LOS ANGELES, CA- On March 4th, 2020, PVRIS announced the release date of their third studio album Use Me. Those plans, however, were postponed when Covid hit. The initial May 1st, 2020 released date was pushed back to July 10th… which was then subsequently pushed back one more time to August 28th. It may have taken a bit longer than anticipated, but it was well worth the wait.
Use Me was released to universal acclaim, with NME writing that the album “is the sound of an artist flexing her muscles, making sense of and peace with her past and, most importantly, embracing a new future” and Kerrang exclaiming that “PVRIS songs have never lacked for cutting edge sonics, but the production – courtesy of Lynn and JT Daly – on these tracks is pristine, with a space between sounds that seems to amplify the impact of each one.” I wholly agree.
Use Me is an extremely good album. Not only is the production value flawless, but its sonics enhance all of the angst and emotions that Lynn Gunn lays bare. While this album may lean a just bit closer to the pop aesthetic than PVRIS’ prior outings, this relatively new direction serves the band well. The Marshmello collaboration, “Hallucinations,” is the stuff of pop-production music-magic. Even the tracks that are stripped down to just the essentials, like the acoustic “Loveless”, resonate with a pristine clarity that makes each lyric (“I gave you tears when you wanted emotion. Said it was love, so I cried out an ocean for you that much”) that much more impactful.
Over a year delayed, on September 2, 2021, PVRIS came back to Los Angeles to perform their Los Angeles gig at The Fonda as part of the Use Me U.S. Tour.
Opening for PVRIS was the L.A.-based Royal & The Serpent (Ryan Santiago) and she brought some serious heat to the stage. You immediately knew that this was going to be a rowdy performance as Ryan Santiago, danced onto the stage wearing a cheerleader’s uniform caked in blood, with pom-poms in hand. She was accompanied by members of Beauty School Dropout as her backing band.
When doing a little research on Royal & The Serpent, I was amazed to see how much Ryan has transformed her style and aesthetic. Had you told me that it was the same Ryan who sang an acoustic cover of Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” four years ago that was going nuts singing “GO PHUCK URSELF” at the Fonda, I would have done a double-take. The evolution is quite amazing. And you know what? It works.
The dynamic electropop musings of Royal & The Serpent, coupled with the band’s exuberant stage presence, made for a fantastic appetizer for what was to come. Having released their EP searching for nirvana earlier this year, their setlist consisted mostly of cuts from that album. Their big single “overwhelmed” was met with a unanimous audience head nods and middle fingers went up in the air, at Ryan’s beckoning, en masse when they performed “phuck u”.
This being their home turf, the band pulled out all of the stops getting phem to join them onstage to perform “girls” and also performed the Beauty School Dropout single “STARPHUCKER” that Royal & The Serpent is featured on.
With Royal & The Serpent sufficiently getting the crowd’s adrenaline flowing, The Fonda crowd was excitedly anxious for Lynn and company to take the stage. As soon as the house lights dimmed, the house voices rose with whoops and hollers.
With this being the final show of this tour stint, the 19th concert in a little under a month, I’m sure that the adrenaline was also pulsing through Lynn’s veins as well, as was clearly evident when they burst onto the stage with a rousing performance of their aggressive track “Monster”.
While she may have sung “Dead Weight,” it really felt like that she was shedding all of that weight and throwing it out into the ether. Whether she was roaming the stage with mic in hand, or stoically standing center-stage playing her guitar, there was an air of confidence about her that made each song feel so much more impactful. Coupled with Lynn’s pitch-perfect vocals, the emotions from “Gimme A Minute” (“A year of lows spent so high, feeling like I’m out of time”) to “Half” (“Never wanted to be here now, One foot in the grave, other on the ground”) to “Old Wounds” (“They say don’t open old wounds, But this is still brand new, And I’ve got nothing left to lose besides you”) … given these strange times we are living in, with the past lost year… these emotions all hit a certain kinda way that I don’t think would have had the same impact had we heard these songs last year when this show was originally supposed to happen.
The highlight of the evening for me was PVRIS’ performance of “Walk Alone”. Can you remember what song got you interested in an artist? For PVRIS, you’d probably think that the song that got me interested in them was their hit single “You and I”, but it was actually their song “Walk Alone” that made me a believer. The melody of “Always knew that we were doomed” and “Always walk alone without you” in that chorus, for me, was soooo memorable. And at this show, when Lynn perfectly executed that that descending melody line, those lyrics hit me like a tidal wave.
As Lynn sang, I thought about hearing this song a few years ago and thought about how much things have changed over the past year. The nostalgia and regret of my life were coming into focus, albeit a little fuzzy, and I was literally hypnotized in thought and melody. And as she sang the outro of that song, accompanied with sparse instrumentation, her words “I always walk alone without you” resonated in my mind’s eye, and I was engulfed with a powerful set of emotions that I simply can’t explain in this post without sounding extremely sappy. Let’s just say, I’m more than grateful that Lynn played this song at this show.
For their encore, Lynn let loose a bit by taking off the blouse that she had probably sweat through during the regular set, and performed “My Way”. She graciously acknowledged the crowd afterward saying, “This is our last show of this tour and it’s been a pleasure to end it with you guys,” before launching into two final songs, “You & I”, and “Hallucination”.
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