All words: Josh Stewart
All photos: Michelle Yass
Saturday was a rainy night in D.C., yet by the hundreds, both the very young and the oddly old descended on U St. Music Hall for a sold out show.
Nite Jewel arrived on stage with much dramatic fanfare, and delivered a set akin to a female version of Tears for Fears, with a nod to Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics. The band played their hit, “One Second Of Love” early in the set. Though the rest of the songs did not have the same driving hook or pop catch, singer Romana Gonalez’s strong vocal presence carried the band through the entire set.
The laid back drums and the hauntingly melodic vocals were reminiscent of what would make good fodder for a David Lynch film. Imagine a foggy night… shifting into third gear you swerve your Datsun 280 ZX down the curves of a mountainside road. I digress…
Nite Jewel wrapped up their set, with an homage to driving girl-pop right as the drenched crowd was reaching critical mass. (Grab the band’ s record here. )
Chairlift ventured on stage to the 1950’s doo-wop tune “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes. This fueled lead vocalist Caroline Polacheck screams into their opening track. Armed with clavas and jazz hands, Polacheck signlaed it was time to party with her powerful, beautiful voice leading the way.
I have not seen an “indie” band this professional in a long time. Effortlessly, the band moved between shredding quick prog-like guitar riffs and chill synth pop. Bathed in blue light, the band used keyboards that plinked away like steel drums, creating an ambience that puts sound of the ocean in your head and the rhythm of the club in your heart.
One of my favorite moments was when the band performed “Planet Health” off their previous record “Does You Inspire You”. The track has a dirty syncopated bass. It almost feels like a subtle nod to the Ohio Players, with its shout back sexy refrains, “stop, drop and roll… stop drop and put out the fire.”
“Bruises”, from iPod commercial fame, was a huge crowd hit. A painfully cute song, that would have easily made its way to any of my make out mixes in high school. And to top that off, the band molded the song into a medley with a quick shout out “I Melt With You” by Modern English.
This was followed by, “I Belong In Your Arms”, a sunny pop song that takes a page from the convertible driving days of late 80s mall-pop. Though the set ended strong, my only complaint about the band’s set was the anti-climactic encore, which included the slow and ethereal “Ceiling Wax”. Meh.
As I was watching Chairlift perform, I noticed their live performance pretty much nails what so many electro-pop bands are trying to accomplish. A well executed cross section of pop, electronic, and rock. Empowered by a deep bench of great songs, the band isn’t all ear candy either, not afraid to slow the tempo with long break downs to make you work for the moments you remember.
These days electronic music is everywhere. Most new bands take on the genre, whether they are good at it not. Electronic-indie is sadly no longer that special… yet this band with all its charm and talents… very much is.
Bonus: Be sure and check out Charilift’s cover of “Darling Nicky” by Prince. A+