John Talabot, 2:54
The xx have been a consistent favorite on the ol’ iPod since approximately 2008, when I happened upon their video for “VCR,” which at the time had a meager amount of views. Since then, they have exploded ferociously into the hip music hemisphere and when it became public knowledge that they would be playing here in Salt Lake, I couldn’t go anywhere in the city without hearing their name dropped.
When I arrived at The Complex, it was raining and impossible to find parking. Madness ensued as they funneled everyone inside—it was unsurprisingly packed, and anyone standing in the drink line was fooling themselves, as it wound to a ridiculous length and mixed drinks cost something like $12 a piece. The venue is wide, open and all one level, which makes the listening and viewing experience equal opportunity. Without a terribly long wait, 2:54 hopped onstage and began playing without introduction. I have great respect for performers who don’t bother with pointless banter in between songs. We’re here to see you play, so just fucking play. Two good looking sisters and their male drummer make up 2:54, who create lo-fi, spacy pop that’s a little bit on the heavy side. They make a great intro band for The xx, as their sounds compliment each other. Dreamy, ’90s-sounding vocals combined with their gothic/guitar-heavy songwriting is a bit reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins. It didn't seem as though the crowd cared about their set, but such is the curse of being an opening band. They played an enjoyable, fairly short set with an abundance of hair flipping and jam moments. The three notably grooved with each other, making their stage presence intriguing.
After 2:54 cleared out, two dudes took over. At first I thought they were sound checking xx's electronic equipment, but it turns out one of them was a DJ by the name of John Talabot. Once I realized that they were playing a set, I also realized that it was fucking good set. In my opinion, unassuming, unpretentious DJ beats are the only ones worth anyone's time, so it was refreshing to hear that done on stage. Talabot gained a bit of recognition for the track “Sunshine” a few years back, but otherwise has remained relatively obscure. Layering simple, upbeat synth sound bits with tribal drum patterns and beats that progress in complexity, Talabot is engaging although he doesn't dish up anything radical or super inventive. DJ,s have to work harder to make a show exciting, since they don't generally sing or have non-electronic instruments to capture the crowd with. Talabot did a great job playing beats that the audience members were drawn to– without using any stupid gimmicks to help them along. Towards the end of the set, it was clear that everyone wanted their $40 to count for something, and the anticipation for The xx became tangible.
Making a dramatic entrance, The xx dropped a white, shiny curtain on the stage and began with the opening track from their newly released Coexist album, “Angels.“ A blue spotlight enveloped vocalist Romy Madley Croft as she sang the somewhat haunting lyrics that make up the song, “Being as in love with you as I am.” Their sound was clear and on the quieter side. They alternated between new and old tracks, the pinnacle for me being “Shelter,” which made me shiver in a good way. The xx do indie pop nearly flawlessly, combining enchanting melodies and beautiful vocals that make you feel like you're in space and under the ocean at the same time. Coexist is more sparse and choppy than their debut self-titled, which translated interestingly onstage. When wel known tracks such as “Islands” and “Crystalised” were played, every dumb bitch in the audience squealed and then sang along. The light show happening as The xx did their thing was spectacular. The colors and patterns were intense and changed frequently, while a strobe light and fog were used tastefully. Whenever one of the band members said something between songs, it was a completely incomprehensible British mumble, which was nothing short of adorable. After they played their final song, naturally they received a resounding demand for an encore. They appeased us (ironically) with their song entitled “Intro” as well as two others. During the encore, a giant, sparkling X lit up the stage as a final hoorah.
I give this show a 7/10. It didn't disappoint in any regard, but it didn't blow my fucking mind the way a 10/10 would. If I were to see The xx again, I would hope for a more intimate venue and significantly less people. I realize that will never happen, but a girl can dream.