by Mica McCurdy
On Monday night the crowd at the Horseshoe was possessed by electronic duo Sylvan Esso, as they turned the venue in to the coolest of indie clubhouses.
Amelia led the crowd in swaying with her conductor-like arm motions, and Nick bobbed energetically behind their equipment, opening with the single “Hey Mami” off their debut self titled album. What followed was a full run through of the album, delivered with a true sense of fun and confirmed with charming stage banter, “We’re having a good time too! Samsies, samsies!”
The evening was all about what they could build in real time, where “Dress” in particular showed off their skill through a slow build of layers of sound and lyrics flowing quickly and easily. Their practice of restraint paid off over and over through the set, notably though with “H.S.K.T.” where the room erupted with the promise of a beat heavy banger. Looping in real time, Amelia’s vocals added depth to the soundscape and proved just how in tune they are to both one another and the details of their sound. They balanced throughout the crowd’s need to sing along and jump up and down (the “Coffee” sing along was majestic) with more delicate songs, as demonstrated in following “H.S.K.T.” with “Uncantena” and ending their encore with “Come Down”.
The power of Sylvan Esso’s live show is their ability to recreate the subtlety of their recorded music. Using sets of vertical lights, controlled by Nick, they shifted attention to one beautiful detail at a time from the pulsing beat to Amelia’s soaring voice and back to a quick scratchy sample and on to the next again. Most importantly though it was a reminder that the point of live music isn’t to hear the album in real time, note for note or word for word. Rather, it’s for the experience. It’s for the bright lights and the raw sound and the sweaty bodies. It’s for the surprising moments of complete unity in a sea of strangers. It’s for feeling connected to something, a sound, bigger than, and outside of, yourself.
I ran in to a friend as the crowd shuffled out, and after confirming that it was the best show ever, he said, “I think I understand music now!” I don’t think there could be a better compliment.