When New Times interviewed Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman and Pop Etc's Chris Chu prior to their show last night at Culture Room, it was revealed that both have long enjoyed the music of pop diva and Cannon-woman Mariah Carey. Who the hell would have thought in 1991 that "Vision of Love" would one day inspire an indie act that composes with David Byrne and Bjork.
Based on these conversations, it wasn't surprising then that Carey's mug was featured on a band T-shirt by the outdoor bar (more on that later). Nor did it shock when Amber Coffman belted out a Mariah-like note during a song off of DP's new album Swing Lo Magellan. It'd be wrong to say that Mariah was a theme, but for us it was. Well, for us, it always is. Mariah's the bombdotcom.
Pop Etc recently changed their name. A friend said, "they look just like the Morning Benders." That's cause they are, or they were, at least. Lead singer Chris Chu was funny and intense onstage. It was definitely pop music, light and summery, less annoying though than the hyper-inspirational indie crap played on computer and Play-Doh commercials. The crowd was completely charmed, maybe it was cause Chu is a cutie. Pairs of girls swarmed him after the show for pics.
Pop Etc did something we've never seen before onstage. Live Auto-Tune. Even T-Pain doesn't do Auto-Tune live. It was not our thang, but it was impressively bold in a way. The last song was called "YoYo" and Chu responded to some inaudible person in the crowd: "Not Y.O.L.O. but it could be." The set was short and sweet. Alesh Houdek of Critical Miami said, "I like it, and you can quote me on that," as he danced away.
There were many dudes in tank tops and ironic dad gear. But not everyone was like 15 years old. The crowd was comfortably both old and young. They were vocal but also very subdued. There was an intimacy that was influenced by the size of Culture Room, the fans, the bands, and the music.
Dirty Projectors performed many songs off of Swing Lo, and it seemed the crowd hadn't yet purchased the album, though no one looked genuinely disappointed. Though the older music sometimes seems like David was chewing on psychedelics when he created them, the newer songs feel like a lil' bit more like they were created by someone delightfully stoned.
They kicked off with a lot of "Ooooohhhing" and bluesy sounds with "Gun Has No Trigger." Next "Offspring Are Blank" brought the crowd into the grooves of the new stuff. David Longstreth's compositions on Swing Lo are less dynamic and play less with genres in many ways, but it's definitely easier to listen to on an iPod. Live, the older songs hit harder. Watching the three women harmonize was a pure pleasure.
Also, the show reminded us of how fun it is to clap. Yes, it's true, clapping is great. Songs like "Just From Chevron" and "Dance for You" got Dave and crew slapping their hands together, and eventually the audience caught on. Their paws were their instruments. The second craziest thing we saw was that Coffman and Haley Dekle were clapping at the same time but to different beats. How one does that is beyond this uncoordinated person. There's a scene in DP's new movie Hi Custodian where the two women play a clapping game and apparently, didn't fuck it up once (according to an interview that we read and can't find now. Sorry!).
There was this jam band feel at times, but clearly every note that sounds on or off is actually very structured. With each song, it's like Longstrenth is building a sand castle. They're delicate but created with enduring elements.
Coffman stole the show with the electro-dancey "The Socialites," expertly experimenting with the volume of her voice. The noise elements in the show keep things real and interesting. Then there was this insane moment where the women all made these crazy staccato bird sounds with their lungs, vocal chords, and mouths. Never seen anything like it. The Vienna Boys Choir was put to shame. Jaws dropped all over the club and eyes lit up. Who the fuck can do that? These ladies. It was nuts.
The set was the perfect length. Not too long, not too short. Longstrenth said during the encore that it'd been "too long ago" since they'd been down here (here included Orlando). Longstreth closed out the laid back, warm and fuzzy show with a screaming audience and a crying guitar.
The crowd: Like we said, men in tanks.
Overheard in the crowd: "It smells like teen sweat out there."
Personal bias: I like the new album quite a bit. I suggest you go and buy it. I also am currently shamelessly wearing my Mariah tee.
Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.