Sylvan Esso With Generationals Granada Theater, Dallas Tuesday, March 24, 2015
What a difference a year makes. In fact, in this case, not even a year. Last spring, Sylvan Esso made their first appearance in Dallas, opening for tUnE-yArDs at the Granada Theater. That night, many felt the duo stole the show from the headliner. On Tuesday night, only 10 months later, they were back for their own, sold-out performance that brought out the city's best-dressed Coven fan girls. Seriously. Wide-brimmed, floppy hats most definitely outnumbered male concertgoers, 2-1.
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Comprised of Megafaun's Nick Sanborn and Mountain Man's Amelia Meath, Sylvan Esso was never intended to be anything more than a side-project. The two met several years ago when their bands happened to perform on a shared bill. Meath then asked Sanborn to remix a song of hers, "Play It Right," and Sanborn obliged. Over the next two years, Meath and Sanborn kept in touch, and eventually met back up in Durham, North Carolina, where they threw caution to the wind and formally became known as Sylvan Esso. Now, almost a year into the band's tour and promotion of its debut album, the duo has been selling out venues, garnering new fans of all ages and earning lots of year-end praise for the record. What was once a side project has quickly surpassed their original bands. On its surface, Sylvan Esso calls to mind bands such as Purity Ring and Sleigh Bells, but where they differ from others is in the depth and contrast of their lyrics combined with perfectly calculated beat drops. Basically, it's a hell of a lot of fun. As the hazy, weed-infused fog filled the air at the Granada last night, Meath and Sanborn appeared on the dimly-lit stage, greeted by the roar of adoring fans. Following a few knob twists from Sanborn's synth station, Meath was sent into her signature serpentine-marionette dance moves. Dressed in a black leotard, skinny jeans and white platform high-tops, Meath is the poster child for us melatonin-deficient girls, while Sanborn is the epitome of the "jeans and T-shirt" guy. Together, Sylvan Esso has an all-encompassing, symbiotic stage presence, accentuated by loads of heavy eye contact -- which spawned gossip from the more People Magazine-involved onlookers. After playing album tracks "Could I Be" and "Dreamy Business," Meath and Sanborn explained that the songstress hadn't been feeling well, but they didn't want to let Dallas down by canceling the show. As Meath put it, "I've been suffering from a yacking, throwing-up disease all day. So, just know if I run off, I'll be back." Not that anyone would have been able to tell the difference. If Meath hadn't made that admission, her high-energy, charismatic delivery would've seemed completely normal. Well, until the end. But more on that shortly. Sylvan Esso's set lasted a sparkly 60 minutes, covering the majority of the tracks from their 2014 album. The band made sure to play fan-favorites "Hey Mami," "Coffee" and "H.S.K.T.," but the fans were especially pleased with "Dress," which ended with Meath trailing off into a mini-cover of Queen Bey's "#Flawless." That last song prompted the audience to enthusiastically chant, "I woke up like this." Meath's uniquely raspy and downright addictive vocals perfectly complement Sanborn's electric loops and rhythmic bass additions. Listening to the album is enjoyable enough, but watching it performed completely eclipses its pre-recorded counterpart. The sheer energy, emotion and pristine delivery of both Meath's vocals and Sanborn's melodies create something much more than just a musical performance; it's a complete theatrical overhaul. Even though she was admittedly under the weather, Dallasites were able to get a glimpse of Meath's playful side when she began howling as an intro to "Wolf" and managed some pretty impressive acrobatic poses during her performance. The main set finished off, appropriately enough, with "Play It Right," the song that brought the pair together in the first place. But, much to the disappointment of those in attendance, there was no encore. Not long after came a tweet that explained the omission: "Dallas. Holy shit y'all were amazing! So sorry we didn't do an encore, but Amelia had to puke from the flu! :/." In light of the fact that Sylvan Esso totally killed it last night, we'll probably let it slide. This time.
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