A bit more than halfway through the sold out Django Django show at Public Works, as I was being forcibly bumped on all sides by the lubricated and energetic crowd, the guy behind me bellowed incredulously to his friend, “there’s just so much rhythm!” Yes. Rhythm is what we came for and rhythm is what we got at Friday night’s San Francisco show on the band’s first (and hopefully not last) U.S. tour.
The show had a dramatic opening with stark black and white striped lights cutting across the four piece band’s matching (hideous) collared shirts. I fully anticipated ample booty shaking opportunities given the African percussive influences on their music, but I hadn’t before recognized the New Wave/synthpop aspects of their sound until seeing them perform live. This added a welcome new dimension to the show, and I was equally surprised by the mosh pit that developed all around me. There were some jumpy clubbers to the left of me and rugby-sized Brits to the right, and I was stuck in the middle bouncing just enough to not get squashed. Going into the show, I never would have described Django Django as punk, but it’s clear to me now how varied their influences really are. I’m excited to see what they do next.
The band easily translated their well-paced sound to the stage, getting the crowd amped up early and keeping us moving throughout the set. With only one album, the setlist isn’t quite as relevant, but highlights include “Waveforms,” “Skies Over Cairo,” “WOR,” and “Life’s a Beach.” Their excitement was apparent, and I think this show was one that would have been better served in a larger venue. A more open room with a larger stage would have allowed the music room to breathe and given the interesting and vibrant visual backdrops a more impactful display, not to mention more dancing room for more dancing bodies.
Django Django hail from Western Europe (Scotland, Ireland and Leeds, to be exact), and their debut self-titled album was released in the States in September of last year. The album appeared on multiple year end “Best of 2012” lists in Europe and the US and was nominated for the 2012 Mercury Prize. Their debut U.S. tour was a brief 13 nights and ended last night in Los Angeles at The Fonda Theater. If you were one of the lucky ones to catch the band this go around, congratulate yourself with a nice, smug pat on the back. Way to be hip, hipster.
The opening band was Night Moves, and no, they have no apparent connection to Bob Seger beyond the easy jokes. Hailing from Minneapolis, they have a 70s dream pop sound with a dash of country sensibility. Formed from three high school friends, they spent a majority of their early phase perfecting their first album, Colored Emotions. Guitarist and vocalist John Pelant has a pleasant and able voice, and other guitarst Mark Ritsema had the sort of wild hair that undoubtedly parts straight down the back of his head to the base of his neck, a sign of constantly walking with your head down and bobbing. I couldn’t stop staring at his Fair Isle sweater either. Live, the songs tended to bleed into each other without a lot of distinction between tracks, but the venue disco ball suited their musical style well. It was prom night at Public Works. Meticulous songwriting doesn’t easily lead to an enigmatic live show, but I’m hoping the talented group is able to hone their stage presence on their next tour starting up in April. Dates can be found here.