Poppy Seeds”—and fascinated observers did not seem to mind either way. After all, is this not the essence of modern popular culture? Undying fealty to those famous people all fans have sworn allegiance to.
The “Poppy.Computer Tour” is Poppy’s first time visiting real people as a musician, and it was originally planned to visit only 20 cities across North America, but likely due to its greater-than-expected success, the tour was expanded to include a stop in London, Tokyo, and 15 other stops in North America. Poppy and Titanic Sinclair planned this epic adventure in order to promote Poppy’s first official album, Poppy.Computer.
The most interesting aspect of this tour is that, with the exception of her Toronto show, there were no opening acts. Instead, Poppy substituted the time slot traditionally reserved for an opener for one of the characters off her YouTube channel – Charlotte the Mannequin. This same character also happens to be the main antagonist from Poppy’s new YouTube Red film, with a potential to become a series, titled I’m Poppy.
Poppy also traveled with two amazingly talented backup dancers, Alec and Jason. These two stole the spotlight during many points, yet they always made sure to give it back to Poppy when the time was right. They were their to support and augment her, after all, with their keytar dance moves, air drums, and even their own take on what looked like a Thousand Arms Dance. Complete with tutus, bleach blonde wigs, and face masks, they offered an unsettling yet oddly charming addition to the stage.
Charlotte the Mannequin
As fans eagerly awaited the unexpected, uncertainty swirled in the air. Would there be an opener? How would they start the show? What, exactly, was this going to be like? Those who knew Poppy from the internet likely had all sorts of wild ideas, and “Africa” by Toto was playing on loop as they contemplated the imminent future. As the song itself has become its own infamous meme, it seemed only fitting to fill the void of time while everyone waited for the show to start.
Charlotte Quin, or Charlotte the Mannequin, sat alone on the stage, aside a MacBook DJ setup and between two massive screens. She opened the show with a pre-selected audio set. While she isn’t the most animated character, she does have her very own YouTube channel where she occasionally copies Poppy’s ideas, makes her own versions of Poppy’s songs, and otherwise wreaks havoc on Poppy’s online presence. She also happens to have a diverse but excellent taste in music, sampling and playing songs of all genres and eras. There was certainly something for just about everyone in her playlist, and her transitions were seamless.
Songs and artists featured during this most interesting of opening DJ acts include: Daft Punk, Baha Men, Missy Elliot, N.W.A., Vanessa Carlton, TLC, Cake, Abba, Ke$ha, The B-52s, Of Montreal, Talking Heads, Madonna, Rihanna, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5, Jimmy Eat World, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Dr. Dre, Cyndi Lauper, Ed Sheeran, Nena’s (Original German) “99 Red Balloons”, and Miley Cyrus.
Throughout this playlist, symbols resembling every meme about the Illuminati played, mixed in with some of the visuals from Poppy’s videos—most notably, “This Birdcage” and “Where is Poppy?”, a video made in collaboration with entertainment company and internet phenomenon Super Deluxe. Strung throughout the set were also sound clips from various Poppy videos, most notably increasingly-frequent statements of “I’m Poppy.” Charlotte’s own statements of “Hello Internet“ and how she is going to be the “Queen of YouTube.” It also featured some sound clips of Poppy and Charlotte discussing the Bible, internet meme sensation Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, and an old Blockbuster commercial.
Towards the end of Charlotte’s set, there was some banter between her and Poppy, ending with Poppy stating she was “Uncomfortable,” with Charlotte replying, “Uncomfortable? I’ll show you uncomfortable!” Poppy called for “Security!” As the final two songs played, the unusual opening act ended with the question, “Are you ready for Poppy?” playing over and over. They then played just about every ending theme ever, and random noises or themes, from things such as: The Simpsons, Castle Rock Entertainment, Windows ME, Viacom, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and so on. It was hard to keep track of since they were only samples given in rapid succession, but the result was immensely entertaining.
To capitalize on this hype, Titanic Sinclair came out on stage just before the show began. He presented what was most likely a delicious Poppy beverage (Kool-Aid) prior to sampling some himself. He then set down the pitcher and prepared the crowd for initiation. Warning messages popped up on the screens, and then fans were inducted into the Cult of Poppy over three different Programming Sequences, complete with all the necessary digital and broadcast noises to make it just weird enough. Titanic Sinclair proceeded to pour cups of the delicious Poppy beverage during this time.
With all the grace granted to an android, Poppy slowly and quietly proceeded on stage with her two gender-ambiguous backup dancers, taking her place center stage with her back facing the audience. Her fans were ravenous, but Poppy is the master of timing and patience. Once the appropriate time came, she began to perform her iconic song and first single from her new album, “I’m Poppy“. She followed this up with “Computer Boy,” the second single from her new album.
She continued the weirdness by asking the audience, “Do you love me?” She then proceeded to hand out her delicious Poppy beverage, passing out Kool-Aid to a few people in the front row. Titanic Sinclair and the backup dancers also helped with cup distribution. It was a beautiful, if not strange, moment.
Later on, Poppy also brought up the LOVE METER on the large screens, and her backup dancers hyped the audience up – everyone screamed, cheered, and clapped as loud as they could in order to fill the meter up. It turns out that the crowd does, in fact, love Poppy, as they were able to fill the meter up completely. What a way to spend Valentine’s Day!
Poppy performed many of her popular songs from the new album, including “Let’s Make a Video,” “Moshi Moshi,” “Interweb,” and “Bleach Blonde Baby.” The music videos, styles, and live performances are all uniquely performed and designed, and they are all quite reminiscent of Japanese Pop Music (J-Pop).
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) especially comes to mind when exploring Poppy’s musical styles and approaches – especially her songs “PONPONPON,” “CANDY CANDY,” and “Invader Invader.” The latter two of these are especially reminiscent of Poppy’s live performance, particularly regarding her backup dancers; CANDY CANDY features what is likely a male impersonator of KPP, dancing behind her with a wig in her same hairstyle and a mask that is an anime version of her face. In Invader Invader, she has many gender-ambiguous backup dancers as well. There certainly seems to be a lot of inspiration here from J-Pop, making Poppy’s performance a great mix of American and Japanese pop music styles.
Another marriage between pop styles can be seen with French pop artist Yelle, who is also famous for her interesting approaches to music, live performances, and music videos. While the connections aren’t as clear as between Poppy and KPP, Yelle’s upbeat and interesting approaches to pop culture certainly are sights to behold. Yelle’s hit song “Ba$$in” is particularly apt, as well as “Comme Un Enfant,” “Safari Disco Club,” “Complètement fou,” and “Ici & Maintenant.” If anything, her unique dancing styles are certainly comparable to Poppy’s own take on dance, which was Poppy’s first love.
In the middle of Poppy’s performance, she played her video “3:36“ and followed it up with some live additions: “Should we end the show early?” The audience, of course, said no, and she replied, “Okay.” However, it would not have been much of a surprise if she had ended it early.
Throughout the show, Poppy made excellent eye contact with just about everyone in the crowd. She was excellent at engaging people in that way while still maintaining her android-like, robotic façade. At one point, she did go through the front row and gave high fives or held hands, briefly, with as many fans as she could. Her backup dancers also, at one point, took 2 phones from fans in the crowd and took some photos of Poppy from their perspectives on the stage. It is clear that Poppy and company are trying their best to maintain their fans’ loyalty and love.
As the end approached, Poppy asked, “Can I be your Valentine?” The crowd, of course, agreed with great enthusiasm. However, all was not perfect, as Charlotte had to make her final attempt of the night at overthrowing Poppy – her voice popped up over the speakers, as she had just been sitting there, quietly, on stage throughout Poppy’s performance.
“Can I sing a song?” Charlotte asked. “You’ve already had your turn,” Poppy replied. She then requested for the crowd to join her in chanting, “Bye bye, Charlotte!” Apparently, at some point, Charlotte’s head was removed, so it is clear the crowd was quite serious about quieting her pleas for fame and recognition.
Poppy’s penultimate song for the show was her song, “Where’s My Microphone?” The audience, backup dancers, Titanic Sinclair, and Poppy all joined in on worrying about where Poppy’s microphone was, but everyone was quite relieved when she realized it was in her hands the whole time! “Oh, there it is!”
Finally, the time came for Poppy’s last song, “Software Upgrade.” She gave it her all, and her energy was quite infectious. Most in the crowd were having such a great time singing and dancing along, with a few wallflowers hanging around and enjoying their interesting Valentine’s Day adventure. Poppy finished the song by assuring everyone that she loved them prior to departing the stage as mysteriously as she had appeared, and the crowd chanted and screamed for an encore.
Unfortunately, that encore never came, and it ended up being an early evening for Poppy fans and Crescent Ballroom guests. Charlotte the Mannequin had played her set from about 8pm to 8:40pm, and Poppy performed from that point until 9:30pm. It was a short show, but it can be said this was certainly not the most traditional concert or musical experience anyway. While it would have been nice to see Poppy perform a couple of her original songs prior to the Poppy.Computer album, such as “Money“ or “Lowlife,” it was still an immensely surrealistic and enjoyable experience to see such an internet phenomenon in real life.
Overall, Valentine’s Day with Poppy at the Crescent Ballroom was an interesting yet amusing way to spend an evening, and it is clear Poppy will be going places. Her partnership with Titanic Sinclair has, so far, been wildly successful, and it will be interesting to see where they go and what they do next. If they do choose to come back to Phoenix, however, it might be best to visit another venue – Crescent Ballroom was a bit too small for her sold out show, and the stage is too low for everyone in the audience to see the screens fully. At times, it was even difficult to see the backup dancers or Poppy herself, which was disappointing during certain moments. This was a show one did not want to miss a moment of – so many small details were hidden throughout.
One thing is for certain, though – the lack of encore and the resuming of “Africa” by Toto at the end of the show was the greatest troll moment of all. Disappointing and unexpected, yes, but one cannot help to smile after such a thoroughly bizarre experience.