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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ready For the Floor

posted by on April 23 at 12:05 PM

Hot Chip, Free Blood @ the Showbox

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When I saw Free Blood in Austin at SXSW, the NYC duo (featuring John Pugh of !!!) had a few things going for them: a small but stoked, first-night-of-the-festival-giddy crowd; having things warmed up for them by the maniacal electronics of Extreme Animals; a small, kind of divey room where their bass bursts sounded like they might seriously hurt the sound system. Last night at the Showbox, things were stacked rather against them: a half-full Showbox crowd, neither giddy nor warmed up, mostly hanging back in the bars; a big, cavernous room that made them look a little like, as a friend put it, enthusiastic kids in a summer camp talent show down on the big stage; a sound system that made their beats seem less dangerous than just pre-recorded.

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Still, I think they sounded better last night than they did in Austin. What I then mistook for sultry, stoned monotones turned out to be rather tuneful, expressive singing, especially on one song’s hook of “Sounds good to me” and another’s petulantly whined refrain of “I want.” The bass was deep, and it even buzzed in the speakers a bit on one later song. Al Doyle of Hot Chip (and LCD Soundsystem) came out to help out on live bass and guitar for a couple songs, so there were no human mic stands needed and Pugh was free to get on down with his bandmate, Madeleine. Not everyone was feeling it, though—towards the end of their set, some loud gentleman in the bar hollered, “No more!” between songs. Or maybe he was saying, “No, more!” Maybe he really liked them.

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I tried to run to the restroom just as Hot Chip was set to go on, so I then wouldn’t miss any of their set, but I found the men’s room (which is behind the stage, between it and the green rooms) blocked by security, with a handful of guys penned into the bathroom waiting to get out, presumably so Hot Chip could rush the stage unaccosted. Maybe that’s something they do at a lot of shows, and I just never noticed, but security overall seemed a little stressed last night, barking, “You here for Hot Chip?!” at everyone at the front door (were some people there for the ambience?), and I wondered if maybe they were getting a lot of people trying to sneak in.

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Anyway, “Shake a Fist” playing as I get back in the crowd, and it sounds great, the beat rattling off-time and then being nudged back in to place, sounding a little live despite coming off a drum machine and sampler. They played the achingly sweet “Boy From School” next, and it just felt really good to see a big, sold-out crowd in Seattle dancing to honestly great music. On “Hold On,” Joe Goddard, the burlier of the band’s two vocalists, fell off the beat a bit on his part, but again it just felt satisfyingly live; “Hold On” isn’t one of my favorite songs from Made in the Dark, but it worked well live, with its extended rhythmic outro. “Bendable Posable” sounded a little weak at first, mostly just a spare beat under the vocals, but it got the crowds hand up by the end. They played “Over & Over” with an extended intro, and it was, of course, a massive dance floor mover.

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Lead vocalist Alexis Taylor introduced “Wrestlers” by saying, “Joe does a pretty good rap on this one,” to which Goddard replied, “It’s not a rap, it’s more of a chant.” Regardless, Goddard’s bit was brilliant, delivered with a kind of campiness not really apparent on record, and he even did the backwards-masked part to the crowd’s audible delight. I saw a couple making out to the melancholy strains of “Crap Kraft Dinner” and felt a little jealous at not being young and silly enough to make out at shows anymore. Free Blood joined the band for the fantastic “One Pure Thought,” increasingly my favorite jam off of Made in the Dark. They ended their set with “Ready For the Floor,” extending some parts, jilting between the verses and the choruses.

For the encore, they played the straight-soul ballad “Made in the Dark,” then “Don’t Dance,” which—I’m certain—they kicked off with a synth riff lifted from some ’80s electro nugget that I couldn’t seem to trainspot. (Anybody know what that was? Or am I tripping?) They played a rousing version of “No Fit State,” interpolating the chorus of New Order’s “Temptation into their song’s layered refrain—totally skin-crawling, pogoing, singing-along awesome. The closed by leading into “The Privacy of Our Love” with the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” (they are so down).

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Yelle @ War Room

I thought after the sold-out Showbox, Yelle at the War Room was going to be kind of a let down. How many kids in Seattle really give a shit about some French electro-pop feuds anyway, right? Apparently a lot. The War Room was packed, and the crowd was totally in Yelle’s thrall, bouncing to the beat, clapping along, snapping camera phone pics, the works. I also figured Yelle would be karaoke-ing along to an iPod or something, but instead she had a two-piece backing band on live drums and (synth? guitar? keytar? I couldn’t see), and they sounded sick—thick, totally synced beats; gnarly, simple synths. It doesn’t hurt that Yelle is basically like an adorable French cartoon of a pop star, all big eyes and bizarre neon couture and sharp-bobbed hair that she kept flipping up with her hand for emphasis. She may have played “Je Veux Te Voir” twice, first in the electro style, then as a more rocking encore, or my French may just be fucked. In any case, it was a totally fun, frivolous pop party. A great surprise ending to an already rad night.

(More photos after the jump)

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They do this on nights when they have shows at both the Market and SoDo locations, presumably to help those who are location-challenged.

Posted by Mr_Friendly | April 23, 2008 12:38 PM

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