Ssion Live In San Francisco
By Rakesh Satyal
After a short hiatus that saw lead singer and culti-hyphenate Cody Critcheloe moving from his native Kansas City to Brooklyn, SSION played a mini-fireball of a set Friday night at San Francisco's DNA Lounge. Critcheloe, ever prone to sartorial flights of fancy, didn't disappoint: his Krysten-Ritter-beds-Charlie-Chaplin looks presided over a get-up that would have been right at home on a Kimmy Gibler-inspired Teen Beat cover or a retread of the ‘90s carton gem Goof Troop, with oversize red shorts, ball cap, and sneakers all in rightful place on his person. He was joined by the gorgeous Alexis Penney, whose shift dress, high heels, and tousled hair conjured Annie Lennox playing the coquette; Blue Man Group co-founder Ian Pai, clad in a zany black and white jumpsuit, on the drums; and, on bass, dreamboat Michael Cheever, whose oversized “Leave the Boy Alone” T-shirt surely failed to induce neglect. The set was swift but pointed, with the highlight being new single “My Love Grows in the Dark”; it gave rise to the sort of sing-along that makes you wish you could add the song to your nearest karaoke bar’s lineup.
Critcheloe has fashioned for himself a spitfire life as a director, steering videos for such cohorts as Santigold, Peaches, and Gossip—his artwork famously graces the cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ lynchpin album Fever to Tell—and the videos deployed during the set complemented but never detracting from the antics onstage (indeed, speaking of karaoke, SSION’s show is like one awesome, over-the-top karaoke video). When not crowd-surfing—which he did twice to buoyant, if brief, success—Critcheloe continually urged the crowd to get closer and closer; his almost-mythic flair may have acted initially as a barrier, but soon enough, given his charmed pleas and gestures, the crowd pushed forward, arms raised. When the set came to a close, Critcheloe had done his job: the crowd could well have climbed onstage in demand of an encore.
DNA Lounge’s Blow Off night has become a kind of San Francisco staple (DJ Jeffrey Paradise plays no small part in this), and SSION was every bit its match. The show was the natural next step for mosh-friendly kids and people who used to be them —or not: while wigs appeared throughout the crowd like special guests, one trio of prepped-out cads bumped shoulders with an impromptu break dancing crowd. Onstage before and after SSION’s set, a burlesque gaggle—part Village People, part Kit Kat Klub—wore, or didn’t wear, wings and tights and garters and tattoos, bumping and grinding and, to wit, glowing and growing in equal part. Do yourself a favor and see SSION when you have the chance: the love-in is transferable.