XXX-cellent band alert.
XXX-cellent band alert. COURTESY OF PINK LOTION

After nearly 1.5 years of enforced abstinence from live music, American show-goers are, you might say, thirsty for the joy of experiencing amplified bands making sounds on public stages. Live-stream fatigue is real, people. So a strong sense of gratitude among the ~75-percent capacity crowd permeated the Clock-Out Lounge last Friday night for the return of L.A.-via-Seattle underground-music luminaries Rachael Ferguson and Stranger Genius-award winner Erik Blood, aka Pink Lotion.

That appreciativeness spread to openers Skates! and the National Honor Society, as well. It was like an unvoiced collective shout of “We're back in our happy place! Can you fucking believe it?!” While I too was glad to return to the trenches, I was also leerily peering at attendees and trying to guess which vaxxed but not necessarily masked motherfuckers were harboring the Delta variant. My Sub Pop face covering did not drop all night, though, except for sips of my drink. This is no time for gambling.

Anyway, to the music. Seattle trio Skates! earn their exclamation mark by playing ebullient rock that's loaded with anthemic buildups and hooks tighter than Jeff Bezos's purse strings. They're some people's ideal way to kick-start your weekend, their easily digestible, punkish pop instantly filling you with surplus energy. It was not at all surprising to hear Skates! finish their set with a cover of Billy Idol's “Dancing With Myself,” which inspired some in the Clock-Out to do just that.

The lads in local quartet the National Honor Society look like the type you can take home to mother—especially if she digs poised, Anglophiliac rock indebted to sensitive groups such as the Smiths, the Sound, and Adorable. NHS's elegant, artisanal melodies politely knock on your ears, take off their hats, and ask if they can enter your head. Who said rock bands aren't courtly anymore?

Nothing these openers did could prepare the audience for what Pink Lotion were going to lay on us. Further, anyone familiar with Blood's work with hip-hop innovators Shabazz Palaces and the avant-funkateers Knife Knights and Ferguson's stint in raucous rockers NighTraiN might be taken aback by the over-the-top camp and lurid R&B of Pink Lotion. They're not fucking around about making music to fuck to. So that's why there was a bowl of condoms near the front door...

Cristi Russo

Initially it was disappointing that Pink Lotion didn't have a backing band, instead singing to pre-recorded tracks on a laptop. But that feeling soon dissipated, because one, they looked like the most outlandish people at the orgy, and two, the songs tingled limbs, loins, and hearts with quickness and diligence. The bulk of the set consisted of songs from their 2019 album, LUSTERS, though Blood told me they're “trying to finish up a new EP or possibly a full-length,” but no release date's been set. An early highlight was “Existential Deepthroat,” on which Ferguson's George Clinton-esque wordplay reached a climax of absurdism and lubriciousness amid bulbous bass blurts and squelchy, Bernie Worrell-like synth ejaculations. Sounded like the feel-good hit of all four seasons.

The slow-motion, bass-heavy boogie of “Slick Inside” was very demanding about what we did with our butts and made Prince seem a tad prudish. The third track of the set suavely chugged in a manner reminiscent of cult pervert producer Tonetta, with a bass line that pulled up to the bumper and eased on in. The buoyant funk of “Moisturebate” provided instant elevation, renovating “Erotic City” for 21st-century horndogs. The punchy and woozy “Activated” captured the vibes of Sly & The Family Stone's “(You Caught Me) Smilin'” and Parliament's “Placebo Syndrome”—which are very good vibes, indeed. Pink Lotion closed with a new song, “Peppermint & Pink,” that was pure melting euphoria. Then Blood and Ferguson hugged. Live music is back—for now—and in Pink Lotion's lusty hands, it's foreplay.