Seeing electroclash pioneer Peaches perform live is an experience you won't soon forget.
You can't help to be in awe watching the Canadian musician bounce around with endless energy — even at 55. Bodies thrash as she spouts out hilariously vulgar lyrics backed by the infectiously simple beats programmed into her Roland MC-505 groovebox.
Considering her stage presence, it shouldn't be all that surprising that she has a background in theater.
"I didn't know you could be a musician, so I gravitated to theater. That's what I went to university for," she tells New Times over Zoom, framed by the South Californian mountains behind her. "When I was 18, I learned how to play acoustic guitar."
Soon after learning to play guitar, she found herself in a folk band called Mermaid Cafe — named after a Joni Mitchell song — with her then-girlfriend in the early '90s.
"After a year, I realized I didn't want to be in a folk band," she says. "I joined another band, but we didn't connect to an audience."
Perhaps it was for the best, because had that not happened, Merrill Nisker would have never taken on her greatest role to date: Peaches.
"One day, I was jamming and we smoked a joint, and we said, 'Let's all switch instruments,'" she explains. "It was the first time I played the synthesizer or the drums. We said, 'Let's call ourselves the Shit, and I'll call myself Peaches.'"
The Shit — of which fellow Canadian Chilly Gonzales was also a member — eventually broke up, but Peaches stuck around. Then, one day, she walked into a music shop and spotted that Roland groovebox.
"I could do everything with it," she remembers.
Despite her time with the Shit being over, she kept the raunchy attitude she developed in the band as she delved into writing the songs that would comprise her 2002 album, The Teaches of Peaches.
"I wanted to continue my not-give-a-fuck attitude with the Shit. I wanted to make music that I wanted to hear that wasn't overproduced. I wanted music not from a male gaze," Peaches says. "You didn't hear queer nonbinary voices. I wanted to push that home in a fun way. I wanted to take that attitude from riot grrrl but not as a punk band, but using electronics."
Twenty years later, The Teaches of Peaches still holds up.
The album does the rare double duty of making you laugh and dance. Before The Teaches of Peaches, there had been plenty of artists who mixed crass schoolyard humor with body-rocking beats (think: the Beastie Boys, Eminem, and 2 Live Crew), but to hear a woman chanting out lyrics like, "Suckin' on my titties like you wanted me/ Calling me, all the time like Blondie" or "Come diddle my skittle/ 'cause there's only one peach/ With the hole in the middle" added a different dimension. She had all the bravado and then some and wasn't asking for permission to be as nasty as she wanna be.
Over the next 20 years, she humorously pushed boundaries with a mixture of intelligent satire and dumb vulgarities. She got a bit political with album and song titles, calling her 2006 album Impeach My Bush toward the end of the George W. Bush presidency. When the pandemic was in full swing, she released the 2021 single "Pussy Mask" with the lyrics "My pussy wear a mask/My pussy don't play/My pussy wear a mask/Take cover from the spray."
To celebrate the album's 20th anniversary, Peaches hit the road in May to perform The Teaches of Peaches front to back. The tour makes its final stop at the Ground on Tuesday, August 30. "We'll play other songs too. It's a full two-hour show," she notes, but the focus will be the first Peaches record.
Performing live songs like "Rock Show" and "Cum Undun" took a little more work than Peaches initially anticipated.
"I didn't have the songs in the Roland anymore," she notes. "I had to reprogram all the songs. It reminded me how much more powerful songs can be with a minimal instrument. You can only make eight rhythm sounds with it."
But just as important as the Roland is at a Peaches show, so is the performer herself. Bold and charismatic, she instantly captures a crowd's attention — not just from the shock of hearing her scream refrains like "Fuck the Pain Away" or "Shake Yer Dix."
Unlike her mild-mannered demeanor during her interview with New Times, Peaches is a hurricane of vulgarities on the stage.
But she explained it's not a complete transformation when she steps on stage.
"It's a trajectory," Peaches says. "When you're onstage, it's not like talking to one person; you're talking to a hundred or a thousand people. And it's like they say for movies, maybe not Ingmar Bergman movies, but fun movies you have to take the boring parts out."
Peaches.7 p.m. Tuesday, August 30, at the Ground, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; thegroundmiami.com. Tickets cost $52 to $233 via dice.fm.
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