All words: Marie Formica — All photos: Marie Formica + Katherine Gaines
British duo The Big Pink and dropped into Rock and Roll Hotel Monday night to rile up the District with their pop electro rock soundscapes. They teamed up with drummer / fellow Brit Akiko Matsuura, and converged in a minimalist singer/guitarist, drummer, DJ three way. Singer Robbie Furze took the stage with all the bravado of a frontman for a band compared to M83 and My Bloody Valentine, while Milo Cordell stood against the back wall, frowning at the electronic equipment. Best known for their 2009 hit “Dominoes,” The Big Pink played most songs from their 2012 album “Future This.” They wanted to make “a more upbeat album,” which works somewhat well. The lyrical content went from bastard/badass to edgy self-help.
Their set was composed of compelling songs, kicking off the show with their catchy new track “Stay Gold,” sibling to “Dominoes.” “Velvet” was also a highlight, particularly on the electronic side of things. “Give it Up” felt more familiar Big Pink, aggressive lyrics and anthem-style rock stitched together with classical piano samples.
I was impressed that no bass instrument was in sight, only Cordell. This left a lot of room for the knotty, digital soundplex spitting and spilling from Cordell’s machines. So, on “Velvet,” Cordell tweaked the underlying track to lean toward a trance style, and this dominated the song. Rock roots crept in when Furze whittled guitar lines into the digital waves. But even when Furze sang, it felt out of place, as if this should have been instrumental. There were other interesting moments- a squelching sound that impressively resembled that of a dot matrix printer, and the talky, standout synth in “Hit the Ground.” Sometimes, there was a feeling the song would never begin or end– a definitive closure just a mirage in a desert of repetitive instrumentals. But, it was enjoyed. People were packed into the Rock and Roll Hotel, milimeters of separation in places, all fist waving and pulsing against the black island of the stage.
Black Hills opened. The local synth-pop project is fronted by Aaron Estes, dreamy musicmaker and professional trapeze instructor, DC local by way of South Dakota. He performed with a full band Monday night, although the project is, in its recordings, purportedly a solo one. Slow atmospheric tracks pumped through the room with all the urgency of a jellyfish deep in the ocean. “Glass” from the 2011 4-song EP “Black Gold” has a deep bass foundation, seemingly formless but for the synths that suspended it above everyone in the room. Drums softly and quietly pounded through each song, a slow heartbeat under Estes’ heavenly-high, harmonized vocals. The performance was somewhat reserved, but the luminous, watery music made up for any lacking confidence; real and emotional and enveloping its audience.
- The Big Pink
- Black Hills