Blue Hawaii took the stage 45 minutes after its suggested start time to a crowd that was already getting their dance on to Plush's house tracks, which fit the evening's entertainment with decidedly electro influences. Someone clad in a Green Man suit snaked through the venue awkwardly air-grinding on anyone and everyone in sight.
Singer Raph Standell-Preston told the audience that Blue Hawaii would, "Start slow and end fast." Programmer Alex Cowan nodded in agreement as he stood before three different Midi controllers, his laptop cleverly hidden at his feet.
"In Two," from Blue Hawaii's 2013 album "Untogether," opened with Preston's looped and deeply-effected vocals along with a subtle click, click beat from Cowan, who throughout the performance, turned knobs on his various machines to crush drum sounds as they entered the mix. On "Sierra Lift," Preston, clad in an oversized Purity Ring T-shirt, unleashed more looped vocals, which interacted with the beat in a forward thinking manner.
After the song, Preston engaged in a quick rant on America's misconception of drinking. She told the audience that they ought not to binge drink, rather, do as the Europeans do, and drink a little, as a relaxant, no matter the time of day. The crowd cheered at this, but for seemingly the wrong reasons. Nonetheless, I'm sure Preston felt vindicated, displaying a double shot of whiskey some happy fan bought her.
"In Two II" bounced with a subdued dance-club flavor, which nicely subverted Preston's drippy vocals. I enjoyed the show, but found myself wondering what differentiates Blue Hawaii from the scores of electro-indie acts currently in existence. While I couldn't think of one galvanizing element, Blue Hawaii impressed and warmed the stage well for Purity Ring.
Purity Ring appeared after a long set break as a smoke machine pumped out massive clouds of vapor. Refracting through the vapor clouds, the multi-colored house lights along with Corin Roddick's Midi light tree created a trippy halo effect.
On "Enenamy," Roddick controlled a host of blips and twinkles with a pair of drum sticks he used to activate the touch-sensitive globes perched atop his sonic light tree. The cocoons positioned above the stage like reimaged stalactites glowed rhythmically as the music transformed from chorus to verse. Singer Megan James danced in a jerky manner, as if affected by an unseen strobe light, making creepy, claw-like gesticulations to emphasize different parts of her verbal delivery.
On "Crawlers Out," James' echoing vocals washed over the crowd, creating what I'm sure was a religious experience for some. James moved in and out of the smoke's obfuscation, shinning a construction lamp on the crowd, mirroring the song's veiled lyrics and emotional tone.
Hip-hop influenced "Belispeak" unwound with psychedelic power as James confessed her shortcomings to a recurrent grandmother figure, "Grandmother I've been unruly in my dreams and with my speech."
Roddick deftly manipulated his light tree during "Lofticries," while on "Cartographist" James used a mallet to strike a bass drum positioned on the stage. When she struck the drum, it illuminated like Roddick's light tree.
Purity Ring continued their set with "Grandloves," "Obedear," a cover of Soulja Boy's "Grammy," "Ungirthed" and "Schuck." Many couples lightly grinded on each other or else stood arm in arm behind one another like spoons stacked in a kitchen drawer. Clearly, Purity Ring creates dreamy music for lovers, specifically the indie-kid-type-lovers who enjoy a bit of a la carte ethereal-nightmare-weirdness to complement their lovemaking.
Purity Ring closed with "Fineshrine," which exploded out of a wash of well-timed vocal-loop manipulation and a big instrumental drop-in by Roddick. Every person in attendance mouthed James' macabre, yet sexy poetry, "Get a little closer; let it fold. Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you."
Purity Ring offered no encore. After the set, the crowd seeped out onto Locust Street, smoking cigarettes and commenting that Purity Ring's set while short, was one of the most impressive witnessed in recent memory.