As I headed to the back of a very long line in front of the First Unitarian Church this Monday night to see the XX
, two things surprised me:
1) The hipster parade was thinner than I'd imagined. Sure, there were scruffed-out Devendra Banharts
walking around and flannelled, vested hippie chicks, but for the most part the crowd varied in shape, color, and style.
2) The desperation: This show was sold out, and there were kids who wanted these tickets bad.
"My friend just sold his tickets for 100 bucks
," claimed a Pavement
-tee-d kid behind me.
We filed into the Church from the misty skies and headed to the Sanctuary. The pews were already packed to the gills. My quick-thinking boyfriend grabbed a bench out from underneath what seemed to be a foosball table and set it in front of the first row of pews. Best seats in the house.
opened the show. He's a scrawny computer manipulator who, frankly, surprised the hell out of me. He was like a surgeon precisely caring for the body of his machine, but not afraid to get his hands dirty. I couldn't help but watch Thing's hands; his slight ones rarely left his instrument. He caressed it and groped it, fingering every crevice
to bring about every sound imaginable. The result of this electronic lovemaking was a melodic soundscape that reverberated beautifully throughout the Sanctuary's walls. His sound is reminiscent of Pretty Lights
, whose recent rise in popularity has brought this type of mellow, often instrumentally-inspired electronic music into the spotlight. Despite his stupid name
, Nosaj Thing was captivating, filled with passion and capable of great things.
As the lights came back up post-Nosaj, I was smack dab in the middle of a fire chief's worst nightmare
. People crammed themselves up and down the aisles, knees hugged to their chests. But an obstacle stood in the way of the hungry crowd: The Swedish duo jj
. At first, I was a bit mystified by the bizarre band. Lead singer Elin Kastlander
took the stage with barely a whispered "hello," and launched into some Norah Jones
-esque vocals. She was like Courtney Love
and Mama Cass
and Stevie Nicks
with tons of gold, glittery makeup. But the initial fascination faded quickly
. Kastlander's vocals while pretty didn't hold up against the prerecorded bold, kinda-African eletropop that played in the background. Fellow bandmate Joakim Benon
occasionally came on stage and strummed an acoustic guitar. While apparently the mastermind behind jj's "background music to life
" sound, his unexplained presence was confusing and distracting.
The XX didn't make their fans wait very long after jj left the stage. As silvery lights highlighted the band, the epic bass line of "Intro
" began building up into the Church's reverent air. They opened with "Crystallized
," the first single from their highly-lauded debut album. The tension in the crowd was thick
, almost heavy, as we waited for Romy Madley Croft'
s sultry vocals to inject sexiness into the song. She didn't disappoint. Croft was shyer than I'd imagined, and possessed an androgyny that did not match her angelic voice
. She and bassist Oliver Sim
traded off vocals as they went through the tracklist of their epynonemous album.
We were all lovers that night, as we claimed that we "never have to leave" through "Islands
" chorus. Our body heat rose
when Croft and Sim delivered us the "Shelter
" that they promised in their song. Despite the awe-inspiring performance
, I wish the XX would have been a little more playful. They didn't stray at all from the album, despite their obvious instrumental talent (especially Sim's). They need to stop taking themselves so seriously and embrace their ability to mesmerize their fans.
Maybe this is our fault
, though. With defeaning silence between each song and a refusal to even stand up and groove, the crowd seemed to be attending Mass
. So next time the XX is in town, we're dancing. Or at least standing up and swaying. Stage diving may even be attempted, especially during the crashing sexuality of "Infinity
Are you with me, Philly?