On yet another night at Merriweather Post Pavilion marked by heavy rains, Tame Impala and M83 put on shows for the ages. This is my second time at MPP this year and both occasions have been among the soggiest days of my life. They’ve also been two of the most fun concert-going experiences I’ve enjoyed in an outdoor setting, marked by stunning performances by world-class musicians, despite inclement weather and technical challenges.
At surface level, these two bands might not seem like the most obvious of pairings as tour mates. However, there is a certain degree of affinity between them: confessional lyrics, glowing, growing chord progressions, and impressive lights and visuals to complete the wholly immersive audiovisual experience.
M83 has built a career on the back of his 2011 monster hit “Midnight City,” but it would be folly to label Anthony Gonzalez a one-trick pony. The Frenchman has a knack for crafting expansive albums that play out like self-contained universes, pulling in disparate influences, vocalists, and textures, all dripping with a hint of whimsy and with tongue firmly in cheek – how else do you explain (weird and infinitely danceable) tracks like “Raconte-moi Une Histoire” or “Bibi the Dog”?
Lightning flashed the early warning signs of a storm, while concert-goers glided and swayed to M83’s soothing blend of dreampop. The only true surge of energy came at the first note of the unmistakable hook to the band’s biggest hit, the penultimate song in their set. As the saxophone solo conjured a downpour, it also served to usher out a large portion of those who were not blessed with Pavilion seats or heavy rain gear. MPP screens displayed cautionary messages, and streams of people began to run for cover, or for the hills (or their cars).
They don’t know how wrong they were, for what came next will stay with me for the rest of my days.
Tame Impala are simply one of those bands you have to see perform in the flesh to get the full breadth of what they are capable of. Currents marked a radical departure in style for the band, and with this change of direction came a new, deeper sensibility and emotional heft – this album is inspired by a breakup and a move back home, after all. While civilization collapsed all around us, Kevin Parker and his band played the psychedelic soundtrack to heartbreak that we didn’t know we needed, but can’t imagine living without.
Those under the tarp got to bask in the entirety of the lights and music, but the real party was outside on the lawn, where thousands of people in raincoats – both makeshift and proper – danced through torrential rains like a bloom of human jellyfish. The music was beautifully disarming, forming friendships among those together in the trenches – people slipped, and slid, and slithered around in the mud, embracing strangers with the kind of euphoria that only truly miserable conditions can elicit. Ultimately, there was a warm, fuzzy feeling to the evening, even if the weather was anything but.