By Jenny Wilson
The power of a fierce front woman of a darker bent is a sight to see and a joy to hear. To be able to see two in one night, backed by amazing bandmates, is a rare treat. That’s what occurred at Crucible, in Madison, WI, on a recent spring night in April 2022. Pixel Grip and Patriarchy dueled it out with full sets, supported by the lovely Previsions.
From the moment Patriarchy’s Actually Huizenga stepped on to the stage, a huge American flag hanging upside down behind her and bandmates, something very special began. Actually’s stage presence is incredibly self-assured… she exudes the sensual confidence of a prowling cat surveying its prey. Actually and her bandmates, The Drummer and The Guitarist, presented a collection of delicious fever dream songs focusing around their album, Asking for It, which was co-written by Actually and Andrew Neams
Their sound is a mad trip through heavy darkwave industrial melodies led by industrial drumming and guitar riffs. At the helm is Actually, a once wailing then airily purring siren with a gorgeous mezzo soprano voice that gives her full control over the room.
Actually clearly doesn’t suffer fools… and her lyrics show a woman fed up with the system and the dehumanizing moments we are still forced to navigate as women, and human beings, in the 21st century. Their set was sexy, knowing, while carried by a refreshingly feminist bent harnessing the anger and frustration of women who exist, struggle, and flourish within and despite of the basic tragedies of our world. Songs like the titular Asking for It and Sweet Piece of Meat showcase all the dark sexual energy one could ask for. The song, Don’t Fuck the Drummer, was a moment of great fun. The following videos, clips from Sweet Piece of Meat and new single, Lockjaw, show the capture the energy of the Patriarchy experience.
Headlining were Pixel Grip, a fast-rising trio from Chicago. The band is made up of Rita Lukea on vocals, Tyler Ommen on drums, and Jonathon Freund on keys. A vocal improvisationalist, Rita commands a voice so uniquely beautiful it is hard to think of exactly how to describe it. Having been classically trained, Rita takes her voice in and out of tones and characters with extreme confidence, all the while presenting a playful, at times even jazz-scatting, flair. This was the second visit to Crucible to support their second album, Arena, since the reopening of venues began in summer of 2021. They describe their style as a collection of “avant pop, EBM, and minimal wave” (pixelgrip.com). The various genres melt together beautifully and, just like the previous year’s visit, made the crowd extremely eager to get their bodies moving.
Rita is a powerhouse onstage, cutting a commanding figure while expressing a muted rage couched in cool tension. This was especially true on Alphapussy, a royal reclaiming of femme power. She works the stage with an expressive knowing that embraces all the weirdos convening to escape the realities of the world. They know that she, and Pixel Grip, will tell it like it is.
Pixel Grip kept the bodies moving with massive club hits like Demon Chaser and Soft Peaks, as well as the powerfully touching Double Vision. Few bands today can produce such incredible club ragers and delicate ballads on the same album. But then few bands are Pixel Grip.
If you are lucky enough to have either band come to do a show anywhere vaguely near you, get tickets immediately. Neither band should ever be missed.