Words + photos by Farrah Skeiky
The potential for a perfect Saturday night is so strong that no one can stand still. It promises a dance-your-heart-out double header consisting of the painfully glamorous sounds Class Actress and the much hyped funk-driven Penguin Prison, gracing the tiny stage of Rock & Roll Hotel and casting a spell on your feet.
It baffles me that Elizabeth Harper was ever doing anything else with her life before she started making ultra-sexy dance jams, and after Saturday’s show I am absolutely elated that she is so perfect at it. The set was so infectious that I can’t seem to remember how it began, but “Keep You” makes an early appearance and the sound is bright and fills the tiny room better than I would have thought.
Harper seductively serenades in an almost effortless manner despite the central role lyrics play. Unlike most alt-pop dance shows, every word is heard, and this makes Class Actress stand out so much more. The first few notes of “Weekend” are revealed, perfect for a Saturday night, and the room is buzzing with energy. The guy to my left is in love, and his love is requited as Harper first sings directly to him and later turns the mic to him. The most impressive part about exchanges like this is that the sensuality isn’t lost. Everything Harper does is dripping in sex appeal, from the little ways she engages the audience to playful coquettish smiles. “Journal of Ardency” does nothing but push this point. All the boys want her, all the girls want to be her (and I’m certain at least half begin to question their sexual orientation).
“Let Me Take You Out” is lovely and urges you to get extra close to your designated dance partner. Even “Prove Me Wrong,” which seems like it should be a softer part of the set, is vibrant and refuses to surrender with a driving beat and glimmering lyrics. Perhaps the same could be said for many Class Actress songs, including “Bienvenue” — they are so much more explosive live than you’d ever think. Everyone is demanding an encore, and we’re told that it would happen if Class Actress was at the end of the night. But really, there can’t be any complaints after a perfect set.
This was also the first time I’d ever heard Penguin Prison, a fact that was received incredulously by everyone I spoke to. Singer/guitarist/number one dancer Chris Glover is quickly being compared to Michael Jackson. The general consensus is that the stage at RNR isn’t big enough for him. These are lofty claims, and I’ve got my fingers crossed. There’s so much promise for a night like this to continue to be amazing.
And Penguin Prison delivers, justifying every claim. Glover is a charmer, crooning expertly and shimmying every chance he gets. “Something I’m Not” immediately shows off his remarkable voice, and the crowd is eager for more, dancing wildly from the start. Glover loves it. “You guys get pretty rowdy,” he smiles, “but I want you to get rowdier!” Message received. Even with the change of pace in “Animal Animal,” the energy stays up on both sides of the room. Glover stands on the very edge of the stage with his guitar and plays directly to the sweaty mass of anticipation that is his adoring audience.
Penguin Prison dive into their recent collaboration with RAC, “Hollywood,” and it’s glowing, and at this point I’m having trouble understanding why the show isn’t sold out, possibly a good thing considering the likelihood of heat strokes occurring. “Fair Warning” and “The Worse It Gets” roll on uninterrupted, and Glover continues to offer up seamless dance moves and keeps revisiting the front row. “Don’t Fuck With My Money” is possibly the most popular song of the night with an impossibly catchy chorus that demands you to dance harder.
A spectacular remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” is particularly memorable, perhaps because of its danceability. I didn’t think it was possible for the crowd to get any closer, but they did for this one. A quick encore of “Multi-Millionaire” is almost too much, but Glover’s own eagerness to dance encourages everyone else to find whatever energy remains to turn it out. No one dares to deny this call, and the set concludes of the highest possible note.
As I head out the door to attempt the impossible and hail a cab on H Street, my physical exhaustion is no match for the residual energy that keeps buzzing around my head, demanding that the night isn’t over. I couldn’t help but feel excited about what would come next. What else is there to say? Bring on the weekend.