Matt and Kim, Fang Island, Hawnay Troof
October 3, 2010
Pomona Glass House
The Hype: Onstage, New York sweethearts Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino become the dynamic duo of Matt and Kim, a friendly and energetic band anchored only by their drum-set and keyboard. Their minimalist "dance punk" music might seem like your average cute indie fare, but their sheer enthusiasm takes it up quite a few notches.
All of the acts featured last night are D.I.Y. successes, raising to the top with a mean double-whammy of endless self-promotion and seemingly limitless energy. After years of hard work, Matt and Kim and touring buddies Fang Island and Hawnay Troof played to a packed house in Pomona.
The Show: A sea of hands, swaying and clapping in unison. Between the fingers, glimpses of a red heart tattooed on a bicep, of pearly whites in broad grins, of drumsticks slicing through the air. As each song hits its peak, a body onstage will stand up, arms raised to rally, and each time, the crowd goes nuts. These bodies--tall and lithe, wearing t-shirts and jeans--might be otherwise unassuming, if they didn't belong to Matt and Kim.
This puzzle-piece view was all that most people had, but it didn't seem to matter. With every trill of Matt's keyboard, and every fast beat ripping out of Kim's drums, good times were sure to follow. Even though I recognized only a third of their set-list, I was caught by the melodic hooks, the lyrical simplicity that turned again and again to countdowns (as in "It's a Fact" or "Cut Down") and shouting refrains ("Yea yeah! Yea yeah! Yea yeah!" in "Yea Yeah" or "La la la la la la" in "Lessons Learned"). It works. Like a scoop of vanilla ice cream dropped in a frosty mug of root beer, it's hard to mess up this formula.
"Last night, our set-list had only one word written on it: DOMINATE. And tonight," Kim said, "there's nothing written on it." She brandished a blank slip of paper, then tossed it behind her; the crowd cheered at this endearing gesture of trust.
The intro to every song was a tease, releasing in a burst of energy each time. No matter how hard they played, with sweat running down their faces, they came back with even more for the next one. They stood up often, as if riding the waves of positive energy bubbling up from the crowd. The best tease lasted the whole show, since, despite the occasional jeer from impatient jerks, they saved their breakthrough hit, "Daylight," for the very last. It was worth the wait.
For a brief moment last year, "Daylight" was ubiquitous, hopping from indie radio stations to video games, commercials, and movie trailers. No matter how often you've heard it, it's hard to deny its appeal. The beat pops, the chords ring, and the words they sing are so yearning, and yet so cozy: "In the daylight I don't pick up my phone / 'cause in the daylight, anywhere feels like home." They want that splash of daylight, the freedom of youth, the bracing breath of returning home, to last forever. And in that song--and in that moment when they played it last night, knowing that's what we wanted--it nearly did.
Matt told us that not only was this the longest set they played on this new tour, but also the longest set they've ever played, period. It was only an hour long, with no encores, so that may seem hard to believe--but bear in mind that Matt and Kim specialize in the short, sweet and catchy. They're also tremendous fans of Top 40, and have stated that they love hip-hop production for being remarkably "unique and accessible."
As proof of their pop inspirations, they peppered their set-list with club-bangers and crowd-pleasers, ranging from Sugarhill Gang's "Jump On It" to Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." "Dance party! Sunday night! In Pomona!" Matt cried, and by God, he was right.
Although the crowd had worked itself up into a rippling mass of elbows and knees by the time Matt and Kim hit the stage, they were aided in part by their eclectic opening acts, Fang Island and Hawnay Troof.
Fang Island is currently on-tour Matt and Kim; although both groups hail from Brooklyn by way of Rhode Island, their sound ends up in completely different places. They emphasize intricate jams over catchy hooks, lacing their blend of prog-rock, math-rock, and classic-rock with plenty of guitar solos and switches in time signature.
While Fang Island warmed up our minds, Hawnay Troof warmed our muscles with his peculiar brand of experimental electronic dance music. He also warmed our hearts with touching, rambling anecdotes about tours, friends, sex, hipsters, and how it feels so good to "just be acknowledged by another person."
After the show, Hawnay Troof (née Vice Cooler) told me that this is the best crowd he's ever seen in California, and that's a sentiment that comes after nearly a decade of D.I.Y. performing. Congratulations, Pomona teens. You're as grand as the musicians you support.
Critic's Bias: I'm learning how to play drums, and I've grown to appreciate drummers who can keep it simple, keep it fast, and keep it cute. Kim Schifino is of this rare variety.
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The Crowd: In the words of Hawnay Troof: "You know what I like about you guys, is that you guys are so appreciative. No fucking hipsters, you know? You are all just wonderful people. We're all just people here. Real fucking people."
Overheard in the Crowd: Girls behind me, as Hawnay Troof was talking: "Is this guy high? I think he's high. Is that...is that a bong?" It was, in fact, a confetti gun, which he had just pulled out so he could shower the crowd with colorful paper bits of love.
Random notebook dump (overheard part two): "I don't know this one. I don't even know this song. But I'm still gonna dance to this fucker."
By the way: Keep an eye out for Matt and Kim's new album, Sidewalks, on Nov. 2.