MATT AND KIM and The Complex. Photo: Eric Scott Russell
“Parking is always a bitch,” often passes through my mind moments before I approach a venue, so for this round of big-name acts I avoided the frustration, and met my friends at The Complex on my bike instead of carpooling––not only saving me minutes, but a wealth of exasperation as well. The Complex is the downtown version of The Great Saltair, matched both in mucky sound quality and overzealous security guards. The upside, however, is the clean atmosphere. After walking into the main room, we realized that being 40 minutes early would not help us whatsoever when it came to getting a close view, and we would instead have to rely on our supreme abilities to slither through the crowd seamlessly. Within 20 minutes, the space was filled wall to wall.
Time passed quickly watching the pedophiloliciously young mob around us lose their goddamn minds. Matt & Kim pounded onto the stage to “Harlem Shake” as the horde of witnesses released a guttural snarl, and commenced grinding their asses on the floor. Matt Johnson flailed a water bottle into the the scuffle while he and Kim Schifino (his “partner in crime and in sex”) thrashed their appendages to and fro. After the bass cut off abruptly and Johnson praised everyone on their superior gyrating abilities over most cities they had recently visited (I giggled), they sat crouched speedily over respective drums (Schifino) and keyboard (Johnson). They tumbled head-long into “Let’s Go” and once again the crowd whirled into a furious frenzy. Schifino beamed giddily while Johnson showcased his usual warble. Matt & Kim have unsurpassed exuberance and stamina. They powered through every song in their set grinning and shimmering with sweat. But, despite their passion, the sound quality of the music was droning and disorderly. Schifino thwacked on her drum kit and drowned out Johnson’s swirling keyboard and at times ambient vocals. For music that is so enthusiastic and dynamic on the album, it sounded quite boring live.
After another “Harlem Shake” (and water bottle) Johnson revealed their intention to perform a trick where Schifino would walk out on the audience’s hands and dance. I had heard about a similar stunt and was excited to see it in actuality. He related a story about when they tried before in Florida and she had been sweaty and loose shorted. According to him, “These teenage boys were staring up into the ‘mouth of the beast.’” To which she leaned over to the mic boorishly and replied, “It’s not the mouth of the beast if you keep it waxed and tight!” I couldn’t help but feel miserable that women are still saying things so self-critical and off-putting, particularly before such a high ratio of teens. Performances of “It’s Alright” and “Cameras” successively sent the gathering into hysterics and Schifino stood on her bass drum and cracked her drum sticks together periodically. Johnson praised the mass in between nearly every number of being the wildest crowd they’d experienced. There was a definite hint of truth in his claim, and a quick scan of the room confirmed my suspicions.
When it finally came time to put into action the threatened trick of Schifino walking on the crowd, I was again, surprisingly disappointed. “Harlem Shake” shredded over the speakers and she flailed and tumbled over and over, barely keeping her balance, until they finally turned it off and she hopped back on stage.
One last “Harlem Shake” and concurrent water bottle toss left me wishing I wasn’t being continually sprayed with water and glad I stayed a safe distance from the stage with a viable view of both performers. They announced upcoming act, Passion Pit, and scrambled into their final tune, “Daylight.” Even the hit single left me slightly dissatisfied. I distinctly relish in listening to their studio albums, but not in their live sound––especially when their intentions were so well placed. You can see the action for yourself in our online photo gallery here.
A quick break was necessary from the sweating cesspool of bodies so we stopped in the only slightly less crowded bar and ordered impressively over-priced half-shot mixed drinks. The intensity of the security guards heightened in the 21 and over area, so we retreated.
We spent the rest of the break somehow wriggling back through the sticky ocean of arms until we were six people back from the stage when the lights cut out again and Michael Angelakos strolled on stage to intense female shrieking. The opening to “The Reeling” swam over the amps and the lights snapped on abruptly as the drum beat intersected with the synthesizer. Before I could comprehend what was happening, the crowd shifted 10 feet to the right, shoving me right out of my shoes and smashing a small girl underfoot. She was eventually lifted back up, but not before the crowd was again shoved violently 15 feet to the left and back. I was astonished by the disconnect between the ferocity of the people around me, and the joyful atmosphere of the music. Ayad Al Adhamy and Xander Singh tapped away at their MIDI controls unfazed. Ian Hultquist glanced quickly up from his guitar into the crowd with confusion, but only fleetingly.
I endured performances of “Eyes as Candles” and “Carried Away” and decided that everyone around me had literally gotten carried away. The kicker came when a drugged-up man behind me continually clawed at my back until I turned around and told him to back off just as he was lighting a joint. I was subsequently elbowed directly in the eye. I will admit I panicked and began grasping my way out with a look of complete horror on my face. I reached the back, finally, during a performance of “Take a Walk.” At a safe view, and away from the absolutely ridiculous crowd up front, I could finally appreciate how clean the music sounded and how impressive the light show was. Angelakos pivoted around the mic stand crooning in his distinctively high-pitched and impressive way. Panels of purple light overlaid shimmering columns of cream illumination, and churning, gear-like symbols were projected on every flat surface. Nate Danmoyer grinned charmingly and twitched over his raised drum set.
As they began “Make Light,” thousands of bubbles poured from nowhere near the walls and appropriately caught green and red light jutting from the stage. The jumping and swaying of the crowd stepped up in intensity. When the jabber was over, Angelakos bashfully remarked, “We brought bubbles!”
“Little Secrets” finished off their main set and they sauntered off-stage, Jeff Apruzzese (bass) waving animatedly. After a handful of seconds and short spurts of yelping from the crowd, they all skipped back onstage and finished off with my personal favorite, “Sleepyhead.” Mishaps included, my night ended on a good note. I left with a better understanding of two music groups I enjoy, even if one was sadly for the worse. On the plus side, I was very near the door and had little trouble bumbling out of the roasting auditorium and into the chilly shroud of night.