M83 – [Live]

Friday, 30 May 2008

While some musicians inspire women to sleep with them, Anthony Gonzalez inspires you to hold him gently and get emo. He might just be the perfect dude. During the Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts tour, I saw M83 play a glorious show at the sold out Knitting Factory. I remember wishing more people would catch on to Anthony Gonzalez’ music, mostly so I could revel in the rebirth of shoegaze for myself. And now, only a few years later, Gonzalez is playing to a rapturous, oddly mixed crowd (hipsters + cholos = ?) at the much larger and equally sold out Echoplex in Los Angeles. It’s wonderful to see that as Gonzalez’ music has evolved his fan base has as well. Hell, it’s downright comforting.

Although it must be noted, for a shoegazer audience, they weren’t too friendly. Whether fan or photographer, if you even dared to step out of your one foot circumference you would quickly learn no one was going to budge. Just what is it about Gonzalez’ music that inspires such ardent yet stationary devotion? I would assume it is the fact that he manages to create music with heavy emotion that allows the listener to identify with it on a very personal level. Considering he’s influenced by the Cocteau Twins, a band rife with emotive soundscapes, shoegaze guitars and strange lyrics… it makes sense. And as his latest album vacillates between John Hughes’ type jams and epic space rock anthems, it’s clear his music isn’t for the numb of heart.

Showcasing a majority of material off Saturdays = Youth including, “Graveyard Girl,” a slightly stripped-down interpretation of “Highway of Endless Dreams,” “We Own The Sky,” “Kim & Jessie” and several others, Gonzalez performed with a slightly smaller band versus the last time he toured here (one guitar vs. two) and added vocalist Morgan Kibby on keys to the mix. Behind them, visuals quickly rotated while the stage lights shifted across band members’ faces. To their credit, I don’t recall one point in the set where I watched the visuals more than the band.

Loving M83 as much as I do, it puts the band at somewhat of a disadvantage since the shows mean more to me than the average night on the town. And well, for my picky ass, I wasn’t completely blown away by the first half of the set but I may be in the minority, I’ll admit. My main issue was that the mix wasn’t up to par from where I stood. Standing in front of a speaker with an editor friend of mine and both of us wishing the music was louder was indicator number one. Secondly, oftentimes Kibby’s vocals were disproportionately louder than Gonzalez (which, might be his intent, but seemed distracting). However, as the show went on, even the mix couldn’t get in the way of the band hitting their stride and the audience clearly responding to it.

It was an interesting experience to witness an entire audience visually shapeshift emotionally as Gonzalez et. al. spanned the genre from euphoric dance tunes that had the crowd dancing like it was a 1995 rave to spiraling post rock that left some near tears. At one point, a virtually blinding yellow light pierced from behind the band out into the crowd and oddly, people just stood there transfixed. Their retinas may have been burning, but they were not going to move.

As the night wound down, the audience erupted into high pitched screams and squeals for an encore… which is actually complimentary since we all know everyone comes back anyway. When the set finally ended, no one moved until the house lights finally went up. This cultish crowd was going to drink it in until the last drop… which, of course, led to a shuffling stampede trying get out of the club’s lone exit.

As we all walked out, the harsh landscape of downtown Echo Park seemed an ironic contrast to the soaring sentiments experienced only twenty feet away and ten minutes earlier. But in a strange way, like an affair ending, it was the perfect metaphor to end the evening. A reminder that those fleeting moments of love and grandeur that are so easy to get wrapped up in… are no matter how sweet… always fleeting. So it’s best to just enjoy the moment… and then after it fades, get a taco with extra onions from the street vendor outside.

Related Articles: Saturdays = Youth Album Review

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