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Tickle Torture at 7th St. Entry, 9/6/14 (NSFW)

Elliot Kozel of Tickle Torture

Elliot Kozel of Tickle Torture

Tickle Torture
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tickle Torture is more than just a musical act. It is a force of sexual nature that managed to sell out the Entry this past Saturday, turning it into a frenzy of sweaty bodies covered in golden foil confetti dancing wildly to the electro beats of the man of the evening, Elliot Kozel. Stripping down teasingly to a sequin-encrusted thong with an LED light tucked in it, Kozel got down to some serious dirty business with a couple of mostly naked golden ladies and several bottles of champagne, proving to all of us that he is far more than just an artist; he's a true performer.

See also:
The soulful, sexual release of Tickle Torture

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Ryan Olcott opened with his solo project, C. Kostra, filling the entry with warped guitar and an intriguing sound he refers to as "vocodercore." A line of people arriving wrapped around the outside of First Avenue as Kozel posed before the star mural with his two dancers. He was adorned in a gold and black sequined and bejeweled mask covering the bottom of his face, and all of their bodies were painted solid with gold. They looked like three aliens, and the passersby filtering out from the Jayhawks show stopped and stared in awe and occasional terror.

With the room reaching capacity, Hunter Morley and Jeremy Nutzman's Pony Bwoy took the stage. Morley's long hair fanned out around his face as he moved with his entire body to manipulate his machinery, often letting out such resounding basslines that our rib cages rattled along with the song. The Bwoys tackled a mixture of songs from their recent self-titled full-length and new unreleased tracks. Nutzman seemed more at ease on stage than at previous performances, taking on an almost menacing demeanor as he leaned over fans at the front, looking directly into eyes all around the room. Together, Nutzman and Morley bring enough energy into their performance to negate the need for any kind of backing band. They are both mesmerizing in their own right -- Nutzman with his spastic dance moves and instigative stage banter, and Morley with his enthusiastic head-banging.

They chose not to play "AEvum," perhaps their most recognizable song. The experimental nature of Morley's songwriting renders each piece entirely independent of previous work, and their live performances show where the duo are at as a songwriting team. They relied more heavily on Nutzman's singing rather than his rapping as Spyder Baybie, which was a welcome revelation, as his singing voice, occasionally manipulated electronically, dissolves perfectly between Morley's layers of bass and psychedelic, ambient sound.

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By now it had become a sold-out concert, and it was difficult to move through the thick crowd. There were several notable items at the merch tables -- Kozel was peddling a plastic container of Tickle Torture "Swedish Massage Oil," and Pony Bwoy was selling a T-shirt depicting a white and an African American Beavis and Butt-Head making out underneath the band's logo. The air was abuzz with anticipation and insufferable lines were forming at the bar. Kozel's backing band had begun setting up onstage, and audience members were getting restless.

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When the set finally began, fog pumped over the room, shrouding us in a cloud of synthetic smoke. Kozel strutted out in his mask, a bulge showing through the front of his skin-tight leather pants. Strobe lights illuminated the hands reaching forth from the audience as Kozel leaned his masked face into the microphone, lights reflecting off of its jeweled face. Tickle Torture got things started with "Together Again," then invited Lizzo and Caroline Smith to the stage for "Fuck Me With the Lights On," a tantalizing, pleading tune that really started to get things sexually charged. Lizzo and Smith gyrated at their microphones at either side of Kozel, singing the chorus which asked plainly, "Fuck me with the lights on." Occasionally, Kozel would shoot a canister of gold foil confetti over the crowd, and as people began to sweat, the glitter began to stick, creating somewhat of a synthetic disco ball effect. He brought another guest, Ashley DuBose, onstage to sing "Ready for Love."

Kozel has described his sound as Justin Timberlake and Prince making out in a dumpster full of broken synthesizers -- which is actually pretty accurate, if you add a little disco and some serious bass. Relying heavily on reverb, Kozel uses his voice to its full capacity, utilizing his falsetto at every opportunity, much like Prince. With all of the sexual energy on stage, of course it was difficult not to think of the Purple One. Being at the Tickle Torture show was a friendly reminder that there is an incredible difference between being simply a musician and being a performer. Rather than just singing his songs, Kozel actually lives them out on stage with us. He is captivating and engaging, his energy contagious. Also adding to the effectiveness was the obvious talent of his backing band, who handled the instrumentation with finesse and looked like they were having just as much fun up there with Kozel -- hard to imagine, especially considering what came next.

The two golden ladies strutted onstage, each clutching a bottle of champagne, as Kozel went into "Would I Love You," a single from Spectrophilia. By this point he had removed most of his clothes, and was wearing a lacy bodysuit that dipped dangerously low at his waistline. The women were wearing just underwear, and one went on to remove her bra, dancing topless under the strobe lights. They too continued to shoot canisters of confetti and glitter over the audience, as they poured champagne over themselves, most likely spilling more than they were actually drinking. Kozel feigned indifference, then allowed the women to grind up on him one by one.

Finally, Kozel had removed all of his clothing save for a sequined thong with an LED light tucked inside. People were screaming so loud that there was an actual roar that could be heard over the music, which was close to deafening itself. Everyone was covered with gold glitter, their hair, their faces -- tiny beams of light were reflecting everywhere. After disappearing for a short moment, Kozel walked back out with a massive golden headdress resembling the tail of a peacock, and stood towering above the crowd like some kind of ancient religious icon or terrifying cult leader.

Indeed, it had begun to feel like we were being inducted into some kind of cult. Kozel filled a massive golden chalice with PBR, passing it into the audience after taking several large gulps. He continued to perform while wearing the gigantic mask, which cast a shadow each time it was lit up by the strobes. It was a frantic dance party, limbs flying in all directions and the dance floor constantly swelling with the crowd's movements.

Tickle Torture ended with "She's in My Blood," as Kozel removed the mask and dove into the crowd. Hands lifted him high in the air and he reached up, grabbing onto the ceiling rafters. He tucked his legs under the rafters and hung upside down from the ceiling, the LED light shining out of his thong, hands reaching up to slap his ass and caress his legs as he sang the final lines of the song. It was enthralling, and more punk rock than most things we've seen happen lately in the Entry. Sadly, Kozel chose not to remove the thong, in apparent contradiction to most of his previous performances and the Tickle Torture standard of flashing his penis that we had actually come to expect. Maybe he was making a point that he doesn't even have to show his penis to give people enough pent up sexual frustration to use Tinder during his set -- which one girl in front of us was actually doing.

When the set was over, people stood around expectantly, hoping for an encore. Though the lights stayed down for a long while, they eventually went up without anyone returning to the stage, leaving everyone free to grab somebody in hopes of relieving some of the energy we'd all been infected with.

The crowd: Ready to party and apparently ready to Tinder.

Critic's Bias: I got to sit down with Kozel and talk about Tickle Torture for this week's print issue of CP, and I felt like this had prepared me a bit for what I saw tonight. I'm a sucker for shiny things and bright lights, and this performance had all of my senses lit up. I had an amazing time, and have a really good feeling about Tickle Torture's future.

Random notebook dump: Everyone walking by is looking at us like we're a bunch of aliens standing outside of First Avenue.

Set Lists:

Pony Bwoy
Ether/Or
Hallowed Ground
My Mouth Is a Tomb
Pony Bwoy
Ipanema/Evil
Murmur

Tickle Torture
Together Again
Fuck Me With the Lights On
Lovesickness
Would I Love You
Maybe I Need to Go Home
Ready for Love
Forgotten
Like Woah
She's in My Blood

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