Sweden’s Miike Snow: In From the Cold

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The three guys in Miike Snow probably would have preferred to be in bed. They had been forced to cancel a show earlier in the week due to illness, and the word in Twitterville was that the entire band was under the weather by the time they rolled into Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club last week for two shows in one night.

One thing was immediately striking. There were no guitars on stage. Not one. The closest thing to a string instrument was a piano sequestered in the back of stage right, and it appeared to be an electronic piano. That’s just not something you see normally at a rock show, and that’s probably because Miike Snow is not exactly a rock band. They rock though — for sure — and after a somewhat sluggish start (easily attributable to their maladies and the fact that they’d already played a show that night) they had the crowd pumping their arms in unison and dancing in that way that slightly inebriated white people dance.

Their sound has more in common with early ’90s European techno than rock, and at times brought to mind a hybrid between the keyboard driven grooves of those long-forgotten Brits, EMF, as well as the pop sensibilities of their fellow Swedes, Roxette. Don’t get all bent out of shape about this comparison; Miike Snow is a much better band than EMF and Roxette was a much better band in their heyday than people seem to either recall (or want to admit). It’s indie electropop with rock sensibilities, but as noted, with nary a rock instrument on stage.

It was a unique stage setup full of digital and analog electronic equipment, most of which seemed just a bit different from what you might see at other shows. They made great use of heavy fog and a variety of lights, bathing the band and their fortress of equipment in pulsing light and eerie shadows. The fortress served to isolate the band from the audience up front, but their elevation somehow made them seem closer to fans with further removed vantage points.

They got their energy up fairly quickly, and pretty much slapped the crowd into submission with “Silvia,” a power ballad meets moderate tempo dance burner. If that sounds confusing, that’s because you need to listen to the song. It was probably their best performance of the night, drawn out as if they were remixing themselves. Lead singer (and the band’s lone American) Andrew Wyatt was barely visible as he repaired back to the piano, the steam rising from his mug (Tea? Hot water and lemon?) was echoed in the song’s slow burn build and a crowd that moved with greater abandon as the song approached climax, culminating in a full-on dance party. It was a celebration of sadness, which is ironic of course, but also fitting within the finest pop traditions.

Other songs continued the dance party, and it seemed appropriate that the band incorporates two instruments (or at least their synthesized sounds) that have recently been all the rage in indie rock, the ubiquitous xylophone and the increasingly prominent bari saxophone. Which supports the fact that, despite the 20th century references made earlier, Miike Snow is undoubtedly of this very moment. This night’s moment continued for an hour, with bodies pulsing along with music and light, and beads of sweat reflecting audience energy like dispersed disco balls. The band took a break, returned for the encore, overcoming adversity once more to spur riotous behavior as the performance closed with their biggest hit, “Animal.”

Looking around, it was quite a striking scene. Let’s put it this way…if you’re a heterosexual male…go to a Miike Snow show. It’s like taking Home Economics — guaranteed to be 5/6 females and 1/12th gay men. If you can’t read between the lines…well, just go to a sports bar, then…you’re hopeless. Miike Snow, however, could teach sports bar patrons of the world something; they overcame their maladies to put on a clinic in how to entertain young women and open-minded men…long story short, it involves energetic dancing, catchy music and alcohol.


WeepingElvis's Miike Snow album on Photobucket

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.