Party on the Plaza Kicked Things Off in Upbeat, Strange Fashion With Poppy

Poppy telling everyone the story of her Computer Boy.
Poppy telling everyone the story of her Computer Boy. Cory Garcia
As much as I enjoy the many fine places (people pay a lot of money to hold conversations) to see a concert in this city, I’ve got a soft spot for outside the box places to catch a show. Be it at a movie theater, in a post office or any other space not built for a concert, I do find joy seeing music performed where one doesn’t normally expect it. Now I admit that Avenida Houston might not count as outside the box, given that they at least host enough events to have a sponsor for their stage, but it is at the very least a pretty unique place to see a show.

Fitting then that the act kicking off the 2018 Party on the Plaza series was a bit outside the box and generally considered to be pretty unique herself. Straight from the internet to the Bud Light Stage was Poppy, who is occasionally known as That Poppy, and the whole name thing is maybe the least confusing thing about her.

Music fans, I am not here to pretend that I “understand” Poppy. Truth is, I’ve only watched a handful of the weird Youtube videos that have appeared on her channel and just knew I didn’t have the time in my life to fall down that particular rabbit hole. What I do know is this: Poppy.Computer was one of the best albums released last year, and her brand of upbeat but not overproduced pop is underappreciated in the current music landscape.

That Poppy arrived in Houston for this show ahead of Anime Matsuri was a stroke of genius on the part of whomever booked this show. There aren’t a lot of acts that would fit in the middle of a Venn diagram that featured “anime fans” on one side and “people who love free shows” on the other and satisfy both. With her two dancers in blond wigs and skintight white outfits and odd assortment of videos playing behind her, not everyone is going to jump in headfirst into the Poppy experience, but for those of us who are already believers it was pretty much exactly what we’d want from her: something upbeat, but with the pronounced dark edge that most pop artists only hint at.

In a statement that I’m sure will get me plenty of responses about how I just need to get out more, I have to imagine this was one of the weirder free performances something as popular as Party on the Plaza has thrown. Poppy talks about cults and breaking people’s necks, albeit in a way that is so candy-coated it might give you sugar shock, but that kind of thing can work when you’re playing a stage that has lights that fade in and out on the ground in front of it and rainbow lights strung up behind the crowd.

The rest of the Party on the Plaza lineup for the next few weeks, including Fishbone and Trombone Shorty among others, play things a bit safer but a bit funkier too. I think the odds are not in favor of them featuring a “singer who might be playing a robot but might also be playing a brainwashed cult member but could just be really full of herself too,” but not everyone can be Poppy. And in a way, that’s a shame, because I wish the world had a few more Poppys in it.

But maybe I’ve been brainwashed too.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia