M83's Jordan Lawler. Photo: Brent Rowland
As I make my way early to In The Venue for the sold out M83 show on Sunday evening, I amalready riding on a high from Washed Out’s stellar performance the night before. At 6 p.m. I set up residence in line, and spend some time looking at the concert-goers surrounding me. Gazing in front, I am reminded that I’m old and that certain fashion items I wore long ago are making the rounds: leather-woven belts, feathered hair, big glasses and the almighty denim shirt. So. Much. Denim. Behind me, I notice a collective of three preppy high-school boys––the bracelets they are wearing indicate they’re in town for the Collegiate DECA conference. Ten minutes before the doors open, my friend joins me and the line has tripled in size. The two of us discuss three items of business to accomplish once we make it inside: get a bench seat, get a pitcher of beer and catch the performance of the Swedish duo, I Break Horses.
We make our way upstairs, and to our surprise, In the Venue now has two patio bars to ease the demand of the crowd. Lack of bars and bartenders in the past has been an issue––an audience member could spend the majority of their time standing in line for a single drink. With one pitcher in hand, we make our way to a bench. I’ve always admired the people who sit on the benches; I’m usually too late and resort to standing behind the cage that keeps the responsible 21+ adults separated from the younglings.
I Break Horses hit the stage around 7:30 p.m. The sun has made its way farther west, and I find myself shielding my eyes from the big yellow guy so I can give I Break Horses my undivided attention. Last year, the Swedish duo, Maria Linden and Fredrick Balack, released Hearts, an album that was labeled one of the finest shoegaze albums in the last five years––I agree. For their live show, the duo recruited three additional members. Linden’s vibrato-laden voice breaks open on “Wired,” the crowd is drawn in and the room is filled with blasts of reverb. The short five-song set was muggy at times. The steady bassline of “Hearts” roared over the crowd while the spiraling loops of “Winter Beats” offered the clearest moment for the group.
The crowd is now at full capacity. The beer lines are intolerable and the denim gods are in full swing. We are ready. Ready for the Frenchmen, Anthony Gonzalez and company to hand-deliver some authentic ’80s synth-pop-gaze. At 8:30 p.m. the lights dim and the audience goes wild. The opening ambient note of “Intro” is heard overhead, and the masked creature featured on the “Midnight City” single takes to the stage, raising his arms to the sky while keyboardist/vocalist Morgan Kibby pierces the crowd with her playful, operatic voice, belting out “Carry On, Carry On.” On the album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, this role is filled by Zola Jesus. Kibby, however, is flawless. The song builds to an epic end; I watch the faces in the crowd as they are hypnotized and reach up for the sky. The backdrop is a blanket of twinkling lights like a starry bedroom. There are strategically placed, large, multicolored LED tubes offering another element of dimension. Gonzalez is wearing black, head to toe; he rips into “Teen Angst” from 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. Three songs in, the crowd is treated to 2009’s John Hughes-esque power track, “Graveyard Girl,” from Saturdays=Youth. The majority of the evening consists of bouncing back and forth from the two latest albums. Every so often, Gonzales trades in his guitar to twist and push the knobs on the soundboard. Halfway through the performance, the audience is officially greeted by Gonzalez, who seems genuinely pleased with the crowd’s overwhelming reaction. The band quickly breaks into the swirling and spiraling intro of what has become known as the best song of 2011, “Midnight City.” The entire crowd is dancing and grinning, the bench I am sitting on has turned into stadium seating for the folks behind us. The high energy of multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lawler has become infectious. He and his half black, half white shirt jump uncontrollably from one side of the stage to the other. Then there’s the sax. The walk-on sax man whips that thing out and gets the crowd all worked up, playing the horn like it’s his last performance. The slow-burner, “Wait,” follows up, cooling the crowd down. It is the encore that offers up the biggest surprise of the evening: the cover of Daft Punk’s “Fall.”
By the end, with the amount of dancing, pounding hearts and sing-a-longs, there isn’t a dry body left in the crowd. All of us came into the evening with high hopes, and leave fully satisfied.
Check out more photos of M83 by Brent Rowland here.