Having not been to an out right, definitive ‘gig’ in a while How To Dress Well served as unapologetic reminder of the format.
A small dark, dingy basement offering overpriced drinks and a modest stage. Tick. A young, handsome man bashfully emerging from a crowd in which his ‘trendy’ attire had previously afforded him anonymity, being applauded rapturously by excitable fans. Tick. A small group crowded round the stage singing each and every word whilst staring adoringly at the project’s curator, Tom Krell and thus completely ignoring the unoriginal brooding image projections. Tick. An obnoxious heckler whose unintelligible, declarations, questions, or maybe even suggestions (?) are apparently collectively understood and considered to be very funny by everybody but me. Tick. However the evening failed to tick one crucial box; an exciting experience created by an engaging performance.
Perhaps it is a the strain of the European tour promoting the new album Total Loss, or the pressure of immense hype from the likes of Pitchfork, but the band seemed tired and were incapable of reaching the emotional climaxes expected of the “chill wave” darlings. Krell’s insistence that the “beats” be blasted as loud as possible in order to create intensity backfired. The sound quality was poor and his voice was overpowered.
A far more captivating decision was his to sing a dedicated a capella version of ‘Clown Town’ as an encore. The beauty and fragility of his voice when stripped of any distraction was magical. An entire evening of hearing the simplicity and delicacy of his naked sound would have been far more successful in creating a sincere atmosphere. But the crowd were predominantly very happy and gushed to congratulate him and themselves, reminding me not only of the gig format, but a feeling that pervaded my entire teenage years; what have I missed?