As we arrived at the Triple Rock last night, my friend and I debated why it is that indie rock acts with such sizable national audiences are often to be found playing small venues in the Twin Cities. Is it because the audience for adventurous new music is not huge but very hip? Is it because the Cities are so sprawling that a lot of the prospective attendees are, say, in Blaine and don’t want to drive into town? Whatever the reason, we weren’t complaining. Headliners Matt and Kim and their supporting act Amanda Blank put on fantastic performances for the sellout crowd at the cozy club.
It’s the time of year when under-occupied freshmen can be seen wandering the U’s campus in packs, looking for something to do, and from the looks of the crowd a few packs found their way down Cedar to the Triple Rock last night. It was a young crowd; my friend overheard one 18-ish woman exclaim, “It just feels so weird not to be in school right now!” The bartender was being very assiduous about checking for wristbands, and I’ve never seen bigger Xes drawn on the hands of under-21s. (Matt Johnson, of Matt and Kim, played to the crowd by defiantly declaring from the stage, “Summer’s not over ’til we fucking say it’s over!”)
If it was convenient for the club and its patrons that the show fell at the beginning of the school year, it certainly didn’t seem that many people were there randomly; enthusiasm was high for both Matt and Kim and Amanda Blank, a Philadelphian dance-rapper who’s quickly winning fans with “Might Like You Better” (“if we slept together,” continues the chorus), the first single from her debut LP I Love You. It’s almost a novelty song, but Blank isn’t a novelty act: she’s a furiously charismatic performer with a wide vocal range and impeccable musical instincts.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an opening act rivet a room’s attention like Blank did; she made a theatrical entrance swathed in hood and a poncho-like garment that she removed in pieces over the course of her short set, exposing a ropy set of limbs that she wagged back and forth across the stage. I try to avoid mash-up descriptions of musical artists, but I think it pretty well covers it to say that Blank’s musical style and appearance combine M.I.A. (one of her pals) and Amy Winehouse, with some Sugarhill-style rapping and the stage presence of Neil Diamond—complete with his signature microphone thrusts and wide-smiling banter. (“You’re all absolutely wonderful! I’m going to do a really old song for you right now.”) It was something to see.
The big-beat cuteness continued with Matt and Kim, a couple whose stage chemistry was so ridiculously adorable that it was hard to believe that they’re actually a dating couple. (They are; Metro International has called them “the Captain and Tenille for the 00s.”) Drummer Kim Schifino smiled ecstatically up at keyboardist/vocalist Matt Johnson for almost the entire duration of the set, except for the bits where she was smiling ecstatically at the audience, dancing on her bass drum, and crowd-surfing. She was even smiling when she accused an audience member of grabbing her breast during her foray into the hands of the crowd. “It wasn’t a big titty, but it was grabbed!” she grinned. “I’ve seen ’em,” shrugged Johnson.
The duo pounded their way through songs from their eponymous debut and their new record Grand, with quick breaks for chatting and a crowd-stirring rendition of the hook from Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2.” (I’m guessing half the crowd was familiar with the tune from high school basketball games and half Googled the artist when Of Montreal name-dropped him in “My British Tour Diary.”) Their live sound is much more primitive than it is on record—and in this case, that’s a compliment.
Perhaps the loudest cheers from a consistently enthusiastic crowd came for “Lessons Learned,” a recent single accompanied by a now-notorious video for which the pair stripped naked in Times Square. Johnson promised that the two would stick around to hang out after the show, and sure enough, at the set’s conclusion, Matt and Kim did something I’ve never seen an artist do before: they left the stage and walked directly into the audience. It was a gracious gesture that perfectly represented the spirit of the evening.
Jay Gabler (email@example.com, Twitter @ArtsOrbit) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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