Shows We Went To: Pharmakon, Institute and ssleeperhold at Hotel Vegas

by Dylan Garsee

Pharmakon Institute ssleeperhold Hotel Vegas

What world am I living in that Pharmakon draws a sold out crowd? I’m super down for a noise revolution; Masonna and Genesis P-Orrige have mouths to feed. But to see a stuffed to the brim Hotel Vegas actively losing its shit to tiny blonde Margaret Chardiet as she bangs a piece of sheet metal is nuts. During her final song, a man dressed in a leopard fur coat and silver face paint was all but orgasming on stage while she navigated the crowd howling and participating in a tug of war with her microphone cord. After her 25 minute headlining set, my boyfriend and I looked at each other like we just witnessed a tornado tear through our home. What the fuck is happening?

Two years ago, we saw Pharmakon as a part of a Sacred Bones showcase during Chaos in Tejas. She was the middle act of a five band show, playing her first gig outside of her home base of Brooklyn. Destruction Unit side-project Marshstepper played before her, unleashing a similarly atmospheric noise set. But they had a naked dude covered in ashes running around. Pharmakon played a relatively tame set afterwards and must have learned from them to up the theatrics. Muffled screams into lapel mics taped to sheet metal, orgasmic laughing spells– Pharmakon fits in Stefon from SNL’s world but not ours.

Ssleeperhold opened the night with a set of heavy IDM that had the crowd vogueing through the apocalypse. His dark but dance-y songs are a little long and a little simple, but prefacing a night of very theatrical musicians, it was good to ease in with some honest to goodness dark dance. I heard a woman during his set say “what the fuck is happening?” I can’t imagine what she was thinking during the madness that was Institute’s set.

Institute’s frontman spent a majority of his set just collapsing into the crowd. Not stage diving, not even climbing in. Like those goats and cats that have that inner ear disease where they stiffen up and fall when they get scared, he would just completely give in and hope someone would catch him. Which no one did. But that’s the life when your play fast and hard punk. No one cares about you, they want the experience.

Which leads us to back to Pharmakon. Her records get better and better, but her live show is something beyond words. She’s that rare artist where you just have to be there to get it, man.

Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is a writer and a member of the Loser City collective and used to avoid reading comics while writing for Comics Bulletin. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can’t afford, crying. You can follow him on Twitter, where he horrifies celebrities as @garseed.