Cut Copy w/ 1,2,3 @ Altar Bar – 7/11/11
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure I was going to this show until about 30 minutes before the opening act, Pittsburgh’s own 1,2,3, took the stage. When the call came in on the Batphone confirming my spot on the guest list, I didn’t even try to coax a friend into buying the $27 ticket at the door with a half hour notice. I accepted the fact I was riding solo and concluded that once Australian indie-dance upstarts Cut Copy started kicking ass and the entirety of Altar turned into a fucking rave, it wouldn’t really matter that some music dork stood at the bar awkwardly downing bottles of IC Light for three quarters of an hour in between bands.
While I thought this assumption was water-tight, there was a small fear lurking in the back of my head (as it does at all indie rock shows) that the packed crowd would be too cool for school to shake their ass, spending the remainder of the concert with their arms folded, only moving to text some absent party between songs. Luckily, for the sake of my sanity, I was dead, dead wrong.
Turns out, it would be damn near impossible not to dance at a Cut Copy concert. Their stage presence was too confident, their musicianship was too tight and their sound was simply too infectious to encourage any sort of hipster indifference. Â It only took about twenty seconds of the bouncing psych-rock set opener “Feel the Love,” (which felt even more club-ready live) from 2008’s In Ghost Colours, for the entire crowd the begin pogoing with stupid, nerdy abandon. And with the playlist almost evenly split between Colours and 2011’s stunning Zonoscope (the exception being the lone appearance from 2004’s Bright Like Neon Love in “Saturdays”) you could notice the subtle sonic differences between those two albums withÂ surprisinglyÂ stark detail, appreciating the fine ways in which Cut Copy altered their approach to dance music from one release to the next.
In Ghost Colours is just as indebted to the ravey, late the 80’s Madchester sound (“24 Hour Party People”-era Happy Mondays in particular) as it is to the angular dance-punk of post-9/11 NYC, when bands like LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture ruled the roost, and the group’s searing performance of “Lights and Music” was a prime example: layers of zooming, trancey techno, rusty, herky-jerky guitars, and those pouty, posturing lyrics (“tell me what you hope to say on your birthday/secrets that we held that day will be kept straight”) sung with by frontman Dan Whitford with just enough snotty attitude.
The tracks played fromÂ Zonoscope, on the other hand, turned the show into a much warmer affair, bursting with day-glo keyboards, shimmeringÂ synth splashes, and soaring upbeat choruses. “Take Me Over” and “Pyramids and Pharaohs” both could pass for Human League singles and sound particularly amazing live, working the crowd up with strutting, fancy dance music.Â “Where I’m Going” was Brian Wilson by way of Erasure, cruising along with a big, tumbling drum pattern before the spacey bridge, where Whitford’s outstretched arms swayed to theÂ amorphousÂ clouds of synth, as he practically howled “love…sets me free” only to snap back into the rollicking beat, punctuated with repeated successions of “YEAH!”
By the time the encore rolled around with a perfect couplet of the building,Â climacticÂ “Need You Now” (arguably Zonoscope‘s best song) and Colours’ densely romantic “Out There on the Ice,” I was drenched in sweat and well acquainted with the seven strangers in my immediate area. The pit in front of the stage at Altar (sadly divided with down the middle with seating booths to keep underage kids away from the bar, I guess) was a mass of dancing humanity that made theÂ precedingÂ Monday disappear. Whitford finished the last quarter of “Out There…” dancing spastically with the nerdy charisma of Woody Allen bumping in a DJ booth, repeating the track’s final lyrics “only if it breaks your heart…” as the engine of thumping electronica gradually cooled down before its eventualÂ disappearance.
My heart rate slowed down, and I turned to walk out into the humid July evening. I came back to my car parked on Penn Avenue and found a $30 parking ticketÂ underneathÂ myÂ windshieldÂ blade for my troubles. I grabbed the ticket, inspected it, and looked back to the concert hall. “Fuck Tuesday,” I thought to myself, throwing the ticket aside and getting into my car.