Live: Matt and Kim Bring Back Stagediving


They’re also bringing back fisheye lenses

Matt and Kim + Meneguar + Aa
Studio B
January 6, 2007

The Manhattan club world lives and dies on events: the hyped-up British band’s first American show, the down-South rapper’s first New York show in forever, the record-release show from the indie underdogs made good. But here’s a fun little paradox: Matt and Kim, a band who would attract basically zero attention if they headlined a Mercury Lounge show, can play a party in Greenpoint and turn the show into more of an event than any I’ve been to in Manhattan in a good long minute, in part because they’d probably never headline at the Mercury Lounge. Musically, the Brooklyn synth-and-drums duo exists somewhere between the Thermals sugar-rush bleat and Atom & his Package’s smirky, schticky bloopy-punk novelty. They play fast and simple and joyous pop songs, pounding them out with frantic abandon and amateurish glee, leaning hard on the innate joy of seeing a completely in-love couple grinning huge at each other while they hammer out their proudly rudimentary bash-pop. Their new self-titled album is a lot of fun when you’re in the mood and totally unbearable when you’re not, but their live show is always an absolute blast. Matt and Kim are basically an indie-pop band, but they play noise shows at Brooklyn warehouses and house parties, and they’ve somehow accumulated an audience that crowds the stage and sings along loud and collapses into a sweaty ball of flailing limbs and genial moshing as soon as they play their first note. And that crowd is now big enough that they can headline a Polish club in Greenpoint about twice the size of the Mercury Lounge and absolutely pack it. All of a sudden, Matt and Kim are sort of huge, and so now they have to contend with the unique problem of dance-club bouncers who have no idea what to do when their crowd goes into its usual happy-mosh routine.

The stagediving started about ten seconds into the first song they played at Studio B on Friday night: limbs tangling, bodies piling on top of bodies. sweat flying everywhere. A couple of songs in, a huge bouncer, wearing a down vest and gloves even though it was way too hot in there, materialized on the side of the stage, generally looming at first but then trying to grab any crowdsurfer who ventured close enough to the stage. And he stayed there for the entire set, even as singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson asked him repeatedly to leave: “It’s Matt and Kim, not Matt, Kim, and this dude!” For every crowdsurfer the bouncer tried to grab, about ten would just elude his grasp. Whenever he did manage to get a hand on one, five others would jump up onstage and dive off in the time it took him to drag the offending surfer to the side of the stage. Matt and Kim only played for about half an hour, but I started feeling bad for the bouncer; he clearly didn’t want to be there, and he looked something like an overmatched substitute teacher desperately trying to keep control of a misbehaving fifth-grade classroom. You can take the kids out of the warehouse party, but you can’t take the warehouse party out of the kids.

Still, Studio B was pretty much the perfect place for a show like this one. They’re new enough to let Todd P, who books a lot of those warehouse parties, take over the room for a night. They’re cheap enough to charge six bucks for admission, and they’re roomy enough to accommodate all the people who willing to pay those six bucks, which is a lot of people. The sound is clear, the lights are hilariously overactive, and the DJ booth is primed to keep the show going after the last band leaves the stage. On an unseasonably warm Saturday night during January’s entertainment drought, a big show like this feels like a godsend, like the only thing I could imagine doing that night. Five bands played, but I only saw three. Meneguar, who I guess used to be a hardcore band, played nervous and passionate old-school indie-rock with big hooks and trebly, intertwining guitar lines, but the big story during their set was just how much sweat the singer’s button-up could absorb before it melted or something. Aa started out with waves of falling-apart ambient synths and breathy vocoderized singing before devolving into rumbling tribal drums and screechy processed vocals, jerking between forbidding thump and wide-open polyrhythmic freakouts while maintaining a steady groove the entire time. None of the bands had much of anything to do with each other, but they all occupy corners of the same screwy DIY universe. When they come together, it’s enough to make you wish you never had to go to the Mercury Lounge again.