Crystal Castles with HEALTH and Kontravoid @ In The Venue 10.18.12

Posted October 23, 2012 in

Photo: Crystal Castles

 This isn’t my first time seeing Crystal Castles, and I had a rough idea of what to expect. The show is pretty packed, but not sold out. Kontravoid took the stage among a growing crowd of kids dressed as hip and monochromatic as possible. Unfortunately I missed most of his set trying to get a drink (two bars and it still took me, like, 20 minutes!), but the crowd seemed less than enthused.  I think the majority of them were only watching the set to secure their spot (and the possibility to be spit on or punched by pseudo-punk rock smurfette Alice Glass) later on, which is kind of a bummer.  Watching the seemingly sleepy show-goers reminded me that the only thing more awkward than hipsters dancing en masse is hipsters standing entirely still during a DJ set.

I had finally settled in on the balcony when HEALTH took the stage, and though they weren’t entirely what I was expecting aesthetically, they definitely look like a band that would write the soundtrack for Max Payne 3. They look way fucking metal, and they fucking play that way, too. They are arguably the most brutal and energetic dance band I have seen, and it probably helps that they are a full band as opposed to two guys with a midi-controller and Macbook Pro. There is little banter, but plenty of noise.  Their energy wakes up the atrophying attendees and reminds them that it isn’t a shoegaze show. Their cacophony of a set was, in my opinion, the highlight of the night. I have never seen another person fuck with distortion/delay pedals with the intensity that that lanky, longhaired Asian man displayed.
People lost their shit when Crystal Castles came out. It was like Beatlemania, but instead of young innocent girls, it was a bunch of dudes who looked like they were in a shitty Cold Cave cover band. As soon as the first song began it was clear who was the star of the show.  Glass was a spectacle before she sang a word, unusually pale with bright blue hair; she immediately began the performance with an intensity that was exhausting to watch. Screaming and jumping with about as much grace as a five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, she was all over the place.  She was backed by band mate Ethan Kath (and thankfully a live drummer, Christopher Chartrand), but he may as well have been a laptop going through the set-list on an iTunes playlist. He stood quietly and calmly in the background, displaying as much excitement as the fucking wall behind him. Glass crowd surfed in a position I can only describe as “straddling,” and collapsed at the end of each song as though she had been completely drained (and she quite possibly had). Every song sounded nearly as perfect as the album version, but the live drums were a significant improvement and added life to the endless array of bleak synth-pop songs. Glass’s behavior was a bit outlandish and theatrical, her onstage antics like an extremely contrived (but just as skinny) Iggy Pop. Alice Glass seems like an unthreatening punk rock persona a marketing executive would create to sell patches and other accessories at a Hot Topic, sort of like Sid Vicious, but without the heroin and murder. Despite all of that, they put on an intense show and it was damn near flawless.
Photo: Crystal Castles