Perfume Genius Will Finally Play Red Rocks September 13

Perfume Genius finally has a chance to play Red Rocks.
Perfume Genius finally has a chance to play Red Rocks. Camille Vivier
The first time that Perfume Genius was slated to play Red Rocks, opening for The XX, the show was snowed out and moved to the less epic 1STBANK Center. Nonetheless, Michael Hadreas wowed the crowd with his very queer, very moody performance.

On Monday, September 13, Hadreas will finally bring Perfume Genius to Red Rocks, alongside Death Cab for Cutie. "I've never been," he says of the venue. "I've never been as an audience member. I've never played a show there. So I'm really excited. I've heard so many wonderful things about it."

It should be a big night for a performer who's finally back on the road after all the pandemic shutdowns, which he capped off with what he describes as a "deathbed" take on the Gloria Gaynor classic "I Will Survive."

"It's just one of those songs," he says. "It's a permanent fixture. It's on the radio. It's in movies. It's just it was really interesting to try to cover a song that exists so fully and exactly as it is all together."

It's a song as upbeat and defiant as they come. But when Hadreas sings it, he pumps up the melancholy. "I guess I'm a pro at taking things and reducing it and then making it, I guess, what people consider sad," he admits.

I Will Survive from Michael A Hadreas on Vimeo.

And that's the right tack right now: The era in which he recorded the song is one of mass tragedy, with a pandemic forcing millions into lockdown and killing hundreds of thousands in the United States alone.

While some artists thrived in the chaos and isolation, Hadreas says he was gutted by it. Just before the pandemic hit, he had planned to shake himself out of a prolonged period of isolation and get out of his head, get out of his house, and surround himself with people. He had just released the record Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, which is all about people and bodies. And now he had to be talking about that, pushing an album about connection, even as he was at home with the lights off.

"That was what I was going to try to nourish," he says. "But then the pandemic happened, and, you know, that's illegal now. So it was really hard for me to stay in a hopeful place.

"I didn't enjoy lockdown," he adds. "I wasn't very creative or anything. I was just kind of freaked out and upset, honestly. And so I was feeling pretty serious and pretty dramatic about it, I guess. And I think this definitely influenced how the cover came to be."

He approached "I Will Survive" with gravity.  "I'm always very serious about making music, but there are little portals to lighter things in the songs sometimes, and there really isn't one in that cover," he explains.

While little about Perfume Genius's music could be described as chipper, it's all 100 percent from the heart. Hadreas sticks to his vision, and the only times he's had big creative regrets were when he strayed from it.

While that vision will be on full display at Red Rocks, Hadreas is continuing to push himself creatively, publishing short fiction on a Substack newsletter and connecting with friends who are ready to re-emerge.

"I was feeling very cult energy, everybody on a ranch, co-op, commune energy before the pandemic," he explains. "And it was kind of in a very serious way, where some of my friends were a little worried. They were like, 'I think he's really going to try to do something like that.'"

"But now those friends are into it because they've been alone for like two years," he continues. "Everybody wants to be on the ranch. And I do like that. So that is hopeful to me, because everybody wants to do mushrooms and ride around on each other in the desert, and that's what I've wanted to do all along."

Perfume Genius opens for Death Cab for Cutie at 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 13, at Red Rocks. For more information, visit Red Rocks online.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris