SSION at the Larimer Lounge, 10/16/12

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SSION's Cody Critcheloe has this ability to bring out the teenage idolatry in his audience; from the clothes to the attitude, there's an energetic desire from his followers to be just like whatever incarnation of himself Critcheloe is wearing at that moment in time. He carries a True Blue-era Madonna assuredness to the stage that could be construed as snotty or distant, but it's clear from his smiles, interactions and passionate presence that the performer loves his fans too much to belittle them. It's also the reason Critcheloe's unibrowed, beauty-marked, blue-eyeshadow-wearing face graces almost every T-shirt he sells -- because in truth, when we're at a SSION show, we all just want to be Cody Critcheloe.

See also: - Slide show: SSION at Larimer Lounge - Pictureplane bidding farewell to Denver - Denver's Ten best side projects - Review: Peaches at Summit Music Hall, 10/13/12

Locals Men In Burka opened last night's show to a slow to fill-in crowd, remaining unfazed by the cold room through its short set. Working intently and masterfully, the trio filtered dark, grimy beats out from behind what felt like workstations, heads hanging low in concentration. Midway through the set, two figures appeared in actual burka, body-pumping about the stage and writhing between audience members to the slippery rhythm as video projections scattered across the costumed sheets. An excellent local choice for the show's line-up, Men In Burka provided a perfect primer for the night to come.

Next up was House of LaDosha, a duo that heads up a creative collective by the same name out of Brooklyn, New York. Clad in black spandex and a beige, metal-studded bustier of sorts, the pale and towering Cunty Crawford LaDosha threw his spidery limbs at the audience, slipping in raps while playing back-up dancer. Stage partner Dosha Devastation teetered on his heels in a belted Versace-esque print kaftan, while providing the main doses of verses and garnering the majority of the attention.

Pushing his long blond locks to the side to reveal a terminally mischievous look, Devastation played coy between songs like "Steady Dick" and "Witches of Bushwick." He was definitely the eye-catching captivator of the two, clearly calling on Lil' Kim and Trina as references, but with a darker, dirtier center. The Ladosha girls took it from the runway to the trap, firing lines like "Ground Zero ain't got shit on my gravel pit" while making references to Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.

Not long after House Of LaDosha got the well-dressed bodies moving in the still half-full venue, SSION appeared. Ever the expert pop star, leader and collective head, Cody Critcheloe strutted out in a peachy pink printed denim ensemble and rhinestone belt, a nod to early '90s Roseanne-ish, midwestern mall culture. No doubt the audience was taking notes -- Critcheloe is an American couture entity unto himself; his style is a constant evolution, a seeming reflection of his own current cultural obsessions.

Throwing his fist in the air and screaming his love for the city, Critcheloe rallied followers from just a few feet above on the tiny stage; he made it feel like an arena rock show, but without the contrived performance ego. SSION's cover of Young Marble Giants' "Credit In The Straight World" is by now as well known as another famous version (by Hole,) but live, the song was transformed. The dank room rumbled to the looming beat, Critcheloe seductively singing, pointing and batting his mascara-thickened eyes at anyone lucky enough to catch his glances.

The performer's flirtation with the room continued through "Listen To The Girls" and "LUVVBAZAAR," women clinging to his legs as he peered down from the next level he was already on. As much as Critcheloe relished in his fans' adoration, he gave it back ten-fold -- repeatedly shouting out his love and attraction to the entire audience.

Inviting the bowing bodies on stage to share in "I Just Wanna Get Blonde With U," Critcheloe shook his shoulders to the rhythm, his waves of black hair arcing around his mesmerizing face. Every movement was calculated, but without straightforward choreography; the singer channeled so many divas of the recent past -- Cher in her heyday, Freddie Mercury, Madonna -- but in his own educated homage, not a played-out regurgitation.

Throughout the evening, a rather annoying individual kept screaming "Street Jizz!" from the crowd, and by the end of it all, Critcheloe finally complied. He let the heckler on stage, but put her on the spot and requested that she sing the song he so clearly didn't feel like performing. She stumbled through some of it before he took the spotlight back. In his best bitchy queen stance, Critcheloe sang the song's chorus a capella. Then he dropped the mike and disappeared.

A master at transformation, Cody Critcheloe and his various incarnations of SSION are worth witnessing every time-- not just for the added dimension brought to his dance music through live performance, but just to see what he looks like in the moment. Critcheloe makes guys and girls swoon, and it isn't just the combination of a prissy attitude and a gorgeously angular face donning a strategically placed beauty mark on his upper right cheek. Okay, maybe it is.


Personal Bias: I've been following SSION and Cody for the better part of a decade, and I wish more of the pop music mainstream would follow in his fearless footsteps.

Random Detail: Critcheloe gave a sweet first-name shout out to Travis Egedy (aka Pictureplane), both being performers who have shared the DIY touring circuit for years.

By The Way: To the women who kept squawking at SSION to play "Street Jizz," Critcheloe deftly replied, "The thing about that song? Straight people love it." Which is true, we do.

See also: - Slide show: SSION at Larimer Lounge - Pictureplane bidding farewell to Denver - Denver's Ten best side projects - Review: Peaches at Summit Music Hall, 10/13/12

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