As soon as you spy the kneepads protecting Ashnikko’s knees tonight (April 30) you know that her concert is going to be anything but tame. And on this front, the US singer and rapper doesn’t disappoint. Instead, she invites us into a set designed like her “mushroom acid trip fantasy fairy forest”, filled with strange plants, dancers dressed as flowers and, yes, giant, colourful mushrooms. It’s like satelliting into just a fragment of her imagination.
In that space, the star puts on a masterclass. Not only does she create something unique and individual in a format that has its limitations and can quickly become tired, she also straddles the line between compelling entertainment and saying something powerful. One minute Ashnikko’s riding a pink bear with giant cyclops eye as she giddily performs restless new single ‘Tantrum’, the next she’s delivering an impassioned sermon on consent.
“My body – your body – are not invitations for abuse, harassment or assault of any fucking kind,” she says before the dark bounce of 2018’s Kodie Shane-featuring ‘Invitation’ kicks in. “What I’m wearing? Fuck that. This is not a fucking invitation.”
This is the magic of Ashnikko, and something the Demidevil livestream captures well. The artist can be silly and crude; she’s full on one-liners like “fat pussy like Santa” and “that dick tastes like Yankee Candle” and films VTs in a bath filled with blue gunge called “gelli barf” while yelling “Fuck capitalism!”. And none of this quietens or detracts from the powerful statements she makes, both in between and during her songs.
Most of the show sees Ash going in hard, performing while crawling around on the floor or finishing ‘Stupid’ in a laughing fit: “Oh my god I just passed my pants a little bit!” she exclaims. But there are occasional moments for introspection. For the acoustic guitar-led ‘Good While It Lasted’, she examines her contribution to the end of a relationship while sitting on a rock in her psychedelic forest. It might not be as wild as some of what comes before, but it adds yet another dimension to the performance.
Over the last year, it’s been a struggle to find the same rush in livestream concerts as we would usually get from the real thing. Ashnikko comes closest to bottling that feeling so far, giddy joy zapping through the screen as she giddily bounces and dances around to ‘L8r Boi’, her addictive retelling of Avril Lavigne’s ‘Sk8r Boi’. And for the encore, she crawls out of a slimy plant in the dark of the faux-woodland to sing ‘Clitoris! The Musical’ – a jazz hands-ready lament about the struggles to get off through the “fumbling hands” of “cisgendered heterosexual men”.
When the latter is over, Ashnikko lies slumped on the floor, before unseen hands drag her out of the camera’s view. Even when she’s supposed to be lifeless, you can feel the artistry oozing out of her, reinforcing her status as one of modern pop’s brightest new creatives.