“God damn there’s a lot of y’all, holy shit!” Ashnikko tells the crowd at Reading Festival’s Lock Up Stage. She’s not wrong. Punters are spilling out of the tent, eager to sneak a glimpse of the blue-haired, genre-smashing maven, with latecomers sprinting to squeeze themselves in.
Today is one of the first chances to see her perform songs from Ashnikko’s stellar debut mixtape ‘Demidevil’ post-lockdown, following its release back in January. These early returns to live shows, Ashnikko tells NME before her performance, have been worth the wait: “It’s been really emotional, I got off stage at Boardmasters and just started crying.”
As well as demonstrating the sheer number of fans that Ashnikko has gathered online over these past 18 months, today’s performance also showcases their passion. The stonking, Princess Nokia featuring ‘Slumber Party’ sees the crowd scream the deliciously filthy lyrics in unison (“My and your girlfriend playing dress up in my house/I gave your girlfriend cunnilingus on the couch”), while the metal-driven ‘Cry’ has them filling in Grimes’ ethereal vocals in her absence. They’re as much a part of her razor-sharp nine-song set as Ashnikko herself.
Shouting out The Queen Of Nashville (“who loves Dolly Parton? Excuse me, that wasn’t loud enough!”) as she hitches up her costume (“ I’m going to adjust my loin cloth so my labia don’t fall out…”) and dancing to fill the intimate stage while flanked by two “psychedelic pussy bears” (huge pink teddies emblazoned with a trippy, vaginal patterns), she acts as the charismatic ringleader to the circus that is her wild live show.
We’re also treated to new music in the form of ‘Maggots’, a fusion of pop-punk rhythms with pounding bass and trappy production – and an exciting peak at what’s yet to come.
“This next song is about toxic men in the music industry,” Ashnikko warns before the unforgiving ‘Toxic’. “I’m fucking tired of making myself smaller…I’m not going to let you talk to me like shit, I’m a fucking boss!”
Given what we’ve witnessed on Reading Festival’s Lock Up Stage, a performance that more than saw her ascend to boss level, you couldn’t argue with her.