Poppy and AMA at NME’s Ghouls To The Front: Halloween fever dream meets situationist prank meets techno rave amazingness

Poppy, round the back of the Shack

Last night, American pop-rock provocateur, YouTube-subverting anti-vlogger and sometime cult leader Poppy popped over to the UK for a very special edition of Girls To The Front, NME’s night celebrating the best in female and non-binary talent.

Spooky scenes

The event took place, as ever, at London’s beloved spit ‘n’ sawdust venue The Shacklewell Arms, in Dalston.

Making up is so very hard to do (but the results are spectacular)

This edition had a special Halloween theme, so we named it Ghouls To The Front because we’re hilarious like that. It was, it must be said, a strange night.


Fresh from the scare farm

The audience really went for it with the costumes. Special props to the person who came dressed as Black Mirror’s Ashley O – very apt indeed. Although Poppy – basically the real-life Ashley O – reckons she’s never seen it.

It’s AMA!

The first act on was rising London-based R&B star AMA, a recent signing to Dirty Hit, home to last week’s NME cover star Beabadoobee, plus The 1975, Wolf Alice and No Rome. Best known for its stable of indie artists, AMA marks the label’s first venture into full-blown R&B.


AMA told us she hates scary stuff, so came as a not-very-terrifying alien instead.

Ama performs AMAzingly

AMA just released her debut EP, ‘Screenluv’, which is named for how she – a self confessed typical Gen Z girl – lives her life through her phone. She and her DJ played each of the EP’s tracks in a set that had the entire crowd moving.


Poppy arrives

Poppy arrived at 9pm for her PA and DJ set. Now, one thing Poppy fans know is this: you never quite know what to expect from her. Unless you were expecting her to play an hour of banging techno interspersed with dialogue from horror films while casually reading a graphic novel handed to her by a fan.

Poppy takes to the stage

Hands down, Poppy won the fancy dress competition.

Here’s Poppy turning the lens on her fans

The LA-based artist’s latest work has seen her reject the pure pop sound of 2018’s ‘Am I A Girl’ in favour of heavy metal. Recent singles ‘Concrete’ and ‘I Disagree’ have blended crunching riffs with candy-sweet pop choruses and deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply disturbing lyrics. Think: a Nine Inch Nail piercing a pink marshmallow.

Poppy stans

Poppy’s monochrome harlequin costume reflected those worn by her bandmates (and this prescient fan, second left), who were travelling between gigs in the US while Poppy flew over for the extra-special appearance.


Poppy on the ones and twos

Poppy recently told NME her best friend is her hairless cat, whom she lives with in Los Angeles. A fan gifted Poppy a model of a sphinx cat, which she placed atop the DJ booth for the duration of the set. It added a touch of class because – fun fact – NME only spent £24 on the halloween decorations.

Poppy’s very own reading festival

Here’s Poppy reading her book.

Poppy’s very own reading festival, part two

And here’s Poppy, er, reading her book.

Poppy’s very own reading festival, part three

And here she is reading the book again, which she did for about 20 minutes in total. You know when someone repeats a joke and it’s not funny for a bit, then they repeat it again and again and after a while it becomes incredibly funny but you can’t really explain why? That’s what this was like.

What is happening?

Remember when we said it was a strange night (in the best possible way)? First up, there was a rumour going round that it wasn’t actually Poppy, but someone who looks exactly-the-goddamned-same wearing makeup. Though the DNA test is pending, we can confirm that Poppy herself, hallowed be her name, was on stage at the Shack.

Talk about: Pop(py) music

Secondly, the performance sparked a wider debate about the nature of live entertainment. Was it a situationist prank? A satirical comment on celebrity DJ sets? A hint at what a 3am sesh at Poppy’s gaff is like? A woman standing on stage in a latex harlequin costume taking a moment to catch up on contemporary literature? All of these things? None of these things? You decide.

Top of the Poppies

Poppy’s set included dialogue from the film It – the original Tim Curry version, we think. The performer is clearly a fan of the horror genre. Her YouTube videos are often as disturbing as they are mesmerising. Think of her as a pop star invented by Stanley Kubrick and you’re halfway there.

Poppy and pappy

Poppy’s new album, ‘I Disagree’, is released early next year. You can read all about it next week in a very special NME feature – so stay tuned.

Rock on, Poppy

Poppy, we salute you.