The Masquerade is not my favorite venue. The bathrooms look like replicas of the bathrooms at Auschwitz, the bouncers are all middle-aged men with ponytails (isn’t that illegal?) and the crowd, no matter who is performing — be it hip-hop legend Pharoahe Monche or avant garde country artist Joe Nathan Tailor Swift (I made him up for the sake of this argument) — always consists of about 47 percent voluntarily dirty hipsters. All of those things greatly perturb me. Nevertheless, when I saw that Swedish electronic indie soul band Little Dragon was performing, I knew I had to suspend my qualms.
Before I could experience “the good,” I first had to lend my time to some openers. The first opener was Billygoat, a progressive and psychedelic band from Portland, Ore. I initially thought my impatience was what made them seem so unspectacular, but based on the crowd’s reception, I feel confident in saying that their music was just plain boring. My only memory of their set is a non-sequitur statement by the gnomish man to my immediate left: “I want some Waffle House.” The second opener was an Atlanta-based hip-hop funk band named The Mind Creatures. They really brought the funk, resuscitating me from my Billygoat-induced stupor. Although their set seemed to extend into infinity, I still appreciated their charisma and I definitely encourage you to check them out.
After The Mind Creatures left the stage, I checked the time. It was 10:30 p.m. and I estimated that it would be about 20 minutes before Little Dragon would take to the stage. At approximately 10:47, some seemingly random guy walked onstage, sending me into a trenchant mental rant about bands having too many damn openers. He was not an opener, though. He was actually Emcee Maseo, one third of the acclaimed hip-hop trio De La Soul and senior board member of “Feel Good Inc.”
Accordingly, I adjusted my scowl into a gleeful grin. If he was performing, I would definitely be willing to wait longer. This, however, was not the case. After a minute or two of crowd-teasing, he called Little Dragon out to the stage and the real fun began.
The set began with “A New”, a misty song featuring lulling keyboard riffs by keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand and faint, soothing vocals by Yukimi Nagano, the band’s talented lead vocalist. On their second album, the song’s position as the first track served as a herald of their journey into the world of synthpop. At the concert, slightly sped up and featuring more perceptible percussion, it again served as a herald but this time it signaled their journey into yet another dimension of sound. This new sound was apparent in the uncharacteristically uptempo “Never Never”, a song that will debut on their recently announced upcoming album, Ritual Union. Although “Never Never” was the first of the three new songs they performed that night, it was not the most memorable. The best was certainly “Summertearz”, a soulful joint that coalesced elements of R&B, neo-soul and synthpop into a beautiful, eight-minute long audio collage. I predict that it will be the song that pushes them into the mainstream (sorry, hipsters).
This new dimension of sound was not only apparent in their new songs but also in their older works. “Forever” and “After the Rain”, songs from their soulful self-titled debut album Little Dragon, were performed at a much more allegro pace. The latter, which typically has a very mellow, self-reflective feel — as evidenced by the lyrics, “People, where have you been?/Have you been hiding/In your big houses/People, after the rain/Will your life,/Will it ever be the same?/Oh! People what will you do?/When your luck/When it turns on you?” — actually felt more powerful at this faster pace. These lyrics particularly resonated when I got back to school later that night and read articles on the State of the Union address (I had missed it to go to the concert).
They ended their set with an extended version of “Runabout”, a dance-encouraging song that beckons its listeners to “run about the streets.” After this concert that’s all I wanted to do, just so I could spread the word about this amazing band. That wouldn’t have been very conducive, though, so I decided to just write this article. Little Dragon. Check them out.