(all photos by Keith Klenowski)
The xx and jj played to Big Ears’ first sold out show last night at Bijou Theatre.Â The show was insanity from the beginning as lines crept around the corner as people waited for will call tickets, and by the time the show had ended, ENS photographer Keith Klenowski and I had seen onstage drunkenness and epic light shows, two audience members getting naked in the box seats and what we think was another two audience members getting carried off to jail.Â It was an interesting show, to say the least.
Electronic artist Nosaj Thing launched into the opening set.Â A Nosaj Thing show is essentially L.A. producer Jason Chung onstage with a Macbook Pro and a Kaoss Pad.Â There is no visual backdrop or fancy light show – just Nosaj Thing under a single blue spotlight, manipulating samples and layering beats.Â Nosaj Thing seamlessly transitioned between songs using a sonic palette of blips, synth and ribcage-rattling bass to flesh out the trip hop instrumentals.Â Despite the artist’s minimalistic setup, Chung kept my attention.Â I found myself wanting some kind of visual projections behind him, but watching him bobbing his head and engaging his whole body to twist and tweak knobs was entertaining enough.Â Still, I had to laugh when ENS photographer Keith Klenowski posted during the show, “watching a dj perform is a lot like watching a mime. you recognize their talent, but after 20 minutes u wonder why the hell u are still watching.”
Swedish duo jj took the stage next, though really it was only vocalist Elin Kastlander up until about two-thirds of the set.Â With Kastlander’s curly mess of blonde hair and shawl, Stevie Nicks immediately came to mind.Â Though she started off the set playing an acoustic guitar, she quickly abandoned the sit-down set up in favor of standing in front of a screen projecting nature videos and home movies.Â WhileÂ Nosaj Thing made up for a lack of visuals with big movements, Kastlander unfortunately depended on the projections to make up for a lack of stage presence.Â Â Though her vocals maintained its strength and delicacy, it was painfully obvious she was nervous; between verses, she stood with her hands at her side, looking down at her feet or fidgeting with her hair.Â It was only when guitarist Joakim Benon joined her that she seemed more at ease, and by the end of the night her voice had definitely gained some confidence.
The xx however is what drew the crowd, and their epic stage set up did nothing but boost the anticipation.Â As the first notes of “Intro” rang throughout the theater, the curtain opened to giant silhouettes of the band backlit against a giant white sheet.Â Each member’s shadow spilled onto the sheet for a moment before it disappeared in a flash of blinding light, all to the pulsing beat of the song.Â The sheet finally dropped as the band leaped right into “Crystallised” and from there, the tone was set for a dark, dramatic performance.Â The band sounded amazing as they played songs from their debut xx.Â There’s something to be said for a band who sounds exactly as they sound on the album, though I wished there was some variance in the sound of the live performance.Â Though the band rarely deviated from the arrangements on the record, it was still a solid show.Â The audience was definitely a huge element to the atmosphere of the show, though – the revirb-soaked R&B must have done its job because Keith said he thought he saw someone getting a strip tease in the balcony.