Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The XX's in Philly March 29, 2010 Part I

On a cold, rainy, and windy night in Philly an enjoyable night (for various reasons) was spent with fellow worshippers in Philly's First Unitarian Church for a 3 group concert headlined by England's "The XX's"

Opening the show was Nosaj Thing, a LA-based musical modulator who performed two songs; the first being a 4-5 minute item, that wasfollowed by sporadic clapping from the audience, and then a 30-45 minute song.   The actual time was difficult to recall as the space-time continuum seemed protracted/stretched into other dimensions.  Well, I confess, I napped for a bit, which was extraordinary since the volume was on 11 for the entire, uhhmmmm, performace.  Jason Chung, the single member of Nosaj Thing, seems to be the recepient of some favorable reviews, a surprise for me to read after the performance as the response from the rabble (and I proudly include my name in that grouping) was also of a review-ish nature, but not one tending toward the favorable nor the positive.

The sound settings during Mr. Chung's performance were, as stated, set on high volume but also on deep bass.  VERY DEEP BASS.   Profoundo Bass.   Long langorous notes were launched that vibrated the floor, the wooden pews, and the beautiful chandeliers.  It was a bass sound of such strong affect that my bladder shook and demanded that the legs  go forth and walk toward a rest room.   A walk, it turned out, of epic proportions as the direct line to the WC was right by the stage where the performer was in trance and in performance.   This path was prohibited lest a restroom-bound audience member might de-trance him.  Instead, one was guided out the front door of the church, cheerfully guided to a side street and and then to a side entrance, followed by a descent of two flights to the bowels of the church where one, uhmmm, could empty one's bowels.
I can't say enough about the staff of the R5 Productions, which run these concerts.  A cheery ever-smiling positive groups of employees one would be happy to have at their place of employment.  Standing out in the rain guiding those in need of relief to their place of release with nary a smug face?  Well, hope for the future of American youth is fortified!    I  couldn't help but notice a crowd of fellow attendees all lined up downstairs along with yours truly.  Some seemed to be there not for lower body relief but upper body, specifically the aural area,  reprieve from the onslaught from up above.  So, it was good to know that even the youths had issues with Mr. Chang's electronic noodlings. The long voyage back was shortened on the return trip to my pew.  Nosaj Thing had finished his piece and peace was upon us all.  I was allowed to walk past the stage where such magnificence was unleashed upon us.
A note to Mr. Chung.  For those of us who were there specifically for the headliners, it would have been a good thing to hear a few words from him.  Even a "Hi, how ya doin'?" would have been better than the monkish silence heaped on us.

JJ, the next act, bills itself as a duo.  The Swedish "group" stretches the meaning of that word to its ultimate meaning point.  Elin Kastlander, voice-wise, a singer in the Bjork school of emotive stylings, stood stock still, twirling her electrically shocked hair for expressive purposes while singing in an English variation that was difficult to comprehend.  The other member, Joakim Benon, would slink unto the stage at various times, whisper hints into her ear ("Twirl your hair again...I think the audience likes that"  or "Stoop and sip your water..let them know you are capable of mobility") and then depart the stage.
On occassion Mr. Benon would slip back onto the stage, pick up a guitar and seemingly strum.  In the background canned music played including drums, piano, violin, and electronica.  And guitar.  On occasion the guitar he played coincided with the soundtrack; on most occassions it did not.  In all occcassions, it was a distraction; it would have been best if the guitar had no strings.
Home-style movies were broadcast on one of the side walls of the church, in total disconnect with the singing and mis-tuned strumming.  Whales and cheetahs were in the movies as was Ms. Kastlander who was shown twirling her hair in the movie.  I can testify that while I was not impressed with much of JJ's act, Ms. Kastlander's hair-twirling was of a high standard.  So, we were blessed to see her twirlling her hair in the movie and also in real life  (Yes!  She wasn't using a body double for this tricky action) and, on quite a few occassions, both simultaneously.  As far as performance judgements go, if I wanted to imagine what Swedish karaoke was like, I simply had to alter my focus from the movie on the side wall to Ms. Kastlander up on the stage, alone, with the pre-recorded music that accompanied her for almost the entire "duo" performance.  Cruise ship, anyone?

It's hard to pull one over on a Philly audience, although I was pleasantly surprised at their empathy.  There was much of the laughter and the joking and jesting once JJ departed but nary a boo thrown in their general direction.

Next post.
Closing Act.
The XX's

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Good manners from a Philly audience who'd been sorely put to the test? It must have been the religious setting at work -- miracles, and all that.
You are definitely right about the church's effect on the crowd. The venue must have calmed the savage Philly beast.
Even I, IMHO, was rather tame in my description of the 2 opening acts. I wish I can withdraw some the sounds that have been absorbed by the peel of my soul as I fear a deadening effect.
Re: Swedish groups, I wonder if the warm-up vibes might have improved if they'd booked Little Dragon. I heard them play for Jian Ghomeshi the other day. I could stand more of them, I think.
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