Everywhere I go, someone’s asking to stamp my hand. Through the ticket booth, again as I’m entering the Crystal doors, and again after I climb the two flights of stairs up to the ballroom and turn right to enter the fenced off 21+ section that opens up to the balcony stairs. I’ve got dark stains on the inside of my wrist and two piled on the top of my hand. I think I’m valid now as I grab a beer and push my way to the frontest of front rows I can go to catch Kimbra, who’s band is pounding out bass-heavy bubble ballads. She’s a flame on stage, flitting back and forth with boundless energy and an incredible range, purposely quivering through pitches, the highs and lows seeming humanly impossible. Most impressive was “Settle Down,” an incredibly poppy pattern of hard-hitting keys, enthusiastic vocals and overdubbed beat boxing spit out by the artist herself.
Tonight is the second to last show of the tour –which ends in Seattle Tuesday night–but you wouldn’t know it. Gotye (or Wouter De Backer, if that’s easier) comes on stage like an overgrown Energizer Bunny, pounding the large drum machine that’s set up in front of him. The Australian singer/producer’s sound is brimming with foreign, tribal energy, and I can’t help but realize the deep similarities between the two artists. Their songs have so much energy, and their vocals are so powerfully fluid that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint where one begins and one ends during their uber-popular duet, “Somebody That I Used To Know.”
Then, like clockwork, I’m pulled out of my fixation on similar sounding pop phenoms for Gotye’s darkly demonic “State of the Art,” a track off this year’s Making Mirrors that’s highly original. From incredible, tripped-out Cartoon Network-esque graphics blinking evil piano caricatures and galactic explosions to the over-produced trick vocals ala early Gorillaz, this song is incredibly different. It’s the song that will still be in my head when I wake up in the morning and all of the others are all mushed together.
Suddenly, I understood why Gotye and seemed to blow up all over television and computer screens seemingly overnight. As I walked quietly passed dads carrying sleeping toddlers and young girls in sparkly tank tops, nearing men and women outfitted in flannel and flowy dresses, I realize I can’t stereotype this crowd no matter how hard I try. The Gotye/Kimbra combo is so popular because there’s nothing offensive about them. Both tinker with instruments and patterns not normally heard in mainstream pop music while simultaneously gaining mainstream notoriety. That’s because they’re fun and playful and energetic. They write universal lyrics that can speak to nearly anyone in the way that a vague fortune teller might. And they’re both extremely good looking, so what’s not to love?
Words by: Nikki Volpicelli
Photos by: Mercy McNab, more on Flickr.