Concert Reviews

Pharmakon at S.H.I.B.G.B.’s

Photographs by Fernando Paiz. 

Underneath a mechanic’s garage from the mid evening to the earliest parts of the morning the day after, there was a party in a dingy room with a single couch, a table, and a stage made out of old skids. There were cotton “clouds” hanging from the ceiling. It all looked like a post punk music video, and the show felt a bit surreal. With openers Pelada and Gaucho, the night was a bit varied in sound but everything was unified by the want to relive the days where the underground thrived. The merchandise table was left unattended at times as there was a level of trust present with the fans there. With some rowdier members in the crowd, there was a sense of danger throughout the night, but almost everyone else was pleasant. We had metal heads, punks, hoodie donning indie kids, goths, and every kind of visible music fan under the sun here. So many people were attracted to this dim room to see Margaret Chardiet

Chardiet was like Waldo; She was hidden amongst the darkly clothed fans for most of the night. She wore all black and had fancy earrings. Her hair was well kept and her make up was some with finesse. If anything, she was one of the better dressed people today (certainly better dressed than I was). We all knew who she was: She was the main event, Pharmakon, herself. How nice she was, though. She strolled around the room and talked to members of the audience. She had a word with us at the very front before her set, too. “My good friends”, she started her request off with. She warned us nicely that we would have to move back to allot for enough space for her, as she was to perform with us on the ground and not on the stage. That very stage cracked underneath her as a corner of one of the skids broke, and she slipped. She recollected herself smoothly and smiled it off. If there was ever a clear distinction between an artist and her art, this was one of the more blaring examples I have ever witnessed.

This is because she was already transforming into Pharmakon while she was continuing to set up. She ripped duct tape with her teeth, tossed bad tape pieces off back onto the stage and slapped pedals to see if they worked. She was still herself at times, like when she playfully nudged audience members to the side to give her more space (smiles and all). Towards her set, with what may have been either a case of something not working or a musician wanting everything to be pitch perfect, Pharmakon started to seem more aggressive with trying to get her equipment up and running. Everything was finally set at around one in the morning, and with the backing beat to Intent or Instinct playing (a track off of last year’s terrific Bestial Burden, which was featured on my Best of 2014 list), she was ready to go. She started her set by doing her usual testing exercises, and then suddenly manically laughing. She recorded this laugh, looped it, and used it as a means to ease into her set. 

Pharmakon had a metal plate with microphones or pick ups set up inside of it, and this was used often throughout the night. She hit this plate like a percussive instrument with both strum sticks and her hands (as she viciously punched it). She scratched it to add more feedback than there already was, and she even screamed into it for long periods of time. She was restless in place as she screamed, as she ran into crowd members, collapsed onto them and even lay on the floor as she belted her anguish. One of my favorite moments of the night was when she laughed creepily (again) on the ground and then hit one of her pedals to record that laugh as well. It was as if a switch within Pharmakon’s brain was triggered, and she shifted roles instantly. She also started her own mosh pits within the room, and it got insanely violent quickly. WIth her apocalyptic music, full of dread, playing, people were being pushed so hard that they were actually falling over her equipment (I’m almost certain her Korg was destined to be broken if people didn’t start trying to push back to avoid falling again). 

Pharmakon played three songs only: Intent or Instinct, Body Betrays Itself and Auto Immune (all off of Bestial Burden). This album was recorded after Chardiet had a close brush with death as she was hospitalized for weeks because of a cyst that caused her internal organs to nearly cease functioning. She was aggressive on her first release Abandon, but with Bestial Burden, she was angrier than ever with the ways the human body works. Her set was extremely short and over before we blinked. She interacted with other beings of the same species, whose flesh vessels could react the way hers did at any second. She showed her appreciation for all of her successes thus far as herself (Margaret Chardiet) and her disdain for the possibility that it could all end so soon (as Pharmakon). In such a space, at such speed and with such a performer, I don’t think I will experience a more rock n’ roll show this year even if I tried (and the year has barely even started).

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.