Woo-hoo! What a nice way to kick off the new year - a four-in-one showcase of up-and-coming indie/alternative bands from England, Australia, and New Zealand! Proudly billed as The People's Party, Legacy was set to serve as the perfect host, and as evidenced by the crowd milling about outside, it was clearly the place to be.
The larger line-up necessitated an early start, but even at 7pm Legacy was half full and growing as The Jezabels took stage. An eclectic four-piece from Sydney, The Jezabels got a polite listen and even some whoops and cheers. Their sound is a bit poppy for my tastes, but that's not to suggest they aren't talented. With a taste for the epic, The Jezabels blend effects-laden guitar à la The Edge with powerful vocals that made me think of The Cranberries. But I never listen to the Cranberries, so I checked with a friend to see if my impression was accurate. The reply? "Yes, but she sounds more girl-y." Let's hear it for nuances.
Their set was a brief 30 minutes, and at this point in the evening, it had the definite feel of a real party, rather, the beginnings of what people were hoping would be a real party. Folks were slowly and quietly mingling with one another, kind of that slightly shy awkwardness that happens before your friends arrive or your buzz kicks in. People were waiting for a spark, and Bombay Bicycle Club would soon provide just that.
More popular and familiar to the music fans of Taipei, Bombay Bicycle Club were in for an easier ride than The Jezabels, but it is also one they'd definitely earned with catchy songs and a nerdy hipster charm. Emphatic guitar spasms and an upbeat bounce that veered into Vampire Weekend territory officially proclaimed this party was on before the second song was even close to finishing.
Exciting lights danced between rolling drums and folk-song melodies, and I surveyed the audience to see swaying, smiling, easy-bopping pockets of friends enjoying the moment together. This was not a raging party; this was a feel-good party, and a perfect way to welcome a new year.
Singer Jack Steadman's happy conniptions alternated with the thick bass of Evening Morning, signaling that the rock element had at long last committed itself to attending the night. Cancel On Me gave way to the stirring How Could You Swallow So Much Sleep. It was a thoughtful set-list, one with an intelligent ebb & flow, an awareness of how to lead their fans through the peaks and valleys of their music. Always Like This is a tune designed to make even the most curmudgeonly groove and smirk, and guaranteed calls for an encore. But with The Naked and Famous due next, there wasn't much disappointment to wallow in when the lights went up.
Powerful. Grand. Cathartic. These are the first words I think of when considering The Naked And Famous' music. Deftly crafted hooks, thickly layered arrangements, big beats, and that elusive thing that most artists would sell their grandmothers for - that thing that punches into your chest and squeezes your heart like a vice - TNAF got that thing. Big time.
The driving pulse of All Of This christened the emoting and by the second song, Punching in a Dream, the crowd was fully aroused, dancing, singing, grinning, feeling.
The momentum shifted slightly by mid-set, but never diminished, with the soft thump of The Sun swelling and releasing. If this reads as overtly sexual, well, good music often is. TNAF are skilled at stretching tensions to their limit, then hitting you with a big moment, but never letting you go. That taunting, teasing play is what makes their music so affecting, and it was deliciously satisfying to get it from the source in real time. The End, Girls Like You… they all lived up to their promise. The no-brainer finale Young Blood dipped a little, personally, but I was quite content with the afterglow I was sporting. Time for some fresh air - there's one more band.
Having only watched a couple of Metronomy videos a few days beforehand - and not giving them my full attention either - I wasn't sure what the big deal was or why they were the headliners tonight... All I can say is, someone's got to be the last to know, and tonight it was my turn. Better late than never.
As the odd humor of their funky weirdo synth-pop unveiled itself - the ridiculously cool "Delirious"-like keyboards, the strange glowing discs sort of on their chests, but not, and song introductions like, "This next song is about the mysterious water," I had to admit I was pleasantly surprised. And with all the diehard fans surrounding me, dancing, grooving, cheering.. clearly I had underestimated this band.
Then they played She Wants and Heartbreaker and something in my head popped. It was like at the end of The Revenge of the Nerds, when Lambda Lambda Lambda & Omega Mu rock the talent show. I was similarly blown away and converted. Hot damn, I love Metronomy!
The nerd reference is mandatory, btw, and written with great affection. I myself have to resort to being a music nerd to describe what I experienced: a fucked-up, savory cocktail equal parts Talking Heads, Prince, and Zazen Boys, with a Devo chaser suspiciously served by Dr. Jekyll. That concoction is gonna get you, and get you good.
Metronomy's studio recordings are polished and perfect, and that smoothness may be what deceived me, but live they've got an energy I hadn't expected. Bassist Gbenga Adelekan's enthusiastic cheerleading and keyboardist Oscar Cash's quirky Mark Mothersbaugh-isms nicely complemented mastermind Joseph Mount's wry sensibilities. Heard loud (more kudos to Legacy for their stellar equipment), Metronomy's grooves really take over and command you. And if you get lost, well, there's just enough choreographic silliness onstage to help you out.
So things were good, and then.. then they got awesome. Announcing the next number as an older song, Metronomy ripped out a hard-edged bizarro surf tune and the party cranked up ten more notches. The only thing to do is not drop the ball, so here come the hits! Bang bang bang! A Thing For Me, Radio Ladio... and good night!
Oh my God, that was an awesome party.