All photos: Alex Lee
Purity Ring has made just one album in their short career, and that album, Shrines, is a 2012 stand out. No surprise the Rock and Roll Hotel was sold-out-packed Wednesday night for their 3rd ever DC show. After a late start and two openers, the duo, an eccentric woman with wily brown hair and her male counterpart, silhouetted themselves against colorful lights to mesmerize and overwhelm our senses with their electro dream pop.
Purity Ring has released only 11 songs, so it was easy to anticipate the sonic components of the show. In one long string of music that barely stopped between songs for applause, we got 10 of 11 – the whole of Shrines, minus “Grandloves.”
Less easy to anticipate was the dynamic and captivating set, and just how much these aesthetics – lights controlled by the two members of the group kept in sync with the music – would contribute to the atmosphere and the vibe at the show. The venue was transformed to what I would imagine the inside of Frodo’s Shire home might look like if invaded by an army of hipster electronic bands. Fog filtered through the RNR cave, illuminated by glowing white lamps hanging from the ceiling that changed color with the music. Purity Ring’s female half, Megan James, illuminated the stage with a handheld version of an old-timey street lamp and later by hitting a bass drum that lit upon her touch, while Corin Roddick lit similar lamps in sync with the beat.
It’s usually pointless to complain about terrible show-going stereotypes: the girl who pushes through the entire packed house without uttering a single pardon me; that 6’5” guy standing center front; the couple groping and making out. They happen at every show and you simply can’t let it ruin your good time. I mention the drunk girl standing next to me at this show for two reasons:
1. As a reminder, if you’re not there to actually watch the show, that’s fine. But try to keep in mind that other people are, and it would be great if you don’t infringe on my evening with your drinking (spilling drinks on me) and dancing (falling over yourself into me).
2. She became not terrible for a minute as she tastelessly, though insightfully (and loudly), proclaimed during the low pulsing intro to Cartographist: “I wish I could project vibes like that through my vagina while I’m having sex!” I immediately imagined what that would be like, and thought, God you’re annoying, but you are so right on. I thanked her in my head for articulating the sensual vibe of the evening, and then tried again to ignore her as mid song she started a conversation apropos to nothing about shitting herself. I guess motor skills and general body control are not her thing…
Headaches, comprised of just a man, an impressive beard, and some electronic equipment, started the show with a series of slow-building, synth-pop dance jams. Having not heard him before, I have nothing but positive things to say about this guy. I walked in during his second song, which started building with low, forceful bass loud enough to feel right in your chest, then snaps and claps overlayed with a lulling melody topped off with accents and splashes and bursts. The song wound down backwards, eliminating the foundations first until only the melody and accents then just the accents were left. It was hard to tell when one song transitioned into the next, but this type of creativity along with other elements of surprise and delight were the hallmarks of his show; the whole set was melodic and fresh, and impossible to stand still to.
Not that I don’t love discovering new artists, but usually two openers is approximately one too many. For whatever reason, it seems like I generally love the first and hate the second, and this trend held true Wednesday. Following Headaches was Evian Christ, also a man and his electronic equipment. But the similarities stopped there; where Headaches music infiltrated and lifted the room, Evian Christ was like a bulldozer knocking us over. His signature is mixing hip hop tracks with loud, driving beats, and at first I didn’t know what to think. It started off slow, mesmerizing and heavy, and I was sort of getting into it. I looked around through the fog and some hipster was wearing a hoodie, and instead of thinking to myself, silly hipster, do you know where you are? It’s always a hundred degrees in here! I thought, wow cool mood, and you fit right in. Dark, freaky, horror film-esque. But then there was one too many awkward pauses, too many loud jolts that didn’t jive, random disparate burst of Skrillex and too many noises that sound like machine guns. So many times I wanted to walk up to him and say, “Why so serious? Seriously, what upsets you so much?” I quickly settled on “I don’t like it.”
The whole show was fantastic, so I hesitate to make any further complaints. But just one more gripe? When Purity Ring had three songs left, Megan James announced that they had three songs left, then they played three songs, and abruptly left the stage. No encore? Couldn’t you cover a song or something? Maybe give us a song you’ve been working on? We want more! I know technically they just released this album a little less than 2 months ago, but with nothing else in their repertoire, it feels like we’ve had only these 11 songs for so long! I guess, I get it. The album has been deservingly, fantastically popular. Why mess with success thus far?
- Purity Ring: