My first note of commentary is on the audience. Other than a Low show from a few years ago when everyone on the main floor literally sat down to listen, I think this may have been the most still and silent crowd I'd ever witnessed at a rock concert. Eerily so. It was so quiet, I swore I heard a cat meowing somewhere near the back of the room. I'm just glad my phone didn't ring for fear of being yelled at. This is just not the sort of atmosphere you expect. So I couldn't get a read on the crowd. Was this silence in reverence for the indie avant-garde stylings of Jamie Stewart? Or a case of unenthusiastic concert-goers bored to tears? You got me. I'm thinking a bit of both. For example, Jay Flyer, my concert comrade on this evening, was unimpressed and decided a chicken sandwich was in order next door at the bar. But as you could probably guess, I was more on the reverent side of the spectrum. Still, the crowd sucked. Come on, people. It doesn't kill you to dance a little!
So anyway...Xiu Xiu is a fascinating band. They feature confrontational lyrics combined with some explosively violent sounds. But don't let that scare you. Add on Jamie's vulnerable voice and a surprisingly great sense of melody fighting through the chaos and you have some awesome tunes. The Cure is an obvious point of reference but there is no derivative aspect to the band. If you're interested, I strongly recommend Fabulous Muscles or their new release and one of the year's best, The Air Force.
So how are they live? Amazing and volatile. One moment, the music and lyrics are so delicate and hushed that you can barely hear the song; then suddenly, they explode in a fury of raucous (and often danceable) electronic beats and aggressive guitar. There's just three of 'em on stage, and each showcases multi-instrumental talents. But immediately, the first thing that strikes you is that frontman Jamie Stewart is one intense dude. Seriously. I thought he might break down at several points during the set. Whether "break down" meant pulling out a gun and blowing me away, or instead just crying his eyes out, I'm not sure. But that's the intensity I'm talking about. It's this dichotomy of violence and vulnerability that makes Xiu Xiu so damn fascinating.
Take these lyrics from one of their best songs titled "Fabulous Muscles" (which they didn't play unfortunately):
It was the kindest touch you ever gave
Wrap my dreams around your thighs
And drape my hope upon the chance to touch your arm
Cremate me after you cum on my lips
Honey boy place my ashes in a vase
Beneath your workout bench
No romance no sexiness
But a star-filled night
Kneeling down before the now familiar flesh
Of your deformed penis
Wigging out before the unfamiliar flesh
Of my broken neck
So this is not exactly light reading, folks. Jamie Stewart is one serious fuckin' musician. And my god, he could kick my ass, too. Who knew he was some sort of weight lifter? Fabulous Muscles, indeed. Anyway, he is a passionate guy and it comes through in the music and the performance. I've been a fan for only a short while, discovering their music gradually over the last year. It isn't instantly accessible and can be downright frustrating at first but it really grew on me. For anyone who is already familiar with their material, all of this commentary comes as no surprise. But seeing them live really added to their punch for me, even if all this sounds a little too heavy for a rock show. I'm sure that chicken sandwich was good, too.
These postings go on way too long. I apologize. I could have just written this: Shitty crowd, awesomely intense performance, chicken sandwich.
I'll work on my brevity.