live review: 11/27 – school of seven bells & m83, doug fir Lounge

The M83 show last night marked my triumphant return to the Doug Fir Lounge.  As I have spoken about in my other blog, I had an expired driver’s license for a good five months or so, and the only venue in the city of Portland who would not let me into their log-laden hallways was the Doug Fir.  That was back in September, and the act was Laura Gibson, so I wasn’t too upset about it (don’t get me wrong, I like Laura Gibson, but if I don’t see her, meh).

So when my friend Paul told me that he had scored tickets to M83, and that it was at the Doug Fir, I was elated, first because it was M83 and their new album, Saturdays = Youth is one of my favorites of the year, but also because I had a brand new shiny Oregon state driver’s license!  “Take that, Doug Fir!” I shouted to the stars.  But in the end they didn’t give a shit.

those girls are waifishly hot
those girls are waifishly hot

School of Seven Bells is a three-piece band consisting of Benjamin Curtis (formerly of the Secret Machines) and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza (formerly of On! Air! Library!).  The basic set up was this: the sisters sandwich Curtis on the stage.  They sing, he rocks out on guitar, the Deheza sister without bangs plays a MIDI drum machine thing, the other sister plays guitar (but more like bass), and both sisters sing.

Their LP, Alpinisms, is pretty good, an exotic blend of Persian-sounding melodies with electronic music and guitars.  Plus, of course, the sisters’ voices complement each other perfectly.  On stage, they were quiet and humble, no chatter between songs, which was fine because the sisters were cute enough to bypass chatter.  When there’s three ugly dudes up on stage, they better be saying something in between songs, but hot chicks get away with being quiet and mysterious.

The songs live were a little formulaic (as in, non-bangs twin starts playing drums, Curtis does a repetitious riff on his guitar, and then the twins sing), but they built well and were a great complement to M83, who takes the “building” idea of songs and bumps it up about fifty notches.  In the end they were a good appetizer to the main course, a band who sounds kind of like M83 while not sounding like them at all.  If that makes any sense.

Paul and I went outside to get some air while SVIIB (as School for Seven Bells calls themselves — get it?  Get it?!) took down their equipment and M83 got ready to play.

oooh, silhouettey...
oooh, silhouettey…

(That’s a picture from May of this year — I don’t have a fancy-schmancy camera and no one has uploaded pics from last night yet.)

So, two words to describe M83 would be: Loud, and Awesome.  First off, I must give props to their drummer, who was stuck behind a plexiglass screen for the whole show.  He was Knocked. Out.  I spent most of the show staring at him, especially on the last song (before the glorious encore of “Couleurs”), where he was playing what appeared to be the most complex thing I had ever seen.  And he was loving it, too.

I didn’t know a lot of M83 prior to the show.  I used to have Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, but I found it too … “wall of sound”-y at the time.  I couldn’t get into it besides “In Church” which was just a great melody and a great song.

Then I got Saturdays = Youth on a bit of a whim, and was hooked hardcore.  And the great thing about electronic music like that is that it sounds excellent live as well.  Anthony (the M83 guy) had a laptop which was connected to some glass box, and he could do all kinds of cool stuff with it, but other than hitting a button to play some pre-rendered track layer, they mostly played guitars, drums and keyboard (by a young woman wearing granny glasses, no less).  It was tight, and quite apparent that they enjoyed themelves and had been touring for quite a while.  I gained a new appreciation for their older songs while absolutely loving the stuff from the last album.

I guess some girl was on the same wavelength with them because after one song, she screamed “Kim & Jessie!” and Anthony said, “Okay,” and without missing a beat they launched into the song.  It was amazing.

The other highlight of the night (if you could call it that) was when a guy who I’m pretty sure was either on ecstasy or just totally nerding out turned around and shouted, “PLEASE. STOP. TALKING, GODDDDDAMMIT” to some random person — and then turned back around and talked to his friend.  These guys previously had been attempting a new high-jump record during “Graveyard Girl” and were just generally acting like Those Guys at a Show, but I was more shocked by his hypocrisy of shouting at someone and then talking yourself.

Other than that minor inconvenience though, great show, lots of energy, more hipster dancing than I have ever seen before as “Couleurs” built up and up and up, and lots of people going home with stomachaches after Thanksgiving dinner and dancing mix.

By Josh

I'm the guy who owns this site, ya dummy.

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