With the big acts of my summer concert series set (Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Petty and U2), I was lamenting not jumping immediately at the chance of buying tickets for a smaller show in the form of The xx at the Varsity. I should have guessed that this emo, shoegazy band would sell out in less than a day in my emo, shoegazy home town of Minneapolis.
So, I poked around online to see what tickets were going for….75 dollars for a 25 dollar ticket! Great Scott!!!! I had more or less given up on going but then a phone call came about a week before the show. My friends Jeremy and Rea had an extra ticket and it was mine if I so desired. Mega.
We met up at the Loring Pasta Bar for pre-show conversation and then headed over to the venue at about 10:30pm. The xx were scheduled to go on at 11pm. The Varsity was packed but there as still plenty of space in the middle of the floor. As we watched the alarmingly sucky warm up band (a female performer named JJ who sang to pre-recorded tracks with a video of herself striking pretentious poses in the background), I thought about how different The xx are compared to the other bands I like.
They are very sparse..almost hollow. I usually like lush sounds and a chorus of vocals. The guitar work is quite simplistic and they mostly use programmed drums. Yet their music betrays both a haunting isolation and a tender caress of comfort which I always thoroughly enjoy in my music. Take the lyrics to “VCR”:
“Watch things on VCRs with me…And talk about big love…I think we are superstars…You say you think we are the best thing…But you, you just know…You just do…”
This is EXACTLY what I look for when I listen to music..an illustration of intimacy that stirs a commonality. How many of us out there have felt like this before? Knowing someone who just gets you…without even saying a word. It’s magnificent. These were the thoughts and feelings that were comforting me as the first song began.
They opened, not surprisingly, with “Intro” and as they did, the white curtain in front of the stage kept the band hidden from us. Flickering lights bounced their shadows all over the venue. At the conclusion of the song, the curtain dropped to reveal the band-all dressed in black.
It was interesting to watch the audience, clearly revved up with excitement, try to make sense of how to cheer for the methadone-like tunage. The xx’s songs just aren’t mosh pit ready. They are sewn from a different quilt – one of introspection and quiet solitude. The song “Shelter” is a perfect example of this and one of the two best tracks of the night. The other was, of course, was “Islands.”
The song “Islands” will always be my favorite xx song. It’s a metaphor for all the wonderful aspects of romance. Romy sings by herself first – then she sings with Oliver – then they sing together, all they while backed by a happy-skippy melody and beat. I fell into that Bogart-Bergman in Casablanca dream when they sang:
“I am yours now…so I now I don’t ever have to leave…I’ve been found out…so now I’ll never explore.”
The dim lights and the red velvet of the Varsity really made my mood sublimely sanguine in the most exquisite of ways and that dreamer in me that I love so much was transported to a million worlds, known and unknown, across all of time itself.
Check out The xx’s tour page for their latest shows.