All photos: Jackie Garcia:
Quiet as kept, it is this journalist’s opinion that Matt and Kim are the best touring contemporary rock acts of current times. Well, actually not so quiet if you were in attendance at Tuesday night’s scream-fest at Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club. In taking a minimal expectation to a maximal extreme, the Brooklyn-based keyboard and drum duo are possibly the two best citizens of the hipster generation. Proving that ingenuity and skill can travel as far as talent honed by over-commercialism, the winsome duo left a sold-out crowd of a two-night stop in the nation’s capital in awe; a sweaty mess of post-teens and those forever young fearing the “Daylight,” wanting to party all night long.
Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino are great because they’re cooler than your cool best friend who has the coolest band ever. The duo romped onstage to the strains of Nas’ “”The Don,” the spoken loop of “New York City”from the simple kick and snare hook blaring over the speakers, as the audience screamed with joy. These are humble heroes, their songs structured the same way as the big hits produced by Calvin Harris, Avicii and Afrojack, but distilled and delivered in a simple, yet impact-filled manner. Their fourth album, Lightning, including spectacular lead single “Let’s Go,” show Matt and Kim in fuller control than ever of this notion, the week-old release resonating with thicker and heavier synths than ever before, a pronounced influence of current dance trends feeling a kindred spirit with their post-punk pop energy.
If you closed your eyes and didn’t know where you were, you’d imagine yourself at New York City’s Pacha nightclub, surrounded by a packed house of revelry, streamers and balloons to booming drums and mellifluous synthetics. The only difference? At Pacha, the balloons fall from the ceiling and confetti is shot from cannons after being pre-loaded by the help. At the 9:30 Club, Matt threw the balloons and the hand-held confetti tossers to the crowd. In the slightest of populist touches, the difference between Matt and Kim’s authentic energy and the synthetic power of Skrillex Headlining at Electric Zoo was found. Though they come from the same organic spirit, the differences that extreme pop commercialism have made on independent sounds were obvious.
Big room “EDM” is hella serious, now the realm of men literally pushing buttons and setting stages ablaze. Matt and Kim are serious musicians, yes, but set stages on fire with undeniably fun energy. Did we need to see Kim Schifino standing on the hands of the audience twerking to Diplo’s “Express Yourself?” Whether or not this was something we wanted, it was something we got, and it was so stereotypical punk rock awesome. As well was hearing Matt Johnson discuss that the band’s fan base was “getting older,” but asked us all to” jump around again,” then proceeded to launch into a synthesized rendition of DJ Kool’s 90’s anthem “Let Me Clear My Throat.” Whereas dance lives and dies by the Peter Pan Syndrome, Matt and Kim live as our old punk friends who realize that yes, all of their rowdy friends have indeed settled down, but still have one great and last hurrah left in them.
Openers Oberhofer have tremendous promise. The Brooklyn-based quintet’s offering were a dichotomy of punky power-pop and joyous – bordering on saccharine – love-filled punk anthems. They definitely have youthful energy and rocket-fuel powered tunes to spare, lead singer Brad Oberhofer’s clear and powerful voice a truly excellent discovery. Songs like “Away Frm U” made me as an observer long for rock days of long ago, where at spaces like Max’s Kansas City you could have Bruce Springsteen opening for Bob Marley, the familiar being less important at that moment than the experimental, a moment when you’re just waiting for the tides of the universe to change. Pete Sustaric’s drums are truly important to their sound, as in the midst of the noise he keeps the drums stentorian in the live mix, giving significant grounding to the wails and screams of the lead singer and his top melody makers in support. To that one dude jumping like crazy at stage right, I see you brother, but the rest of the world’s not quite there yet. It was a perfect opening set for Matt and Kim, a solid bit of noise before entering the fray.
To most of the pop-loving world, Matt and Kim were one hit wonders who represent a time in their lives when they were young, weird and hopeless. Most Matt and Kim fans have now become old, normal and filled with hope. They’re mainstream folks with big and important jobs who fondly remember the days when nightclubs and dark bars were preferable to “Daylight’s” responsibility. But for those of us still living the dream, Matt and Kim are four albums in and well adjusted as our heroic deities, two folks that when we see them perform, we see a bit of ourselves, and once again gain the faith the succeed through our imaginations.
- Matt & Kim: