all photos: Katherine Gaines, all words: Svetlana
Our collective BYT hearts have been beating for the electro-goth pixie Charli XCX for a while now, and just as we were in the middle of lamenting, yet again, about no stop in DC on her mini-US tour, a Sunday show @ U Hall was miraculously, last-minute announced and we decided that the usual “day-of-rest” rules should not apply and that this, surely, will be worth seeing. I am glad to report that we were right, but first-lets start at the beginning.
Opening the night up were St. Lucia, who, contrary to their Swedish-Christmas-evoking name are actually a pretty (and I mean this with all the love in my heart) Miami Vice style pop outfit from Brooklyn. Well, it is actually ONE dude from Brooklyn, but he does have a live outfit and that’s a good thing. There is a saxophone involved (and BYT does love a good sexy sax solo, so God help us), there is a VERY enthusiastic keyboard element, there are striped tank tops and washed out chambray shirts involved and you know what, it is really, genuinely, a truly exhilarating-yet-breezy summer music experience they have going around here. And exhilarating-yet-breezy is not that easy to pull off.
Somehow, the finest moments of 80s electro-beach-music (this is totally a genre even if I just put those words together now and you can just ask Duran Duran about it) and makes it ultimately timely for 2012. Sure it is breezy, but there is nothing loose about it. Think of a dancier Yeasayer (even after they turned dancey) and you are getting closer (warmer?) to where this is going. In fact, instead of me throwing words around like: Balmy Ballearic Disco or Heavenly Tropical Cruise, just scaddadle over to our listening party we did with St. Lucia this past week and give it a whirl for yourself. You may want to order an extra-spiked pina colada beforehand though.
On the flip side of their paradise pop coin, mining a very different kind of 80s nostalgia was Charli XCX, the evening’s leading lady. When I tell you that she covers Echo and The Bunnyman’s “The Killing Moon”, while wearing a cropped top and the most major sneaker platforms since Ginger Spice, you get a pretty good picture about what we’re talking about here.
Wide kohl eyed and tiny, Charli XCX is best described as a combination (and everything is a combination of something these days) of a Shakespeare Sister rehash (when she announced “Stay Away” which starts out with a Siobhan Fahey worthy roar, my concert companion legitimately thought she was about to do a version of SS’s seminal “STAY”) and a gothier Robyn the teenage girls and gays across bedrooms and dancefloors of the western world have been waiting for. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Which actually brings us a little bit to the audience on Sunday. Aside from the fact that well, more of you should have really motivated and showed up for this (after all, you can always DVR “Breaking Bad” and “Newsroom”), a few man-tanked gays aside – the crowd was mostly of the preppy, very youthful, on-a-date/bro-date variety, and I imagine mostly drawing on the memories they had back when St. Lucia played U Hall last with party-starters The Knocks and ANR. Which I guess goes to show that deafening blog buzz aside, Charli XCX is not quite the draw she should be in the District. To everyone’s credit though-there was a dance party of sorts going and everyone seemed on board to give new music a chance. When we first started BYT, back in the prehistoric internet ages, the #1 complaint repeated ad nauseum in show reviews was that DC doesn’t dance at shows. The #2 complaint repeated ad nauseum in show reviews was that DC doesn’t show up for opening bands. Having now experienced this level of openness to fresh sonic experiences twice in one weekend, I am feeling pretty enthusiastic for our overall concert-going future.
But-back to Charli. with not yet a full album under her slender belt, she kept the set dancey yet tight, burning through Nuclear Seasons (obviously the only song most of the crowd had come to see), You’re the One and the aforementioned Echo and The Bunnymen cover. When someone once, in a movie best forgotten, said “Hell is A Teenage Girl” they should have had Charli in mind. With every hair flip and growl followed by a shimmy shake, she may as well be announcing: “Welcome to Hades, we’re having a party tonight”. And it is totally ok to join.
Keep an eye out on these two, they’ll be back for more.
(and now-for more snaps)