Watching four perfectly average, somewhat awkward white boys sidle up to a buffet of vintage synthesizers, I questioned coming to a place like Bowery for a band like Hot Chip. Though a devotee of the Brits’ laptop squirgle pop, I feared a set of lifeless sample pad triggering and repertoire regurgitation. Despite the best efforts of their equipment (and with a little help from an oft-compared band), Hot Chip overcame a night fraught with complication and left its audience screaming for more.
More Blue Man Group than Kraftwerk, Hot Chip’s stage appeal is predicated on perfect proportions of crooked-toothed grins, somber intensity, and convulsive maraca shaking. With an unspoken, easy rapport, each Chip’s presence completed the picture of a true “band” beyond the bleeps. Clapping hands, stripping shirts, flailing arms … Hot Chip brought genuine spirit to its cheeky bedroom electro funk.
The set wasn’t without problems: the band contended with the severe illness of drummer Felix Martin and an incessantly malfunctioning rig. LCD Soundsystem to the rescue. Filling in on songs he learned two hours earlier, Soundsystem ace Pat Mahoney pulverized drum samples and elicited stage wide smiles. If you’re wondering who to call when your sound guy can’t navigate your rig’s morass of cords, take a cue from Hot Chip and call out James Murphy. He rectified the situation right quick.
Rebounding from a series of momentum-sucking, mid-set sound checks, the band ramped up the room’s gyration factor with the beefy trance of “And I Was A Boy From School” and “Over and Over” from the forthcoming sophomore release The Warning. Both are destined to be staples at indie rock after-parties all year. Perhaps taking a page from Gibbard & Meloy, Chip’s set peaked with an unexpected Fleetwood Mac cover. “Everywhere” got an audience-approved synth-laced makeover. When the Ballroom is that unified in its adoration and enjoyment, I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.
The evening got underway an hour late due to the tardiness of the Presets, and if they weren’t so good, I would have held it against them. Oh My Rockness has given the Aussies’ live sets much love, dubbing them “club music for people who hate club music.” Dark loops and samples battle with Kim Moyes’ live drums and Julian Hamilton’s expressive vocals and synth lines. Slinky, sinister, and deliciously danceable, The Presets will resonate with fans of The Faint and NIN alike. You can see ‘em tonight in NYC and then at SXSW.
Opener Grand National didn’t fair quite as well with the dance-happy Bowery crowd. Listening to Kicking The National Habit’s subtle bass grooves and octavized vocals on tracks like “Peanut Dreams” and “Litter Bin,” the billing seemed ideal; Grand National live, however, proved conventional and reverent to their Police-tribute band roots. Though sporadically engaging, they lost my attention as quickly as they gained it. A cover of “Walking On The Moon” began promisingly with La Rudd’s uncanny Sting impersonation then lost its way. GN’s set had its moments. Its record has more.
Back to our headliners: as Bowery’s house lights pulsed to the extended, rhythmic chant for an encore, a shirtless Chip emerged to decline the request, explaining the evening’s difficulties and expressing the band’s concern over Felix’s illness. Saturday night was a tempered taste of Hot Chip live. A full dose could prove lethal.
HOT CHIP SETLIST
“The Beach Party” ???
“No Fit State”
“Boy From School”
“Shake A Fist”
“Everywhere” / “Crap Kraft Dinner”
“Down With Prince”
“Over And Over”
GRAND NATIONAL SETLIST
“Talk Amongst Yourselves”
“Drink To Moving On”
“North Sound Off”
“Walking On The Moon”
“Playing In The Distance”