Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Maddie Clybourn
This past Thursday I got a chance to check out Mas Ysa and Tanlines at U Street Music Hall. There are so many things to say about this show, and I’m about to make a controversial statement; I came for Tanlines, I left because of Tanlines.
Most D.C. music people agree that U Hall has the best sound system in the city. Every show I’ve ever been to in this venue has been a phenomenal sonic experience, and Mas Ysa’s hour long set was no exception. A week ago, I said that Mr. Twin Sister was the best show of the summer. Mas Ysa, the music of Thomas Arsenault, was the best show of the summer. No gimmicks, no outfits, no props, just fucking. amazing. music. I tried to put the pieces together by comparing him in my mind to a less bitter, more evocative James Murphy, but that really isn’t quite right.
Arsenault is a vagabond world traveler, a one man band of synth waves, processors and emotion. How he manipulates machines to connect with the deepest tunnels of humanity, I have no clue, but the audience understood it, and it was beautiful. Also, he took off his boots during the second song, and while going barefoot onstage normally grates me as affected, it in this instance –a hot night, a stage full of cords and wires– the act of unrestricting one’s self made total sense. I could keep going trying to describe something I didn’t totally understand, but that would be useless, so just look up some of his music on Spotify and find a few live performances via YouTube.
Now to stop gushing. Tanlines. Tanlines. What do I even say? All the band members look like the most symmetrical French model motherfuckers I have ever seen in my life. I want to fuck/marry/kill them. I found myself muggin’ too hard, but I’m not here for all that, I’m here for the music. And something terrible happened between Mas Ysa and Tanlines. The sound system. I have no clue why their engineer felt the need to turn the volume up on every instrument, on every vocal on EVERYTHING so heinously loud that the competing guitar and vocal melodies were drowned by overtones of distortion. Was I at a prettier My Bloody Valentine show?
Not only was the sound way off, their set was fairly flat, banter borderline scripted, and generally what you would expect from a band that gets heavy summer rotation on XMU but is never heard from again when the season changes. Which is sad, because I like Tanlines. I like their albums and I like their voices and I wish I could have heard them. I looked around a few times and it seemed like the audience was enjoying themselves. Maybe they had ear plugs. Either way, check out these photos, it was still a good time.