Nov. 9, 2011
The Music Box
It's fitting that M83 chose a glittering starscape as the background for their set last night at the Music Box. Their music feels like you're being dragged on a grand journey through the cosmos--though not in a modern sci-fi sense. Think more along the lines of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, or perhaps a charmingly outdated '80s sci-fi space odyssey. (The band were preceded by someone walking onstage wearing a costume of that bizarro Alf-looking thing from the cover of Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, if that gives you any clue.)
Whatever the reason for that shimmering backdrop, M83 certainly have the concept of space down pat. Their set felt as if they vaulted from Earth with brilliant speed, filling the Music Box with outspoken synth zaps and twangs. Other times, the music slowed down so you would feel the emptiness in the void of space, letting the higher synth notes fade into lower atmospheric ones. And front man Anthony Gonzalez found a balance between the jump-inducing fast tunes and the enrapturing atmospheres, letting a breakdown slow things down to allow the audience to feel the grand scope of quasars passing into infinity.
Though the space metaphor could have taken over the entire night, Gonzalez made sure to keep what was happening onstage interesting. Banter was at a minimum, with the front man giving the audience a short, French-accented greeting toward the beginning of the set. Several guests appeared onstage, though, including Zola Jesus for the opening song, "Intro," which was the beginning track on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a saxophone player appeared for a solo on "Midnight City"; a man in a black suit and sunglasses took the stage, tore up his solo and then left. (I almost expected Jon Hamm to bust through the wall in suspenders and was only slightly disappointed that he didn't.)
At times, M83's method of sonic ambition seemed to outgrow the space inside the Music Box; during some of their more involved synth jams, sound seemed to warp back in upon itself. This could have been entirely on purpose, trying to project the infinity in a domain-shift metaphor for oft-repeated synth loops, but what resulted was more of an acute awareness of the confined area around us.
Still, it was easy to ignore these trifling moments of vexation and concentrate on the atmospheric blanket of sound hovering in the air. If you weren't dancing lost in space, you were standing in awe at the mass sensory overload that Gonzalez and company conjured during their set. Bright yellows, oranges, purples, blues and pinks defined visually what the music conveyed aurally, completing the sort of all-encompassing synthesis Gonzalez seemed to have wanted to create.
Despite their few shortcomings, M83 managed to maintain an ambience that wrapped up the audience and brought them into whatever cosmos they had imagined, with the energy to propel the Music Box into their seemingly endless soundscape. Theirs was an infinity worth testing the boundaries of; they appeared to have gotten us all hooked on it, such that walking outside to the streets of Hollywood Boulevard felt like a crash-landing to an Earth we never left. (Though, seriously, what's up with that weird Alf monster? Gives me the creeps.)
Critic's Bias: I was hungover the first time I heard "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire," and it was the only thing that made any kind of sense to me. (IHOP, sadly, did not.)
The Crowd: A lot of really pretty people in sweaters who really like to dance.
Overheard in the Crowd:
"I looked at how much I paid this morning, and I was just like, 'Ho-lee-SHIII . . .'"
"I love you. Like. Fucking love. You."
"Oh, God. Hold me. Guys, hold me. Guys."
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Random Notebook Dump: I'm not sure how this happened, but I ended up standing next to and meeting Pat Grossi of Active Child during M83's set. Nice to have met you, Pat!
"Kim & Jessie"
"Year One, One UFO"
"My Tears Are Becoming a Sea"
"We Own the Sky"
"This Bright Flash"
"Guitar & a Heart"
"Skin of the Night"