By Gage Allen Taylor
I’ll be the first to admit that I was slow to jump on the Purity Ring hype-train. I heard “Ungirthed” and “Belispeak,” and thought they were good but definitely not great. “Fineshrines” finally made me a believer in whatever you want to call their dream-trap sound, and their live show only cemented that.
Blue Hawaii started the night off right with their bass-heavy dub techno set. Along with Grimes, Doldrums, Majical Cloudz, and d’Eon, they’re the vanguards of the current Montreal scene. While they performed in front of Purity Ring’s eery cocoon-based light setup, there was no doubt that the duo conquered the stage. After seeing their set at Nochella, I knew that they really needed a suitable speaker system to get their point across, and the El Rey delivered the bass in spades. The duo ignored some of the more calm sections of their new sophomore effort, Untogether, in favor of keeping the constant 130+bpm kick drum going, occasionally slowing down to let a fresh, house-y breath of air in. Vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston did an impressive job looping herself live, using it to great effect when she sampled herself screaming in the breakdown of what sounded like a Blue Hawaii vs Four Tet banger. That said, the crowd simply wasn’t moving enough. The set sounded like it would have been quite at home in a Berlin club, and the mass of people at the El Rey simply weren’t in that kind of mood last Thursday night. All in all, great set though, and Blue Hawaii will continue to be a group to watch in my book.
Purity Ring took a bit too long to get to the stage, but when they finally got there, they delivered. The cocoons of lights slowly lit up, and the duo took the stage in front of a thick wall of smoke. Starting off with my least favorite track off Shrines, ”Lofticries,” they could only go up from there, and that’s certainly what they did. The two performed like they had a clear vision of what their concerts could (and should) be. Vocalist Megan James moved her body in an oddly endearing but eery way, choppily grooving to the trap-inspired beats that Corin Roddick was banging out on his homemade rig. She gave a face to the body-horror-inspired lyrics that animate their music. Their light show was simply dazzling, and combined with Corin’s tree/drum/synth/light thing, the spectacle got the entire crowd going. Simply put, this show looked like the future, or at least two Edmonton natives’ vision of it. They turned the majestic El Rey into a shell in which they could let their creepily organic pop bloom.
By the time they slowed down for “Obedear” a little more than halfway through the set, the crowd was just going nuts. You could definitely feel the energy, and they hadn’t even hit the singles yet. None of this is to say the show was absolutely flawless. The sound guys were definitely having trouble with getting Megan’s vocals mixed right, with the cavernous acoustics of the El Rey making her already reverbed signal sound a little odd and boomy, but her stage presence (and dope drum-thing) helped make up for that. They also played their entire discography, which, when it’s only one album, can feel odd: a 50 minute headliner? But whatever. I’ve seen worse. And when they finally closed with “Fineshrine,” you knew exactly why they had been able to become one of the best buzzbands of last year: they’re uniquely captivating, and they know it. When you can get a crowd of 700 to basically scream along with “Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you,” you’re doing something right.
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