The Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco
May 7, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner (IG – raymond_ahner)
Detroit-based dark synth juggernaut ADULT. played a nearly sold out show at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop on May 7th to a crowd eager to bask in the dark delights that the two-piece band were sure to unleash upon the audience. Comprised of spouses Nicola Kuperus (vocals) and Adam Lee Miller (instrumentation), ADULT. have been mainstays in the electro-industrial scene ever since releasing their first few singles in the late 1990s and then their debut album, Anxiety Always, in 2003.
The band have released two albums since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020’s Perception Is/as/of Deception, and this year’s Becoming Undone, and the two opened the show with the song “Second Nature” from the former, after finally taking the stage just after 11pm. The venue by this point was full of smoke from the onstage smoke machines, Adam taking the stage first to play live electronic percussion in time with the backing tracks, arpeggiated synthesizer lines blaring through the PA as finally the figure of Nicola emerged against a backdrop of flashing yellow, orange, and red lights. It was the perfect start to the show.
ADULT. live is a sight to behold. Yes, Adam spends the majority of the set behind an electronic drum kit and occasionally playing a live synthesizer part, but Nicola completely takes ownership of the stage. She can change the mood from relaxed to sinister by a single scream, her body language landing somewhere between a relaxed prowl and a hunter looking for prey. The fact that she sometimes sings into two microphones drives home how important her vocals and lyrics are to the songs that are being played.
Toward the end of their set, Nicola told the audience repeatedly how privileged the band felt to be able to play this show, the audience erupting into applause and cheers, before ADULT. launched into one of my favorite songs from their most recent album, “I Am Nothing,” the song falling apart at the end, leaving Nicola onstage screaming out the lines, “I am nothing! Here is nothing! I am nothing! I am nothing!” repeatedly into the audience. The show could have ended then and there and it would have been a monumental way to end it. But no, the band still had a few more songs up their sleeves for the encore.
Instead of relying solely on songs from their recent releases, the band played an encore that drew from the rest of their entire career, closing with “Hand To Phone,” a song from one of their earliest EPs. This was performed right after a stunning cover of “122 Hours Of Fear,” originally by the criminally underrated Los Angeles synth punk band The Screamers, the succession of their shared intensity being one of the high points of the entire set.
The first opener was Spike Hellis, and after a couple of technical difficulties, the band really came into their element by the second song of the set. The Los Angeles duo, comprised of Cortland Gibson and Elaine Chang, make music that falls more in line with classical EBM, Cortland spending most of the set playing synth and singing, while Elaine spent the majority of their time onstage standing on a makeshift elevated platform that housed various electronics on top of it. The set was hard-hitting and the perfect start to the night. The band just released their first album this year, and I can not recommend it enough.
Second opener Kontravoid brought things to a manic height, his songs having an intensity to them that blew me away. The solo project of Toronto, Canada’s Cameron Findlay, his set was performed entirely in the dark, only illuminated by flashing white strobelights that pierced through the black and accentuated the power of his music (believe me when I say that nearly every snare hit sounded like lightning strikes). Partway through his set he donned a blank white face mask, which just added an element of unease and uncertainty to the rest of his performance. I would not miss him next time he comes through.