Django Django – Bowery Ballroom – 10/2/2012


Django Django and Lemonade
Bowery Ballroom
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Better than: Astronomy class.

Django Django’s show last night at the Bowery Ballroom felt like a homecoming of sorts, even though it was the kaleidoscopic Edinburgh outfit’s first official tour of the United States. Since most of what they said was in endearingly indecipherable Brogue, that was the only message I took away at the end of the night. Our self-proclaimed host for the evening, vocalist and guitarist Vincent Neff–who, it should be noted, wore glittery eyeshadow–made sure we were having as much fun as they were.

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Their spectacle more than made up for lackluster openers Lemonade, whose problem might be as simple as this: they’re self-professed record geeks but act like a boy band, down to the ear pieces and uncomfortably elucidated, synthesized effects. (“Can we have lots of delay on this? Like trailing forever?”) But perhaps that’s a bit unfair, since by the second or third song it became clear that their proper venue was a club in Ibiza as opposed to a sparsely populated theater in which everyone was drying off from the pissing rain while they waited impatiently for Django Django.

Lemonade do bang out some deeply moving beats, like the late-’90s bombast of “Ice Water” and “Whitecaps.” Ultimately, though, they suffer from weightlessness. It’s not a bad problem for an electronics-based dance band, but in light of the headlining act’s spastic psychedelia, lyrics like “I think I’d like to meet your sister” and “Just a reflection on the water” x4 are just boring. They get an A for effort, though, as they bounced and emoted and even used glow-in-the-dark drumsticks to get someone, anyone, to put their hands in the air. “We’ve never played here before on a rainy day. Makes it special.”

Really, they tried.

By the time Django Django took the stage, the Bowery had filled up. After soundchecking in normal, albeit stylish clothing, they re-emerged wearing matching tie-dyed shirts in various polka dots and leopard spots. They camouflaged themselves in the stage’s shimmering backdrop and lost themselves in song, Neff’s arms occasionally raised, shaman-like, as he invoked spirits of psych-rock past.

They opened with “Introduction” and proceeded through their self-titled debut fairly track-by-track, moving for the most part seamlessly and with momentum. Neff and synth operator Tommy Grace brought out an assortment of musical oddities over the course of our acid trip, including a tambourine the size of a bike wheel and a wooden agogo. Though the latter can be heard more clearly on record than live, where it gets lost behind the fat bass, it was a nice idea. Django Django played like a whip, coiled tightly for complicated arrangements like on the interpolated rhythms of “Storm,” until they let loose for moments like the sirens opening “WOR”–the surf-rock twangs of “Life’s A Beach” falling somewhere between the two–making everything look like it required no effort and a lot of euphoria.

Though “We only have one album!,” the group reemerged for an encore and bongoed their way through “Silver Rays.” Final puffs of steam-heat and organic enhancements floated up from the audience as we prepared to come down from “Hail Bop” and re-enter the stratosphere.

Critical Bias: Love Scottish accents.

Overheard: “What can you put vodka in? Does a Manhattan have vodka in it?”

Random Notebook Dump: Real bands drink water.