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[Review] Ashnikko @ Northcote Theatre, Melbourne 01/04/2023

Review By Nikki Eenick

I went into Ashnikko’s show at Northcote Theatre a casual listener. I’ve left a full convert to the blue-haired, bisexual, psychedelic way of life.

While we wait in the cloaking room and wander to the bar, we are stars in an early-2000s teen movie; soundtrack courtesy of support act, Donatachi. Blasting DJ-mixes of iconic 1990s, 2000s and 2010s bangers like TLC’s No Scrubs, Destiny’s Child classic Bills, Bills, Bills as well as upbeat, poppy, and undeniably fun original tracks like b2b heartbeat. Donatachi has such a cute aesthetic; something straight out of Scott Pilgrim VS. The World, which elevates their hyperpop track-list to new levels of camp. Feeling down? At a picnic? Visiting Nan? Put on some Donatachi and watch all the bad vibes wash away.

The stage is framed by two pieces of floor-to-ceiling inflatable coral, and a projection screen at the back, humming with a pink hue as we wait excitedly for our headliner; Queer, hyperpop icon Ashnikko, to take the stage. This is her first Australian tour, and her fans are overjoyed. At first, we are standing on the upper-level of the venue, casually taking in the anticipatory energy, but as soon as she takes the stage, we run down to be in the crowd of people on the ground-floor. Her energy is infectious, it would be such a waste to not be dancing and jostling and scream-singing with everyone else.

Starting with Deal With It, her energy is already a 10/10. Wearing a tiny plaid mini skirt yet somehow still high-kicking and rolling on the floor, she has perfectly mastered the balance between athletic performance and sex-appeal. Distorted memes flashing on the projector screen behind her remind us of why she is such a Gen Z icon. Throughout the show, however, she’ll use that same screen for visuals of a porcelain doll version of herself being eaten alive by cockroaches, of Italian-neo-noir-horror-esque sequences of her removing her own porcelain face, of falling stars and rainfall. She is so authentically herself and the screen acts as a window into her mind.

Ashnikko loves to talk to her audience, and we are hooked on every word, every syllable. In one of her talks, she reminds us of the importance of a balanced diet. “I’ve eaten so many mushrooms the last few years”. Her crowd loves her, throughout the show there are countless bracelets, bras and crocheted mushrooms thrown on stage. “You guys are trying to kill me” she laughs, nearly sliding on a bracelet mid-song. Someone else holds up their sign – “Is that my tits?! Nice!”. Unfazed, confident, and impossible to dull, Ashnikko is serving herself on a platter for us. And it’s such a tasty main meal (sans shrooms). The coral on either side of the stage starts to inflate and deflate, I feel like I’m tripping. She has us locked in a pseudo-psychedelic trance.

“Is anyone having a slumber party tonight?” She asks, innocently. A crowd of voices start cheering. Never have I heard a song as unabashedly about female pleasure, Queer female pleasure, as Slumber Party. Potentially Ashnikko’s biggest hit, everyone in that room knows every word. Originally, a collaboration with Princess Nokia, instead of cutting the verse out of her song, Ashnikko fully embraces the in-your-face sexuality of the track and drops down to the floor, seductively dancing until it’s her time to sing again and she jumps to her feet and is back to that same, semi-manic, fully engrossing stage presence. As the song ends, me and my friend make friends with the people next to us. All of us standing with our feet together and fingers together in a “shy girl” pose (those who get it, get it). We all say the last few lines together.

I’m shy…. I’m so shy….

And then we smirk at each other, like it’s an inside joke, and go back to our singalong.

Ashnikko is openly and proudly bisexual, and the lighting for her show flashes in the colours of the bisexual flag (pink, purple and blue) throughout the entire night. I’m surrounded by a sea of women, many of them there with their female lover. It’s a night of inclusivity, unashamed sexuality, and a celebration of Queerness.

Maybe my favourite performance of the night was her rendition of Maggots. Before it starts, she gets us to scream, as loud and as angrily as we can. “My housemates used to ban me to one scream a day. Now it’s time for yours”. This track has a punkier edge than many of her other songs and it’s great to see her mixing camp and extravagance with a tougher, don’t-fuck-with-me, yelling edge. She is a force to be reckoned with. The room is lit up with flashing blue lights and the projection screen looks like it’s covered in eyes, but it’s hard to tell over the swarm of people moshing and jumping around in front of me.

But, without a doubt, the highlight of the night is Cry. It’s just such an undeniable banger. Every line, I find myself nodding. She just gets it. I really can’t find the words to describe how fucking unreal this song was live. Her vocals live were outdoing her vocals on the recording. She would be jumping around, dancing in the red strobe light, and then screaming, somehow in perfect, angelic tones:

Bitch! / Are you trying to make me cry? / Are you trying to make me lose it? / You win some and lose some / This could get gruesome

There’s not a single person in that room who isn’t screaming along. Even those of us who half-knew the words, suddenly knew every word. The energy for those 3 minutes could fuel me for the rest of my life. So fun. So cathartic. I wish I had the words to describe it to you.

As a break from the track, she sits us down for an anecdote. “One day, like two years ago, I was walking through the woods tripping balls. I wasn’t wearing shoes and I felt my feet becoming the moss, and I fell asleep at the base of this tree. At the top were two beautiful, winged creatures and they said ‘bitch, what the fuck are you doing?’ and I said, ‘I’m decomposing, let me decompose!’ and then they said, ‘ok but kiss me on the lips first’. And so, I did. Then these tendrils of moss came out of them, and I said ‘oh! I have a gay little album to write. And so, I did. And it comes out on Tuesday! After my experience with the moss-feet, I realised, nothing matters. The world is burning, and I have worms in my brains.” And then she launches immediately into Worms. We are laughing and trying to sing along. She’s so eclectic and deeply authentic, it’s almost impressive.

Then she pulls out a chair and says “Now I need something from you guys”. I was fully expecting someone in the front row to get a lap-dance. But no. “The chair is out, and it’s time to slow things down a little. I do a little…. Exercise, a little self-love, a little…. guided mediation thing. If you could just lean into it. Close your eyes for a second”.

We do.

“Imagine a real bioluminescent blue cloud.”

I see a cloud the same colour as Ashnikko’s electric-blue hair.

“It’s so beautiful, and you feel it travelling down to your fingertips and there’s this blue electricity coming out. It’s soft, and it doesn’t hurt. Give your head and your abdomen a hug, and repeat after me:

Hello my love
(Hello my love. My headache I didn’t know I had is being soothed by blue light)
I’m proud of you. Nobody is perfect. We are on a floating rock in space. I love you, baby”
Amen. Everyone is a little teary and a lot rejuvenated.

Ashnikko spends the rest of her time either acapella rapping songs like Manners. Or letting us into the world of Ashton Nicole Casey. After an audience member collapses, she stops entirely to make sure they’re ok. “I’m a really claustrophic person, so I am so thankful you’re all here today. I hate being crowded – and that’s on PTSD.” And then later, after being forced to do the Australian right-of-passage; The Shooey. She not only gags and makes a joke about a fungal infection, but goes on to say “I should be sponsored by pepto bismol, if my gut could be anthropomorphised it would be a very sad peace sign. Any IBS girls here? Any Spooky Bitches?” After which the stage goes black and red and we launch into You Make Me Sick!

Finishing with Daisy, a TikTok viral sensation. She cuts herself off halfway through the first verse. “Come on. This is Australia. You guys are meant to be the rowdiest crowds in. the. world. And that’s all you’ve got? Let’s go again. Like you mean it this time.” And we give it all we can. After which she says thank you, and it’s genuinely sad to see her go, like saying goodbye to that friend you rarely see, but when you see them it’s like no time has passed. And as soon as she’s off, the house lights come up. No encore. No more. That’s it.

We are left begging for more. Smiling ear to ear and laughing with the people around us. I have never had so much fun at the back of such a sweaty theatre.

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