Friday, November 14, 2008

November 12, 2008: M83 w/ School of Seven Bells

Tremont Music Hall-Charlotte, NC--Wednesday night I trekked to Charlotte after a rigorous day of yardwork to enjoy yet another of my favorite bands, M83. Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez (and formerly Nicolas Fromageau) are, in their "own "language, an homage to the 80s days of dark/progressive new wave/pop a la Flock of Seagulls, The Cure, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode but with more modern, progressive, ebb-and-flow elements of the -gaze genre.

M83's authentic sound stemms from Gonzalez's zeal for 80s pop culture and his attention to detail, right down to the vintage analog equipment.

In a small moment of jubilation, I filled up my car with gas for $1.99/gal., ate some udon and veggies before arriving at the Tremont Music Hall. Perhaps the decaying Mecca of a post-hardcore/metal/etc. scene, what Tremont lacks in accommodations, it more than makes up for in superior sound equipment and ample supply of staple PBR tallboys.

The show was held in the smaller "Casbah" section of the venue, but quickly filled up. I'd heard there was a leak in the larger venue. A very reasonable $16 ticket got me in the door and lined up by the small stage, cramped among the toolkits of electronic wizards. The crowd was (and I hate to use this word) ecclectic; I saw a mix of thirty-somethings looking for a new spin on the genres they grew up with, hipsters taking their 80s fandom to the razor's edge, some rather discreet concert goers not dressing the part and a surprising number of kids who probably never lived through the 80s.

The opening band, School of Seven Bells, started promptly. I hadn't heard them; but, being on the same bill, I had high expectations which were not let down. The group consists of former Secret Machine Benjamin Curtis, flanked by twin sisters and vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza.

Anchored by body-moving, contemplative beats and distraught chords from the house that Bjork built, the girls' haunting melodies evoke a Natalie Merchant style of apocalyptic bliss. By the time they finished, I found myself longing for more of their performance.

After a brief interval, Anthony and the band made a humble entrance to the stage--a status that they held throughout the entire evening. Sticking to their guns, the group wasted little time getting into the crowd anthems. "Don't Save Us From the Flames" debuted early on, followed soon after by the newly-christened "Kim & Jessie." Little was said between works, except for a gracious thank-you from Gonzalez.

While I'm not yet entirely familiar with the newer "Saturday=Youth," we heard most of the catalog from this album. Recent addition Morgan Kibby more than fulfills the female vocalist role missing from Gonzalez's roster. Her voice adds a solid, sharp depth and contrast to the at-times chaotic music.

Most of the band's turn-of-the-century work focuses on instrumentation rather than vocals and song structure, and I worried about how they would express that in their live show. But they are obviously very passionate about their instruments and music, making the live show no chore to watch.

While I wish I had wandered a bit closer to absorb the energy and emotion of the group, I was blessed with the good company of tranquil, like-minded fans with which to share the experience.

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