Two years ago, Ashnikko announced a trio of shows at London’s Omeara in support of their ‘Hi, It’s Me’ EP. Over those three nights, they were set to play to just under 1,000 people before the global pandemic put a stop to those plans. Tonight, one mixtape and a handful of singles later, Ashnikko finally gets to play a headline show in her adopted hometown of London.
Instead of the intimate confines of Omeara though, Ashnikko takes to the stage of The Forum, Kentish Town for the second of two sold-out shows at the venue. Yes, a lot has changed for the snarling art-pop star since she broke through via TikTok smash ‘Stupid’ and a Miley Cyrus co-sign but she hasn’t made herself smaller to appeal to the masses. Tonight’s show is a glorious showcase of the wicked, weird and wonderful world they’ve created.
After her DJ Krystal Lake airs collaborative Lady Gaga remix ‘Plastic Doll’, Ashnikko takes to the stage and launches straight into the hammering club euphoria of ‘Tantrum’. The brash hip-hop swagger of ‘Stupid’ quickly follows before Ashnikko cut the music. “I know you got more energy in you. I know you know the song,” she tells the crowd before launching into her signature laugh. “Let’s do it together.”
A pair of smirking self-empowerment anthems (‘Deal With It’, which reworks Kelis’ iconic 1999 track ‘Caught Out There’, and ‘L8r Boi’, an updated version of the Avril Lavigne classic) take angsty nostalgia and repurpose it for 2021. The glitching swagger of ‘Toxic’ starts by hexing “every man who’s made me feel smaller, or made me compromise something that’s important to me – my art, my dignity” while the warped pop of ‘Invitation’ begins with a powerful speech. “My body, your body, are not invitations for abuse. I’ve got big titties and I’m still not asking for it.”
Elsewhere in the set, she champions sexual liberation with the nursery-rhyme funk of ‘Drunk With My Friends’ and the gleeful ‘Slumber Party’ before getting vulnerable via the stripped-back ballad of ‘Panic Attacks In Paradise’. Introducing the poignant number, she encourages the crowd to take part in a self-love exercise (“Put your hand on your noggin and give yourself a hand hug. Tell yourself you’re doing the best that you can do because sometimes, that’s the best that you can do) and explains how she uses self-deprecating humour as a coping mechanism, “but I’m trying to be nicer to myself”.
There’s no time to dwell on that right now, though, as Ashnikko kicks into the thunderous nu-metal catharsis of ‘Cry’ and celebrates Halloween with her most recent annual holiday number, ‘Halloween IV: Innards’. “Christmas time to me has always been Halloween’s little sister,” they explain, flanked by giant tentacles. In fact, the closest we do get to a Xmas number is a story about the yuletide flavoured lubricant that inspired the line “that dick tastes like Yankee Candle” from closing rage-a-thon ‘Manners’.
A swift one-two encore of ‘Maggots’ and ‘Daisy’ – both huge pop bangers with plenty of attitude – ends a gig that’s both emotional and energetic.
Two years ago, Ashnikko struggled to find a way to blend her sense of humour with her desire to speak about gender equality and self-expression. Tonight is proof that she doesn’t need to pick a side, a genre or a style. One of the most daring pop stars around, tonight’s set shows that the bolder, the better.