Poppy is a singer, internet phenomenon, and cult leader. (That last one is a joke. Maybe.) For the past few years, she has garnered a substantial YouTube following with her catchy bubblegum pop tunes and surrealist skits that satirize celebrity culture, internet culture, and social media. On January 31st, I got a chance to see her live at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. It was by far the strangest concert I have ever been to. It was also the most fun I’ve had at any concert.
The opening act was a DJ named Charlotte, a character from Poppy’s unusual skits who happens to be a mannequin with a robotic voice. At around 9pm, “Charlotte” went on. Her DJ set was an eclectic melody of Pop hits from the 60s onwards, and it really got the crowd going. By the end of her set, the everybody was excited and ready for Poppy to do her thing.
Finally, at around 9:45pm, Poppy was set to perform. There were two large TVs on the stage that screened pseudo-indoctrination videos while her crew set up. After the “programming” finished, Poppy appeared on stage accompanied by Titanic Sinclair, the mastermind behind the Poppy project, and two backup dancers. Her upbeat set immediately began with the song “I’m Poppy,” which got the whole crowd singing along to the hook: “P-O-P-P-Y, I’m Poppy!”
The rest of her set consisted of songs off her new album Poppy. Computer, a collection of infectious bops like “Computer Boy,” “Moshi Moshi,” and “Bleach Blonde Baby.” The audience was dancing and singing along to every song. The interludes between each song are when things got weird. Some of her skits would play on the TVs, including one where Poppy shamelessly advertised Doritos and Monster Energy. At one point, Titanic brought out a pitcher filled with a crimson-red liquid. He proceeded to hand glasses of the mysterious elixir to the crowd and asked us to swear allegiance to Poppy, a tongue-in-cheek reference to her “cult” following. While this may be unsettling at face value, it was a really good time and enhanced the experience. Everyone, myself included, was into every aspect of her performance. Her encore consisted of the song “Money,” which Titanic promised she would play if we yelled out one simple phrase in unison: Monster Energy Drink. Upon hearing this, Poppy came back on stage and ended the concert on a high note.
Poppy’s performance piece at the Bowery Ballroom was an enchanting spectacle that was equal parts unsettling and entertaining. I’m a big fan of the weird aspects of her project, and I thought she delivered on that end. I will definitely see her again if she’s ever in the Tri-State area. In the meantime, I shall preach the Gospel of Poppy to anyone willing to listen.