The second night of a sold-out, two-night stand for The Naked and Famous at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club occurs on a Monday evening, and serves as a primary example of what happens when people without any sense of show etiquette go to shows.
The crowd is largely early 20s and more than half female. But overall, it’s full of people who don’t attend a lot of shows: the club is filled with frat boys and the women who unfortunately encourage their jackassery.
The Colourist is on first to warm up the crowd, as if that hasn’t already been accomplished by the fraternal twins of Budweiser and Fireball. The band’s most unique feature is that their lead singer is also their drummer, and happens to be female. The oeuvre is less novel: danceable pop songs in the same vein as the headliner. They play a song that they note has been on TV, and which brings acknowledgement from the crowd…real or feigned, it’s tough to tell. It’s hooky and kinda catchy, but not specifically memorable due to an arrangement where the chorus awkwardly bursts in upon listeners without a bridge, the song ultimately sounding cobbled together from a series of well-above average melodic hooks that just don’t fit together tightly. Overall, while they employ a lot of the same drum beats and electro pop tricks as The Naked and Famous (or Two Door Cinema Club, for that matter)…their songs just aren’t as memorable.
The Naked and Famous has brought along a serious lighting rig, smoke effects and all. It surrounds them like the bridge of some sort of futuristic spaceship, a series of quarter circles slightly flattened and with all sorts of shiny objects attached. By this point, the crowd is between three-quarters and four-fifths drunk, their party having started well before the arrival of the opener, let alone the headliner.
Strobes accompany the start of the set, providing a contrast to the slow building song (“A Stillness”) they choose as their opener. The song itself reaches a crescendo about two minutes in, before receding and rising yet again. It’s a more contemplative opening salvo than this crowd seems to have expected, and the build is a bit at odds with the rather obnoxious rotating strobes that are positioned so as to constantly hitting the audience in the eyes, making it difficult to watch closely. This would almost certainly be a great setup in a larger outdoor venue, but here, it unfortunately distracts from the performance.
Despite all that…the band is on point, offering catchy and well-crafted electropop songs that bounce down like rays of sunshine, elevating the serotonin levels of their attentive audience. Which, allows them to get away with missing a few vocal notes here and there, Alisa Zayalith seemingly fighting some vocal discomfort during a few songs.
Zayalith has changed her look significantly, now sporting Mia Farrow’s haircut (and its hue) as seen in “Rosemary’s Baby.” Jesse Wood provides amazing drumming, visceral and kinetic while remaining perceptibly precise. Having seen the band numerous times, it’s something that should have stood out earlier, but at last, it has revealed itself.
But their true genius is contained within the simplicity of easily remembered choruses with catchy inflections. Thankfully, they have a lot of those, because the chatty crowd doesn’t want to shut up; they’re here for the scene and the singles, pausing only to snap a camera phone shot or five. And that’s unfortunate, because the chatter ruins some of the band’s softer, complex and stunningly good songs.
Generation Me is missing a great show, and ruining one for the people trying to pay attention, actually, so it almost seems like a good thing when a slower number that I can barely focus upon over the drunken chatter brings the the set to a close in just under an hour. I seek refuge elsewhere in the club during the momentary break before the encore, only to be disappointed by more “self-obsessed and (not so) sexxee” members of tonight’s scene. A Sonic Youth show, this is not.
They perform a relatively brief encore, thankfully throwing in a couple of the upbeat burners that get the crowd to focus a bit more, before ending (of course) with the spastic joy of their biggest single. Despite the strong performance occurring on stage — they could move more smoothly from song to song — the crowd has overwhelmed the experience and brought to mind a line from Cameron Crowe‘s “Singles” … “You know, it’s OK to loathe these people.”
Photos: Katherine Gaines