The Wax Conspiracy

Melanie Martinez: The Trilogy Tour

Dust kicks up and elbows out the crowd, themselves elbow deep on and off the sidewalk. Or at least, the sideview mirrors of the passing cars try and try not to swerve around the people milling about waiting endlessly to drop from the heat.

On the east, outside of the arena, there is no room to stand that isn’t a queue. For those in the sweltering, it’s a chance to drop a few kilos in sweat. No shade, but plenty of dust with traffic at a constant honk and pace down the street. “Are you in the line for merch?” or “Is this the end of the line?” said and heard over and again with hawkers trying to alleviate that pressure by selling their knock-off Melanie Martinez tour T-shirts. The merch truck is only a few metres away, but the lines snake upon themselves five or more times.

Twenty minutes pass walking and winding around the plaza as the heat continues to suppress. A roadie exits a side door. At least, it’s someone with a crew badge. They answer that there are merch booths inside the arena, six of them. Then why are we still lining up outside? More lines await entry. The shortest queues are for those without bags. The shortest one still is for those who think the line is only for those with some handicap or disability.

One gate attendant has a map of merch booths. Three around the floor. There’s a slight relief between the gate before we’re back into the sea of knee-high socks and babydoll costumes. Past the first booth and onto the next where the line wraps around poles, a balcony and along a food stand. At one point it’s two, then three, then half a line. The chaos feeds upon itself with the western entrance funnelling more people, cutting through the line. There is no sense to any of this. Off to another concourse on another floor. The three other booths are on this level. At least in terms of queues this is where sanity and the opening act starts to settle in.

Sofia Isella is half way through the experience, running across the stage guided by echoes. An ethereal warble reverberates as the seats lean in from the rafters. It’s high up and the seats are narrow. Darkness melds with the feeling of your innards seeping out from an incantation down in the belly of the stadium. An expulsion then fades out into the cascade of the artist change.

Beach Bunny rings familiar. It’s that essence of a soundtrack to a coming of age 90s movie at the end of the second act. That laid back slacker rock that heads toward the alternative. As much as they can, over the moss and greenery eating the stage, they bop with a bounce as the lyrics recite some drugs to ease away the notion of keeping up with expectations. Songs fuzz in, gearing into hooks that disappear as soon as they resemble a hint of a memory and mumble of that tune you heard one time. Even if you’ve never seen them before.

Random pulses of screams wave through the crowd. Down below in the levels where the noses aren’t bleeding, flashes of light deceive many into thinking it’s anything in the nothing. And then the lights dim before Melanie Martinez rises up from beneath the stage.

Chained to a safety pole atop building blocks, the energy from the crowd feeds Martinez, but never quite off the platform. We’re in the pupa of the Cry Baby persona with Cry Baby and that involves a detached projection. Something of a safety net between the stage apron and the warm embrace of the nursery that comforts the upstage.

Melanie Martinez riding merry-go-round during K-12 set
Li'l Sebastian must be in the carousel

As the sounds merge into the era of K-12, Martinez escapes from the back wall and plays with the stage proper. A carousel, a see-saw and the playground wheel in as the voice graduates into leaving excess behind. An assertive tone hems the edges as it presents this superficial compliance as it undermines you, plotting an escape. There’s a menace as the players strut the stage. Large candy heart props never seem to pause too long. You can read the abrasive messages if they hold still, but do they really want you to?

Costumed bunnies and babydolls move between the concepts, leisurely stringing out the space between sets. It is a hard break visually between the first two albums and the last.

When a four-eyed creature apparates in front of a looming mushroom, “RIP Cry Baby” carved on the stem, the end of the night swings into the Portals era. Whatever Cry Baby was in a previous life, it’s all gone with only a hint of that rock. Now we skew into the sounds of auras. Of thrashing about in the darkness as limbs flail blindly tearing off the walls. A darker adventure. It’s certainly darker in a void as more of the fog machine works with the laser show. Each pass-through scanning faces and imprinting memories of when it used to be daylight and angst.

Melanie Martinez sitting on giant slug during Portals set
Yes, that is a giant slug

The Trilogy Tour is two-thirds of birthing into this concept that Portals inhabits. There is a progression from the angst and things set aflame to contorting and controlling the fire now consuming the mind. Wanting to tear open, to peek behind the cosmos and fracture reality.

After a long drive nestled between ear plugs to cut down on the high-pitched screams from the teenagers behind it is comforting to forage in this black seed of an atmosphere that waking up a few times is not at all disorientating. And then it is and it’s still got a few more left in the show.

Melanie Martinez with Palestinian flag with confettie
Free Palestine and bunch of butterfly confetti

At night’s end a call to “Free Palestine!” that picks up only half or less of the crowd in echo. And done, like that, with no need for an encore as the stadium is spewed in butterfly confetti.

From the seats of Section 209 on 13 June 2024 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio

Ethan Switch

Reviewed on Monday, 8 July 2024

The Wax Conspiracy



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