I find it entertaining when there's some ambiguity over a band's name. CHVRCHES, with that V incongruously placed into the vowel space, is a perfect example. Churches? Cher-ver-ches? It's a lot more fun for it to be the second one. Of course, as the band themselves reveal two songs in, they've got no idea too. You can call them by either one, they'll still come running. Or, on the evidence of last night's set, they'll glide over smoothly with a blaring electro soundtrack. The band themselves were upbeat and hugely enjoyable, and while their music may lack a little bit of substance in the flesh (understandable for a group just embarking on their first US tour and who have only been making music together for a couple of years) it was undoubtedly, as all EDM should be, the soundtrack to a fantastic night out.
Now, the thing that bothered me in particular last night was not the band at all, who were excellent, a glimmering throwback to eighties synth pop but filtered through some of the big-room EDM we all grew up with, like Faithless. No, while this three-piece, impish singer Lauren Mayberry throwing minimalist shapes as her thin falsetto rose above the electro din created by the keyboards, bass, and drum machine either side of her, created some music that is a perfect soundtrack to a big, messy, night out at one of Dallas' best-equipped venues for this sort of thing, the crowd stayed perfectly still.
It seemed like the audience was waiting for something, as if the band was a rabbit they needed to catch for dinner, and if the crowd were to move said rabbit would dive back into its warren (you didn't click on this review thinking I'd have the accurate name for a rabbit dwelling now, did you). The swell of filming iPhones, filming a darkened gig entirely lit from the back and thus one where it would be almost impossible to make a coherent film, far outnumbered anyone actually moving to the electronic dance music in front of them designed entirely for throwing down your thing. It's not even like this was a downbeat, thoughtful EDM set. It was, at most times, big and brash and colorful, with even the low-key sections exploding into noise with a huge rolling drone bass noise filling the venue.
So, I don't get it. Maybe I'm brought up on the British EDM scene, where people go out to nightclubs or to raves and there is perpetual motion for the entire evening. Just, seeing over a thousand people late at night in a sold-out venue with the drink flowing and the smell of weed hanging heavy in the air, in the face of synths and a well-constructed light show, utterly fail to move any of their limbs except for the odd straggling arm in the air, was almost fascinatingly confusing to me.
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Why were these people here? What did they want? Were they all stalking the band, and now they had seen their chance to strike? Was it just too packed to dance? Had everyone dropped at about 3pm and had just now hit the comedown?
Speaking to people outside after the gig, they all claimed that they were dancing. All of them. In fact, they opined that the people not dancing were in fact "dickheads." I could see, however, from my lofty perch, the entire Granada dance floor, and yet it remained just a floor, sadly lacking any dancing whatsoever. There were a lot of people talking to each other. Many people had to check their Facebook accounts during crescendos. Even the people directly in front of the stage failed to react beyond the odd awkward foot-to-foot shift. Maybe they were just there to be seen.
What made the whole night even weirder and put the atmosphere entirely beyond my comprehension was that, as soon as CHVRCHES left the stage after a fantastic sing-along adaptation of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U", the stone-cold classic "Dance Yrself Clean" by LCD Soundsystem came over the speakers and the entire Granada broke out into a dance party, a huge rolling mass of people throwing themselves about and partying like they didn't have a care in the world. It's not a massively different sound (although it is something of an unfair comparison, as LCD Soundsystem are probably the best EDM band of the last decade), but it was greeted by the sort of wild crowd abandon that was glaringly absent for the hour-long set beforehand. I just don't get it. Can anyone help me out? Why would you go and see CHVRCHES and not even move your body once, then have an amazing time when they put a record on? I'm not complaining, I had a great time. I'm just confused.