Alt-J at Bayou Music Center, 9/26/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker
Alt-J Bayou Music Center September 26, 2013
The fall music season is in full swing, and Bayou Music Center was alive and kicking with a sold-out crowd of young adults for a showcase of talents by the likes of English indie-rockers Alt-J, with their folkier friends Lord Huron as support.
Alt-J have significantly grown in size in such a short period of time, that it somewhat mesmerizes me there were so many people there. Just a year ago, they were playing to tiny crowds and were relatively unknown. Thanks to their album, An Awesome Wave, which won the coveted British music award The Mercury Prize, they've seen a rise in their popularity spike like Apple's stock on iPhone release day.
This was my third time seeing the Brits, but the first time catching a full, non-festival set. Last year, they played for a crowd of about 100 at Austin City Limits.True, it was at 11:30 a.m. on the event's final day, but I still figured on a bigger crowd. Next time they were on a stage in front of me was at this spring's SXSW and a packed parking lot at Waterloo records. Just the six-month window between those two Austin events saw an increase in fanbase tenfold.
But that is the musical world we now live in -- the singles world. Where people regard one song so highly that it makes a band huge, only to throw them away when the next catchy tune comes along. Many of the current hitmakers deserve to be thrown away (I'm looking at you, Imagine Dragons), but what's different about Alt-J is that they make really good, non-disposable music.
While I'm still yet to hear any Alt-J on the radio, which is bound to happen soon, the crowd that gathered at BMC were certainly there to hear that one song. You know the one: it goes "Please don't go, please don't go, I love you so, I love you so." Thankfully, they played it last, and to those of you that were there to hear that song, it's called "Breezeblocks," and it's about a cinder block. Well, not really, but to most who were in attendance, it might as well have been.
Do they send a mixtape with current indie hits out to colleges? Like specifically to fraternities and sororities? Is Alt-J what they're really listening too when they need a break between Drake and the Lumineers? I'm just so confused by one: the fact that the show was sold out. And two: who was in attendance. The reason I live in Houston is for its incredible diversity. Where was that diversity Thursday night?
It makes it really hard for a fan of the band to enjoy the show when people are shouting over the music to their friends about how much they love alcohol. I'm surprised there wasn't a flip-cup and beer-pong tournament posted up in the back of the venue. I just can't wait until Alt-J take the plunge in popularity next year a la Peter, Bjorn & John, MGMT, Foster the People, et al.
Soon enough, they'll be back at Fitz again, where they belong and you can actually enjoy their music without the talkative folks only there to pre-game before hitting Midtown, somewhere the venue's cavernous soundscape doesn't eat up your pristine harmonies and melodies.
Review continues on the next page.
The music was great. Very great. Unfortunately the sound was turned way up, which I guess is the only way it could translate to such a large crowd, but towards the back it got just a little muddy. It's not like Alt-J is the most understandable band, but some of the quieter parts of the set, specifically songs like "Matilda," "Tesselate" and a few short-but-sweet interludes, were swallowed up by the huge venue.
Still, though, during some of the more raucous, beat-heavy material, like "Fitzpleasure" and "Dissolve Me," it showed why they've gotten so big, and even with the size and demeanor of the crowd, they were still respectful to the band and danced the night away. Or bobbed the night away. Alt-J's music isn't really the easiest to dance to.
I was impressed with their bravado, specifically their ability to own the stage, but can't wait for them to fall back a little from grace so I can enjoy their set a little more. I guess that's a bit selfish of me, but with so many bands on the hit-parade over the past several years, It's an inevitable drop in size that will happen sooner than later.
Don't get me wrong, though, Alt-J were fantastic during their hour-long performance. They played basically their whole album, peppering in a few new songs to the delight of the true fans in the house. They have such a unique sound that can only be comparable to My Morning Jacket if they added a bunch of heavy bass lines and synths, and focused on beats rather than guitars.
They're certainly deserving of all the attention they've been getting as of late, and should undoubtedly continue to release well-written and well-produced music for years to come. I just can't wait for them to level out and for them to weed out all of those who were there Thursday because their friend's girlfriend likes that "Breezeblocks" song. Hopefully, that goes down quickly.
Personal Bias: My lady turned me on to this band sometime early last year, and ever since then I've worn down the grooves on my record. They're just so damn good.
The Crowd: I could only imagine a Katt Williams joke about the crowd. It would be hilarious. White people being comfortable with being white.
Overheard In the Crowd: Great set-break music from the likes of Django Django. If you haven't listened to that band yet, I'd jump on it. They're the next Alt-J.
Random Notebook Dump: Bayou Music Center, please get rid of those scrolling advertisements during shows. I know you're just trying to make money, but come on, it's a huge distraction. I feel bad for those in the balcony who had that shit in their face the whole time. At least have a video of the performance during the show, rather than trying to get any one of those twentysomethings to rent out the hall for their next corporate event.
Random Notebook Dump No. 2: Alt-J (∆) is the computer short-key to make a delta, or rather, a triangle. Just in case you were wondering.
Tell Me About the Opener: Lord Huron put on one of the better opening sets I've seen in quite some time. They sounded like the perfect mix of Paul Simon, the Beach Boys, Fleet Foxes, Everest and Ed Sharpe. They played a rather long set of tunes that found the crowd loving every second of it. I just remember tweeting that I really need to remember this band. I don't do that often.
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